How can you change the world, build a company, or establish an industry if no one knows you exist? Throughout history, there have been revolutionary inventions, mind-blowing ideas, cures for disease, and products that could have made the world a better place … and somewhere, they lay on a shelf gathering dust.
Why? Those brilliant creators did not know how to convey the value of their discovery. They did not know how to speak the right words into the right ears or bring it into view of the right audience.
The road is littered with creations that failed to communicate their worth through marketing.
What is marketing? The American Marketing Association’s official definition is: “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”
The offering can include an idea, product, or service. The goal is for the audience to be swayed, educated, or convinced enough to exchange their time, effort, or money for that offering. But it is more than a sales transaction.
Good marketing builds a relationship and does not feel like a sales pitch. Done correctly, it can be a mutual benefit to everyone involved and create a deep relationship that both parties want to be a part of the team.
Marketing becomes more crucial as competition grows. As commercial space explodes into a trillion-dollar industry, marketing will become more important. Many companies will need to embrace the idea of marketing if they hope to survive.
Space marketing includes ideas, products, and services that encompass the space industry:
· Ideas include things like putting a man/woman on the Moon, going to Mars, or mining an asteroid.
· Services that need promoting include providing rocket payload services to launch a satellite or the communication services that is offered by that satellite once it gets to orbit.
As the cost for entry barriers is reduced with new technologies, smaller companies are able to enter into the space game and are no longer limited to large heavily funded companies. Smaller satellites, lower launch costs, and cheaper technologies open the field to more opportunities.
Historically, companies within the space industry haven’t had to rely on marketing programs. While non-space industries have had to struggle to keep current with the shifting marketing landscape, Space companies didn’t have to focus on that aspect of the business. NASA’s efforts and the record-breaking events kept space into the public domain without much effort on the space company. However, this dynamic is changing quickly as other countries pour billions into their space agencies. The game is getting serious. Time to pay attention.
During the Apollo era, there were only two participants in the space race, the U.S. and Russia. There is now a stampede of participants. The space sector is exploding with an activity that is unprecedented in the past 50 years.
The 2015 SPACE Act opened the doors for private and commercial enterprises to compete within the space industry. Like horses out of the gate, space has attracted many new players from small companies to governmental space agencies from over 70 countries. (from two to over 70!)
NASA has carried the brunt of the marketing efforts since the early 1960s. Without their efforts, the space industry would not exist. It was NASA’s marketing efforts that encouraged the public to support the Apollo program. Since then, they have continued their outreach to keep space alive and excite young people to dream of endeavors and careers beyond the clouds.
NASA was, and is, extremely successful at marketing. We use other terms for their efforts – outreach and public affairs. When people think of NASA, they don’t like to think of the concept of marketing. It feels too sales-y. This is because NASA does it very well and it doesn’t feel like sales. They have built the idea that space is something beyond buying a trinket. They develop a deep relationship with their audience that resonates and feels good.
They have used whatever platforms and tools that have been available to connect with their audience and we can learn a lot from their strategies that worked then and are still relevant today.
During the Apollo program, they provided reels of interviews for use on television, tapes of recordings for the radio, in-person seminars and workshops, toolkits for reporters, and permissions for brands to “license” the concept of space. All these items were provided free to use in order to educate and excite the public.
Television recordings have been replaced with YouTube productions and posted on social media channels. There is a huge database of images, videos, and audio available for people to download and use making it easy to share space. Podcasts expand on the radio. Articles bring valuable content to the audience. Their reach has expanded into virtual and augmented reality.
…and freeze-dried ice cream is still enjoyed by millions. By the way, freeze-dried ice cream was a successful marketing tactic that still works.
Note: A new virtual reality experience was announced at SpaceCom 2020. Space Explorers: The ISS Experience is a look at life aboard the International Space Station. This product is the result of a partnership with NASA, Time.com, and Fellix & Paul Studio. It is available at Oculus.
While their strategies may not feel like a sales pitch, they harness the power and excitement of dreaming beyond normal limits. NASA uses ideas, products, and services and they’re aggressive in their marketing efforts. Today’s tools use similar strategies with newer technologies. They continue to provide marketing that educates and inspires the next generation making space a part of the future.
With the explosion of companies, the intense competition expands. As other countries become major players in the space race, NASA’s influence is becoming smaller. Space companies cannot continually rely on only NASA’s efforts to promote space. These companies will have to start committing to marketing strategies in order to compete. Other industries have studied the intricacies of marketing for decades to keep current and alive by paying attention to changing trends and audience relationships.
Space marketing will become a more critical component and space companies will need to embrace the business practice in order to compete with the emerging competition around the world.
NASA is a great example of what marketing can be. Good marketing is more than selling an idea, product, or service. It is a relationship that resonates and can change the world …and beyond.