Thursday, July 27, 2006

Space – the final marketing frontier, to boldly go where no brand has gone before.

Companies eager to expand their market share are turning their attention to the sky and beyond. In the age of globalization, space is the final frontier for advertisers.
Space may be the ultimate product placement for advertisers.
Not only are products that were sent in space hot collectors items, but a little exposure in space has a huge impact on earth.

Space marketing has been around for three decades.

Two decades ago, soft drink makers Coca-Cola and Pepsi seizing a golden opportunity, when NASA approved an experiment to test the viability of carbonated drinks in space.
Despite strict rules preventing the rival cola makers from exploiting the experiment (known as the Carbonated Beverage Dispenser Evaluation, or CBDE), the first unofficial taste test in space became a marketing coup for both. Each company claimed that they were the first in space.

The first “space billboard” concept for advertising was designed by Space Marketing Inc.
It was supposed to be visible from Earth with the brightness equivalent to the moon.
Due to lack of funding and potential damage by space debris, it never happened.

What did happen were commercials shot in space – the first one was a milk commercial filmed on aboard of the space station Mir (from the Israeli dairy company Tnuva).

Up till now, NASA has been reluctant to take part – its official rule has always been:
no product endorsements, generic entities only, and no commercial exploitation of flight on the shuttle.”
But this could change – ads and product promotion could fund scientific research.
According to NASA, they are working with the Bush administration to conduct an agency wide evaluation for a commercialization strategy in space. It needs a change in legislation though, since space marketing and product placement are prohibited under federal law.
Under current law, sponsorship deals are allowed where logos can be place on a rocket or an astronaut’s clothing.
Columbia Pictures used the opportunity and advertised its movie "Last Action Hero" on a Conestoga rocket as part of the Commercial Experiment Transporter (COMET) mission.

The Russians take a more pragmatic view - they have sold advertising space on their Soyuz rockets to hawk merchandise ranging from Sony electronics to Unicharm feminine hygiene products.
In 2001, Pizza Hut flew with the Russian Space Agency.
For about a million dollars, the fast food company gained worldwide publicity and bragging rights as the first to deliver hot pizza in space.
Electronic retailer Radio Shack followed soon after and filmed a commercial aboard the International Space Station featuring a Russian cosmonaut opening a Father's Day present.

But before getting too exicted about space marketing, we should listen to Dr. Philip Kotler, the eminence gris of marketing.
He is points out that old marketing is not so effective anymore, since products are failing and advertising costs don’t have a healthy ROI.
The man that brought us the 4P framework, states that traditional marketing heavily relies on advertising, sales promotions and marketing research.
Although necessary tools, the main means of communicating with and outreaching to the target audience should be the new channels of communication: website, blogs and podcasting.

Could it be that lies in virtual space, and not the one NASA is exploring?
Interesting food for thought indeed!

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