by Jaimie Siegle | Advertising Systems, Inc.
Because before the U.S. could send a man onto the moon, it had to sell the idea of space travel in the 1960s to the general public — a tough pitch to sell for anybody. We know that the public did indeed buy into the idea of NASA, the space organization that gave us Velcro, Tang and freeze-dried ice cream. What many people don’t know is that NASA was also a catalyst for modern advertising concepts today, from strategic branding and product placement to general marketing communications. The history of space program and how its message was developed and conveyed to the public is the subject of “Marketing the Moon: The Selling of the Apollo Lunar Program,” co-authored by David Meerman Scott and Richardz Jurek.
According to a Marketplace.org interview with authors of the book, the idea of a space travel program was unheard of, making its marketing campaigns especially challenging:
“Can you imagine deciding that we’re going to send 12 people to the surface of the moon and it’s going to cost 4 percent of the national budget and 2 percent of the national workforce for a decade? So we had to sell it.”
To keep Americans interested, NASA hired former journalists to run their publicity campaign. And NASA’s publicity department had help from outside marketers, too. As Americans became more interested in the Apollo program’s success, they became more interested in buying items associated with the astronauts.
“The brilliance of what NASA did at the beginning is they focused on what we would call today ‘brand journalism’ in marketing speak,” says Jurek.
NASA’s communications fleet has certainly come a long way since the late 1960s. As a brand, NASA’s digital presence is one to emulate: For one, its Instagram account continues to be one of the most popular on the photo-sharing social media site, appealing to a huge range of populations and ages. And today, in the wake of the “blood moon” total lunar eclipse taking place in the wee hours of April 15, NASA.org will offer a live Q&A with an astrophysicist and offer a live stream of the eclipse, in addition to a variety of supporting communications channels and branding campaigns.
Were you aware of the total lunar eclipse tonight? Will you stay up late to watch it?