The final frontier: reimagining marketing and communications in outer space

The private sector is taking the reigns of space travel and exploration from government agencies, and business is booming, says an account director at Ogilvy & Mather.

We know that the world of marketing communications is going through a time of great upheaval. And while there has been valuable discussion—and action—around how agencies must transform to meet the rapidly changing needs of clients, an important accelerator of our evolution has gone largely untapped. 

One criticism of our industry is that it has been largely reactive to the change happening around it. If we are to stay ahead of the curve as valuable partners to our clients, we must actively look for ways to learn new skills, spark change in the way we work and make ourselves feel uncomfortable.

If new industries and technologies are the driving force of disruption in our industry, perhaps those are exactly the places we should look to for new innovations and answers? 

Today, many of the most innovative, fastest growing, and technologically advanced companies in the world have set their sights on outer space. Whether it is newcomers or legacy companies, the private sector is taking the reigns of space travel and exploration from government agencies—and business is booming. 

Inherent in this burgeoning outer space industry are a few fundamental marketing challenges. First, at a category level, outer space sounds like the stuff of science fiction. The idea that companies can operate—and make money—in outer space is still an alien concept. But many experts predict that further exploration of the universe beyond our planet will result in the next wave of major human innovation and advancement over the next few decades. 

How might we galvanize a new generation of entrepreneurs, professionals, scientists, investors and average consumers to understand the opportunities that the outer space industry can bring? What does the "brand" of outer space look like? How do we help companies capitalize on this new, exciting and misunderstood place to do business? 

This is brand storytelling at its most foundational. It is a creative challenge, a business challenge and a challenge for us to push our imaginations beyond their current limits. We are in an age where the recently unknown can quickly become the next major disruptor in an industry. Soon, we will see space technology added to a long and growing list that includes the sharing economy, blockchain, genetic data, fintech, artificial intelligence and others. 

But in addition to the category, the stories of companies doing innovative, relevant, critical things that impact our daily lives are begging to be told at scale. But most of them currently remain hidden behind clouds of technological jargon and the insularity of the category. 

These stories began to be uncovered at the SpaceCom Space Commerce Conference and Exposition in Houston this week. It’s the first year the conference has included a marketing track in their program because the demand is real and growing. Ogilvy employees participated as brand and marketing advisors in the Space Entrepreneurship Workshop and Competition, as well as sponsoring and hosting a panel on "Communicating the Space Vision" during the full conference session.

Outer space technology forces us to rethink traditional industries in new ways. Health, transportation, telecommunications, data, heavy industry—and yes, tourism—will all be reimagined because of what’s currently happening a few hundred miles above our heads. In order to move from reaction to an embrace of all the new and unknown happening around us, these are exactly the type of challenges we must pursue.

Ben Levine is an Account Director at Ogilvy & Mather.

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