It's Time for a Space Brand Revolution
October 27, 2022
For decades, working in space meant working in the public sector and defense.
When most people in an industry are current or former military, a certain level of buttoned-up-ness is to be expected. So it’s no surprise that there is a long history of space companies building brands that are extremely reserved and laser-focused on showing up as smart, reliable, professional partners for the government.
Fun hasn’t exactly been a brand priority.
In fact, it’s been a big risk.
As a brand marketer just getting started in the world of Space Situational Awareness (SSA) and aerospace in general, I see a goldmine just waiting to be tapped. If brands are willing to dare to be a little different.
An Out-of-this-World* Opportunity
In case we all need the reminder: SPACE IS REALLY FREAKIN’ COOL. The general public finds this industry absolutely fascinating. Need proof? Look no further than the NASA logo showing up in top celebrities’ wardrobes.
Attend a space conference, though, and you’ll see a lot of dark suits, blue swooshy logos**, and beautiful-but-homogeneous space imagery plastered everywhere. For the most part, space brands are still playing it really, really safe. They’re doing what the industry has always done, and they’re not showing on the outside how incredible and fascinating their work is on the inside.
Yes, the likes of SpaceX and Blue Origin and Virgin have jump-started a shift to bigger brand personalities in space. Let’s be honest, though, it’s not a level playing field. Launch is inherently visual and exciting, and all of those companies have celebrity leaders with pre-established consumer brands. (I’ll acknowledge here that Privateer has a similar advantage.)
My hope is that the intentional approach to differentiated, exciting branding exhibited by the “space billionaire” crowd will start to percolate throughout the entire industry. There’s no reason other space companies can’t elevate their brands to similar levels, no matter their size.
No, that doesn’t mean they’ll become a household name like SpaceX. That’s not in the cards for most of us. But it does mean that customers won’t just buy a product, they’ll feel connected to the company itself, and that’s going to pay dividends in the long-run.
What We’re Doing at Privateer
It doesn’t take huge budgets to build a bold brand personality. But it has to be a leadership priority, and you must be ready for some people to absolutely sh*t on it. That’s how you know you’re no longer playing it safe.
Fortunately, I get to lead brand for a company that isn’t afraid to “think different”, take some chances, and stand out. We get to be colorful, creative, and bold. We get to make strategic investments in design and content. We get to experiment.
Seeing all this come to life most recently at the AMOS tech conference was such a thrill. I love that if you look at the event photos, you can immediately spot our team in our super-loud, over-the-top, pink-and-purple Hawaiian shirts.
Sure, the shirts are a small thing in the grand scheme of our brand. But not only did our crew get a kick out of proudly representing Privateer in such a conspicuous way, but they got attendees curious about us. They made us memorable. They made us different. And creating that curiosity and conversation starters with our target audiences has a real impact on the business.
Not all founders and CEOs truly understand that. I’m so fortunate that Privateer’s leadership team does. I don’t always get it exactly right, but the fact that my team and I are not just allowed but encouraged to try things that defy “how it’s always been done” – that’s something I celebrate every day.
Where do we go from here?
With the rise of commercial and “new” space, we are trending to a space industry that is no longer dominated by government contracts. Venture funding and accelerators have created a sea of space start-ups – small groups of brilliant minds looking to solve big technical problems on the literal frontier of humanity.
There’s a palpable energy brewing in commercial space. We’re on the cusp of big, exciting things, and I think we all feel it. It’s just not showing on the surface yet.
So I’m here to challenge and encourage my colleagues (and myself!) to keep pushing the envelope and break free of the legacy space brand mold.
Let’s take risks.
Let’s loosen up.
Let’s (*gasp*) wear JEANS at conferences.
Let’s screw up occasionally, then let’s support and inspire each other to try again.
And let’s invest in our brands to tell our stories, and the story of space as a whole, in the bold and interesting ways they deserve to be told. It’s the only way we’ll create the rising tide our industry needs to attract top talent, garner public support, and build the prosperous space economy we all envision for the future.
Plus, selfishly, it’ll make work a whole lot more fun for us.
* I know, I’m sorry. That was terrible.
**We don’t have a relationship with the Cosma Schema folks, but their philosophy is right on the money.