Is that a brand on the moon?

Space is no longer the final frontier as companies start exploring out-of-this-world branding opps.

This story appears in the September 2014 issue of strategy.

Up in space, back in 2001, astronauts dined on a pizza delivered from Earth by Pizza Hut. At the time, it was reported to be a marketing first – but certainly not the last, as many other brands have shot for the stars.

Most brands have played it safe in space by planting their logo on an orbiting satellite, or sending a product to the cosmos (Disney once sent a Buzz Lightyear doll to orbit for 15 months). But there have been some more adventurous brands as well.

The more famous example of Red Bull and Felix Baumgartner’s stratosphere leap in 2012 wowed people across the globe. But the latest proposal by Japanese brand Pocari Sweat to send a large can of its soft drink to the moon has raised concerns, specifically around space pollution (just as Space Marketing Inc. did in 1993 when it proposed, but failed, to send to space a one kilometre-wide billboard, which would have been visible from Earth).

But Kasi Bruno, VP, director of strategy and cultural insights at Y&R Canada (who’s researched space marketing), says privately funded space tourism is more realistic for marketers.

“I think it’s about looking at what the Googles and Virgins are going to do in space, as opposed to brand sponsorship and product placement,” she adds.

Bruno gives the example of a brand partnership between Land Rover and Virgin Galactic (the first commercial space flight company). As part of the deal, Virgin Galactic team members and passengers will drive Land Rover vehicles from New Mexico, where they will train for the flight, to the space terminal, where they will board the ship at the end of this year. Global book publisher DK also recently announced a two-year partnership with the spaceflight company, creating seven book titles that tell the story of how the spaceline came to be.

This fascination with the cosmos, says Bruno, will only intensify.

“Space, in an interesting way, represents this connection to things,” she says, adding that while we live in a “hyper-connected and always-on world, space is this untouched sacred place.”

“It used to represent the gadgets and the gizmos of the future, but now that we have all that in real life, it represents the opposite – this mystery, this stillness…and I think you’re going to see a lot more brands thinking about that.”