Innovative Marketing Ideas … Secrets to the NASA Success

Do you make continuous improvement a focus of your marketing strategy? Most of the best marketing strategies we study and follow certainly do, and that is an awesome way to do marketing. Yes, the innovative marketing ideas of NASA marketing is making their messages better and better all the while. And their success has a ton to do with their marketing strategy. Of course, if you are a family with interest in space and science you certainly know this.

Check out our thoughts on creative marketing.  

innovative marketing ideas
Innovative marketing ideas

More to learn: Visual Content … 13 Remarkable Marketing Examples to Study


Have you noticed? It is hard not to notice, isn’t it? Let’s examine the reasons their marketing strategy is so effective:


Brand identity

Youthful, magical, fun, and family oriented making this organization true to its space brand.


While establishing a differentiated meaning for a brand is tough, perhaps the greater challenge facing marketers today is the growing number of places consumers touch a brand. It’s become incredibly more complicated to execute a brand promise. This is what we call bringing the brand to life.


Consumers are interacting with brands in myriad new ways, but brand organizations have to move much faster. They have to show greater agility and responsiveness to potential followers actions and reactions. This often must be at warp-speed in this rapidly changing environment.


The heart of the NASA marketing strategy is their brand. The brand is built into and reflected by its tag line … the happiest place on earth. They understand that their brand is not about them.


Rather it is about how their community sees them, feels about them, and talks about them. They realize that their brand represents their current and future relationships. Their goal is to deliver an emotional connection to their public products. And they are doing it very well.



Creative marketing campaign ideas … real time marketing

In their recent book, Marketing the Moon (MIT Press, 2014), Scott and Jurek trace the Apollo-era collaboration between private industry and NASA’s internal public affairs office. They contend that the massive campaigns launched then were some of the first deployments of what we’d call brand journalism and “real-time marketing” today. In fact, what Mars One is doing, with reality TV, brand partnerships, and an upcoming book called Mars One: The Human Factor says Scott is largely “the same as Apollo — but updated for today.”

Lansdorp would be lucky to recreate that success: in July of 1969, 94 percent of American televisions were tuned to the Apollo 11’s moon landing. And such widespread enthusiasm for the event was the culmination of a decade-long campaign to educate the public. At NASA’s inception in 1958, the agency hired public affairs staff “not as pitchmen, but as reporters,” according to the authors, a move largely at odds with the rise of a glamorous, oily advertising industry like the one portrayed in Mad Men.

NASA’s PR staff were broadcast- and print-media veterans and they served up copy like a newsroom. The team grilled engineers for stories churned out bylined articles and sent press releases meant to be copied verbatim by news outlets. They produced pre-packaged broadcast segments that often made it straight to the airwaves. In the early days, the office largely strove to introduce and explain complex technologies, tech that had previously been used mostly by soldiers and military men, to both the press and the public.

NASA case study
NASA case study.

It was a task that, for over a decade, private companies involved in spaceflight were eager to augment. As a government agency coordinating with the military and Congress, NASA ultimately dealt in the release of information and facts. But private companies who earned NASA contracts often employed more glamorous tactics, including colorful press kits and advertisements for the watches astronauts wore, the Tang they slurped from packets, the cameras they used, and the companies like IBM that helped build their spaceships.


NASA did, however, enforce some restrictions. The agency’s photos were taxpayer-funded, so private companies could use them in advertisements without paying to license them — as long as NASA’s public affairs office approved how they were used. But NASA found itself blindsided by what would become its most in-demand asset: the astronauts themselves.

To maintain control over the astronauts’ public profiles, the agency signed a deal with Life magazine, essentially granting the publisher exclusive rights to the astronauts’ lives. Until the contract ended in 1962, the magazine ran cover stories featuring the astronauts and their families (“Making of a Brave Man,” “Astronauts’ Wives”) and spun off a handful of books as well, including a collection of first-person space tales. As Scott and Jurek write, “The astronauts and NASA worked with Life … to carefully craft the image of the astronauts, not as military men, but as middle-class average family men thrust into service for the good of their country.”



Innovative marketing ideas … content marketing

Build excitement: Let’s face it; NASA is not a low-cost organization. By providing custom touch points filled with useful and exciting content, unique to each families’ touch, NASA strategy is helping to build excitement. It works, and it’s brilliant.


Personalize: All customers are unique, have different needs, especially in travel. Since this is not a one-size-fits-all world, what everyone needs is different from just about every other person. NASA takes advantage of that and delivers value somewhat unique for each family.


Times have changed since NASA’s early space travel to the moon, but their marketing ideas are still amazing.


NASA case study … the power of prizes

Most people recognize Charles Lindbergh as the man who achieved worldwide fame when he made the first nonstop flight from New York City to Paris in 1927. But relatively few people know that Lindbergh did it to win a $25,000 prize (worth approximately $340,000 today) offered by a New York City-based hotel owner.


Lindbergh’s story unfolded nearly a century ago, but it continues to serve as an example of the extraordinary things people can accomplish when incentivized by awards, public honors, and cash prizes, as well as the ingenuity unleashed by competition on a level playing field, where underdogs can make their mark. Recognizing the power of this principle, in 2009 President Obama urged Federal agencies to pursue “high-risk, high-reward policy tools such as prizes and challenges to solve tough problems.”


Answering this call, NASA has increasingly turned to public competitions as a source of fresh ideas to help meet engineering challenges in aeronautics and space exploration.


“Prize competitions have become a key component in NASA’s toolkit for developing technology and solving problems,” says Gladys Henderson, executive of the Agency’s Prizes and Challenges Program. “Because we only pay for success, we have found them to be remarkably efficient regarding getting the job done—which is a win not just for NASA but ultimately for taxpayers.”


The Agency’s flagship effort in prize competitions dated to 2005 when the Centennial Challenges Program was established to engage the public in advancing technologies relevant to NASA missions. After proposing a set challenge for competitors—say, to build a robot capable of finding and collecting geological samples from a large field with varied terrain—along with precise criteria for success, NASA holds an event. Teams use either their funds or outside investments to develop a technology beforehand and then bring their creations to the competition.

Social media marketing and NASA

There aren’t many businesses or brands in the world that can rival NASA’s social media game. While the stereotypical image of NASA employees is that of serious people wearing lab coats and discussing incomprehensible rocket science, the premier space organization showed the world that it could form connections with even those people who have an aversion to science.


Today, NASA boasts of over 120 million followers across all social media sites, on which it handles over 500 accounts. While you may think to gain such a massive following wasn’t a particularly difficult task for NASA (after all, they’re posting pictures of space, and who isn’t interested in those, right?), the organization put a ton of effort into making it happen.


NASA marketing … educate and entertain

One thing that has boosted NASA’s popularity on social media sites is their unexpected humor. As one of the foremost pioneers of technology in this century, no one could have faulted NASA if they had decided to adopt a serious and scientific tone for their social posts. But the company did what no one expected – they were funny. Using a first person voice peppered with witty phrases for their spacecraft deployed on extra-terrestrial missions, NASA brought a whole new dynamic to engaging audiences on social media.

The space agency has also taken to sharing the latest cosmic images, sent by its various spacecraft, on Instagram even before they’re released to the media. Since images of nebulas, galaxies, black holes, and the like are instant attention grabbers (a cursory look at their Instagram page will tell you what I’m on about), NASA capitalizes on it by providing information about the cosmological entities which most people would otherwise have no interest in learning about. Astronaut Scott Kelly’s regular posts during his year on board the International Space Station also proved to be a great hit on social media.

digital marketing mission
Digital marketing mission.


Advertising ideas for small business … web site

The NASA web sites are the physical center of this Agency’s marketing. Their designs are very user-friendly, yet contain the means to integrate all the strategy elements we discuss today. They encompass several ways to allow two-way client engagements, including live chat, email, and telephone.


Again little to no selling, as they let their accomplishments do the marketing. Their strategy reflects the belief that pushy sales pitches turn customers off, but personally relevant and interactive engagement switches them on. You can’t help but notice that all the material is put into the language of the client community.


It’s the stories

In 2016 NASA’s Astronaut, Scott Kelly returned from a one-year space mission aimed to test the limits of human endurance in space. While in space using the hashtag #AYearInSpace, millions of spectators followed the year-long adventure and its near endless stories.

Astronaut Kelly tweeted, posted content on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook (including Facebook Live Sessions), and Snapchat. NASA looked to engage a whole new audience, by using platforms that millennials would use. As a result, they sparked fresh interest in younger generations.


Adapting to change

The NASA marketing strategy is in a state of continual change with new and creative ideas. A very progressive organization which keeps up to speed on consumer trends and needs. Certainly always eager to adapt their expertise to new areas. And certainly always looking to try new things, to include marketing.


Sharing the unexpected

NASA utilizes all the main marketing elements, channels/platforms to engage potential clients. All channels are used to engage and conversationally share all their material. They are always looking to engage and learn and serve customers.


NASA’s mission to achieve the unexpected extends to its marketing initiatives, which have developed over time into a tremendously effective program.


Following the 2008 Twitter announcement that spacecraft Phoenix had found water on Mars, the NASA Twitter account gained 75,000 followers and became the eighth most followed account on the platform at the time.

This feat was the first big step in NASA’s development of an organization-wide social ecosystem that was designed to turn “NASA enthusiasts into brand ambassadors.” As a federal agency, NASA cannot fund promoted or sponsored content, yet over time it has been able to grow a large and loyal following using the organic content.

NASA’s social team publishes content to nearly 15 platforms, the agency’s Twitter handle boasts over 17 million followers, and the Mars Curiosity Rover handle alone has 3 million followers. NASA has nurtured followers-turned-ambassadors whose fandom is so serious that they stepped in during the government shutdown (while NASA was unable to tweet) with the #thingsnasawouldtweet hashtag, eager to keep the agency’s mission alive and well, even when NASA itself could not.

Today, the NASA headquarters include a specialized social team that uses a single, unified social platform. The team’s success centers around the concept of what NASA deputy social media manager, Jason Townsend, calls “brute force coordination” – regular communication across teams and levels, both top-down and bottom-up.

Interesting material: 14 Jaw-Dropping Guerrilla Marketing Lessons and Examples


The bottom line

NASA has utilized its marketing prowess in many ways. Its technological prowess is storied, but it was its marketing genius that set them apart from everyone else.  Use a little of NASA’s business insight in your content marketing campaign and enjoy renewed and continuous business success.


For a different way of marketing see our article on Marriott Marketing.




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Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+Twitter, and LinkedIn.  



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Innovative Marketing Ideas … Secrets to the NASA Success