Has Elon Musk pulled off the
greatest publicity stunt of our time?
The sky’s the limit...
‘The sky is the limit’ could be classed as one of the most common statements to use when discussing bold, new innovative ideas. In recent years, we have seen ambitious marketing campaigns taking that statement very seriously. Let’s look at a couple of the most high-profile examples.
Written by Hazel Dunlop
Red Bull’s Stratos programme set out to transcend human limits and improve society, not just the company’s bottom line. On 14 October 2012, Felix Baumgartner survived a pioneering supersonic free -fall from 23 miles high, right from the very edge of space. The live webcast was distributed through 280 digital partners and racked up 52 million views, making it the most-watched livestream in history. Everyone saw the iconic, crisp white spacesuit emblazoned with the familiar Red Bull branding, a visual that propelled us into a modern era of marketing. Suddenly, the people deciding what to send hurtling into and out of space don’t always work for NASA. Now, they produce energy drinks, admittedly with the highest market share of any energy drink in the world, but still they originally manufacture soft drinks and here they are in space simultaneously shattering traditions and shifting product.
In 2013, Dutch airline KLM launched a unique ‘Claim your place in space’ campaign which consisted of an interactive contest where entrants could guess the maximum height a high-altitude balloon could reach within our atmosphere before it burst. The contest ran completely online so that people could track the path and exact position of the balloon. Winners not only bagged free flights on KLM airlines to a 5-star resort destination, but also an actual place aboard the SXC Lynx spaceship’s next voyage.
Most recently, on 7 Feb, 2018, in what could be described as the internet generation’s equivalent of the moon landing, we saw South African business mogul, Elon Musk, not only celebrate the successful launch and first flight of his SpaceX company’s new rocket, also onboard he had substituted the usual concrete block payload with one of his cherry- red Tesla Roadster cars.
Whilst previous campaigns hosted in space have had successful endings, Musk’s double- pronged marketing campaign has the ultimate staying power. Musk told reporters in a teleconference last Monday that he expects the Tesla to coast comfortably in space for hundreds of millions of years.
Some might say there is, perhaps, no better way to appreciate the modern tragedy of global inequality than by watching a billionaire spend $90m launching a $100,000 car into the far reaches of the solar system. On the other hand, you must admire his achievement in some capacity. The event featured a livestream of the Roadster flying through space — an innovative and beautiful car advert, that didn’t require Tesla to spend a single penny.
Evidence of our enthusiasm around space travel dates back to 1969 where 94% of American TVs were tuned into the Apollo 11 Moon landing. What all these recent celestial campaigns have in common is that they increase our collective fascination with space, by bringing a human element to a very technical and usually unreachable environment and direct our focus up to the stars, a place that most people only dream about.
Decades ago, the business of launching anything beyond Earth’s orbit fell solely under the comprehension of governments. When the objects being sent into space weren’t robotic hardware or scientific instruments, the people who chose what it would be approached the decision-making with a certain amount of seriousness about what it would say about the senders, what it would all mean.
A world away from that thinking, we now see our heavens navigated by a dummy astronaut in a bright red electric car, with a handy note for aliens – ’Made on Earth by humans‘– imprinted on the circuit board and ‘Don’t Panic’ on the dashboard.
By thinking outside of the box and not believing that the sky was the limit, in a stroke of marketing genius Mr Musk’s Falcon Heavy mission has been heralded as a new era of space exploration and we are sure that the beginning of 2018 will see him fulfilling the, more than, 400,000 pre- orders for the Tesla.