Monday, January 02, 2012

A REAL Trend in 2011: Hawking Products with Space

Not quite the future?
While space pundits pour over articles like the December 23rd, 2011 Mashable post "Top Space Stories of 2011" or the January 1st, 2012 Gizmodo story "The Best Space Stories of the Year" in order to discover whether or not the recent retirement of the US fleet of space shuttles is a more important story than the successful orbiting of the unmanned Chinese Tiangong-1 space lab, the real trend of 2011 seems to have gone almost entirely unnoticed.

What is the real space trend of 2011?

That's simple. After a very long decline into seeming irrelevance, space and space focused activities are slowly starting to become cool again. This rising interest has been noticed by numerous commercial companies which have incorporated the space "meme" into a variety of marketing campaigns.

For example, take the recent viral marketing campaign for Natural Light beer, as described in the November 29th, 2011 Huffington Post article "Natural Light Is First Beer In Space, Launched By Brew's Facebook Fans."

Richard Branson.
Of course, the grandaddy of current efforts at incorporating the space "meme" into marketing campaigns has to be Richard Branson and his efforts to jump start an entire industry wrapped around space tourism with Virgin Galactic, a company which (almost as an afterthought) also manages to provide huge amounts of publicity for the brash British billionaire and his entire Virgin Group conglomerate of 400 travel, entertainment and lifestyle companies.

But there are others and some of them come from the oddest of places.

Here are a few additional examples, from the Trendhunter website, which bills itself as the most popular and largest collection of cutting edge marketing ideas on the web:

  • According to the September 6th, 2011 article "Extra-terrestrial Take Out: The Domino's Moon Base Will Serve Astronauts and Cosmic Explorers Alike," the Japanese wing of Ann Arbor, MI based Domino’s Pizza "has recently announced their intention to build an outlet on the surface of the Moon. Thus far, the company has already commissioned plans for a two-storey, dome-shaped pizzeria which would simultaneously serve pizza and house its staff." Although primarily a publicity stunt, the marketing campaign is a direct throwback to the glory day of space imagery in the 1960's when many restaurants and commercial products (like Tang, a fruit flavored drink) used real and perceived links to the US space program in order to convey positive imagery and to help sell their products.

  • Of course, man does not live by bread alone so otherworldly alcohol will also be needed to help astronauts wash down their pizza, at least according to the April 13th, 2011 article "Vostok Space Beer is Approved for Outer Space Consumption." According to the article, the beer (developed by Australian brewer 4-Pines Brewing in partnership with Saber Astronautics) has a lower carbonation level, which helps lower the chances of what the article calls "space burps" and "an enhanced flavor designed specifically to counteract the swelling of the tongue that occurs in orbit, which reduces taste sensitivity." This makes the product entirely different from the beer developed by the Sapporo Brewery and profiled in the December 4th, 2009 article "Sapporo is Selling Beer Made from Barley That Spent Time in the Cosmos" which is made using barley "directly descended" from "seeds that spend five months in space (aboard the International Space Station in 2006)." Given that the Sapporo beer was created using ingredients grown in space, there are obvious implications for long-term space habitation as outlined in the December 8th, 2008 Astro-Engine article "The Link Between Beer and the Colonization of Space." 

      • The July 27th, 2011 list of "25 NASA Inspired Creations: From Lunar LEGO to Space Explorer Duds" gives a broader idea of some of the marketing areas being co-opted by space based concepts and images. These include space ship inspired footwear, giant spaceship rides for kids, audio speakers inspired by NASA, space shuttle models made from LEGO's and quite a few others. 

      Look for this trend to expand and grow throughout 2012.After all, even American politicians running for public office have begun to talk about space.

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