Business

Moon marketing orbits advances in space flight

This ad for a toy model of the Apollo lunar module appeared in The Gazette on July 20, 1969, the day of the first moon walk by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. This ad and others like it were reflective of a marketing trend that used the moon to sell products. (From Gazette archives)
This ad for a toy model of the Apollo lunar module appeared in The Gazette on July 20, 1969, the day of the first moon walk by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. This ad and others like it were reflective of a marketing trend that used the moon to sell products. (From Gazette archives)

Marshmallow Moon Oreos. Zero Gravity Blizzards. Discounts at moon-named hotels.

As the 50th anniversary of the moon landing continues its path through history, we can expect current lunar-levitated marketing to move along with it at least temporarily.

There’s a new race to the moon on the launchpad so moon marketing likely will surge once again.

The moon always has had a tidal pull on our emotions, our interests and, by extension, our marketing. It was mysterious, adventurous, aspirational. Then came Sputnik in 1957.

Once Americans realized that their Cold War enemy was the first to launch a satellite into orbit, the Space Race began, and the moon began to appear more prominently in marketing campaigns.

Sputnik launched a new era of political, military, technological and scientific development. NASA was created nine months after Sputnik, followed by the human spaceflight program, Project Mercury.

In 1962, President Kennedy promised that the United States would send men to the moon before the end of the decade, and it did. On July 20, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon.

Moon marketing back then reflected the country’s interest in space. Remember Tang — that orange, artificially flavored powdered drink? Sales of Tang were poor until NASA used it on John Glenn’s Mercury flight in 1962 and on subsequent Gemini missions. Since then, it’s been closely associated with the U.S. manned spaceflight program.

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Tang didn’t hesitate to use that in their marketing. “For spacemen and their earth families” read a 1969 print ad.

Tang wasn’t the only product to benefit from the nation’s interest in the moon landing. Here are some others:

• Squirt Soda — The print ad for this grapefruit-flavored soda features a cartoon boy astronaut blasting off with his rocket-shaped bottle of Squirt. Tagline: “Out of this World!” (1963)

• Frigidaire — The print ads featured models in bubble-like helmets next to a “Gemini 19” refrigerator. Tagline: “Another Frigidaire Space Age Advance.” (1966)

• Panasonic — The print ad pitch for the “new” Orbital television demands: “Attention Earth People Take me to Your Leader, the ones who set the styles ... .” (1971)

Public interest in the moon eventually waned, though, with NASA halting manned space flights to the moon after Apollo 17 in 1972. Moon marketing dwindled, too, resurfacing occasionally with space-related anniversaries.

Today, 50 years after that 1969 moon landing — and empowered by our newfound access to the internet — brands once again have latched onto the power of the moon. Here are just a few recent examples:

• Hotels.com — Hotels.com launched a flash sale to commemorate Apollo 11’s launch. For 11 minutes on launch day (July 16), 11 hotels in seven countries, all with “moon” in their names, could be booked online for 50 percent off.

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• Blue Moon — Blue Moon Brewing Co. created a special keg modeled after Jeff Bezos’ Blue Moon lunar lander, which Bezos announced would be space-bound in 2024. The keg was released for sale on the July 20 Apollo 11 anniversary.

• Shutterstock — This one is my favorite. The stock image company released a video called “Moon Landing Exposed.” Playing off the conspiracy theory that the Apollo 11 mission was faked on a Hollywood soundstage, Shutterstock insists in the video that the moon landing was real — but if it wasn’t, then you could make it look like it was real with Shutterstock imagery. Very clever.

According to Time magazine’s “New Race to the Moon,” we’ll be hearing more about moon landings in the not-so-distant future. The United States, China and private companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin all want to head back to the moon. Sounds like moon marketing won’t have a chance to get dusty.

• Tracy Pratt is a marketing product manager and lead strategist at Fusionfarm, a division of Folience, The Gazette’s parent company; (319) 398-8343; tracy@fusionfarm.com.

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