The race to become out of the world brands

Harish Bhat | Updated on July 25, 2021

Timely launch: After Branson’s space flight, Amul cashed in on the mood   -  COURTESY: TWITTER

Much before Branson and Bezos, brands have propelled themselves into space in a bid to captivate viewers

Space has lately been buzzing with human activity. Earlier this month, British billionaire Richard Branson reached the edge of space in his Virgin Galactic spaceship. The event was streamed live, and many of us earthlings looked on in awe. Nine days later, the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, also blasted off into space in his New Shepard rocket ship. Their crew and they experienced zero-G, weightlessness and saw some stunning views of the earth.

Brands in space

The day after Branson’s space flight, I saw a really charming advertisement by Amul. Titled “Galicktic” for all the butter you can lick (in space or on earth), the advertisement urged us to eat Amul for breakfast, LAUNCH and dinner. This triggered some fresh thoughts in my mind. Have brands been to outer space? And, if so, why ?

I discovered that several brands had travelled to space well before Branson and Bezos. A key reason appears to be that space is the final frontier in our minds, its limitless expanse holds humanity in thrall. Space is about the unseen and the unexplored, it is about adventure and an experience beyond reach for most of us. So brands perceive that an association with outer space would make them even more aspirational to their consumers.

Space watches and skincare

This is most certainly true of Omega, the Swiss watch brand, which was selected by NASA for its astronauts, way back in the early 1960s. The Omega speedmaster (also called the Moonwatch) withstood the extremes of pressure, temperature and acceleration, which it would face on a long journey into space. The watch was used by the Apollo 11 crew who made the historic journey to the moon, and also by later Apollo missions.

This partnership has provided Omega great aspirational sheen since then, because lots of people feel really special when they sport the same model of watch that astronauts once wore to the moon. Perhaps it makes you feel a little bit like an astronaut yourself. The moonwatch also comes across as very robust. If it could withstand the extremes of space, it can surely withstand all our journeys on earth. Omega has, of course, smartly leveraged this association for several decades now.

It’s not just watches and technology devices which are space forward. Just last year, Estée Lauder, the beauty brand, sent its skin serum into space. Once again, this was a partnership with NASA, for which Estée Lauder reportedly paid $128,000. Ten bottles of serum went all the way to the international space station, where they were photographed and filmed, against stunning backdrops and panoramic space views. In addition, the astronauts would test the serum in space, and eventually the bottles would return to earth.

Estée Lauder’s commercial objective was to use these unique pictures in future advertisements, social media posts and other promotional initiatives. The brand chose its new advanced night repair synchronised multi-recovery serum for this space journey because this was an iconic product in the history of skincare, now equipped with the latest technology. What better method than space travel to cement the brand’s leadership and iconic consumer proposition?

Marketing stunts in space

Yet another famous brand that leveraged space in a very different way is the energy drink, Red Bull. It sponsored stuntman Felix Baumgartner’s jump from a platform into the edge of space, with nothing but a spacesuit and a parachute. His free fall, on 14th October 2012, lasted for over four minutes, with a velocity that was well over the speed of sound. Baumgartner’s apparel proudly bore the Red Bull logo, as did the capsule that took him all the way to the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Red Bull, much like Virgin Galactic, livestreamed this event on YouTube, captivating millions of viewers. The brand objective here was clear — to show that it is possible to surpass human limits, including breaking the speed of sound during free fall. This would undoubtedly be the sort of adventurous experience that so many young people would yearn for. They could, of course, partake of it vicariously on earth, by guzzling Red Bull.

Among other brands that have gone into orbit are Pepsi, Coca Cola and Kit Kat chocolates. However, the most spectacular advertising campaign that involved space came to us not from a product brand, but from a country — UAE. This was designed to celebrate the Hope probe, the country’s first mission to Mars. A few hours before the probe reached the red planet, the Government of UAE projected onto the skies huge images of the Martian moons of Phobos and Deimos, using new technology. The moons looked realistic, were visible to everyone in Dubai, and represented a bold tribute to an equally bold initiative.

As consumers prioritise experiences over mere products or services, space will perhaps be amongst the most aspirational areas for brands to associate with. Will we soon see products that can be used outside the earth’s atmosphere, or, indeed, advertising billboards in the stratosphere? Nothing is beyond the realms of possibility. For more excitement ahead, watch this space.

Harish Bhat is Brand Custodian, Tata Sons. These are his personal views. Email:

Published on July 25, 2021

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