Apr, 7, 2015

Why Do Beverage Companies Keep Sending Shit Into Space?

The human payload aboard its Earth-orbit mission gives Red bull a leg up in the increasingly crowded "space soda" market.
   
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04/07/2015

Why Do Beverage Companies Keep Sending Shit Into Space?

by William Rauscher

Red Bull. Jose Cuervo. Ardbeg Whiskey. Pocari Sweat. What do these four large beverage companies have in common? They’re all part of a new wave of grand-scaled stunt marketing that uses outer space as a billboard. Red Bull sent skydiver Felix Baumgartner to the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere and had him jump off. Jose Cuervo chilled its namesake in space in honor of “Frozen Margarita Day.” Arbeg Whiskey sent its herbs into orbit as part of an “experiment.” And Pocari Sweat plans to be the first beverage on the moon.

The territory of Earth orbit doesn’t belong to NASA anymore, or any other national space agency. As technology advances, access to this realm is increasingly only a question of money: the idea that outer space is “open source” might really mean that it’s simply “open” to the fattest wallet. Fifty years ago, you had to have an entire nation behind you to reach the stars: now you just need the capital and the desire to have everyone on planet Earth know about your product.

What does it mean to live in a world where a soft drink can explore the moon? Where are the burgers, the athletic shoes, the insurance companies?

In a capitalist economy that’s fueled by relentless novelty, companies are in constant need to stand out, to make noise, to make themselves heard above the din, the steady white noise of consumer culture. Then add to the mix the challenges of connecting with customers in a digital world, where it’s the customers who hold the power, who can change the channel, close the tab, delete the message, the instant they’re bored, distracted or turned off.

The result is that brands are increasingly encouraged to stand for something. Long-term relationships with customers are what counts, so a brand has to be about a bigger, more inspiring idea than simply the latest, nicest-looking widget. For example, Coke’s marketing efforts want you to believe that the brand isn’t about a sugary drink, it’s about opening happiness and erasing negativity.

The territory of Earth orbit doesn’t belong to NASA anymore, or any other national space agency. As technology advances, access to this realm is increasingly only a question of money: the idea that outer space is “open source” might really mean that it’s simply “open” to the fattest wallet.

In the digitized, globalized 21st century, a brand doesn’t want to sell a product, it wants to inspire a planet. Japanese beverage company Pocari Sweat, to take the most hyperbolic example, is about inspiring the planet through a marketing campaign / space mission that will send children’s dreams to the moon. This entails lasering the content of each dream onto a metal disc, in an overt echo of the “golden records” aboard NASA’s voyager probes.

Yet it remains unclear why it’s specifically beverage companies that, so far, have taken such a decisive lead in commercializing space. What does it mean to live in a world where a soft drink can explore the moon? Where are the burgers, the athletic shoes, the insurance companies? Perhaps the refreshments got there first because they rely on more on over-the-top PR efforts to stand out from the crowd. Or perhaps, it’s only a matter of time before Earth’s orbit is a traffic jam of guerrilla marketing, real-time stunts and “inspiring” campaigns for the whole world to see.