Elon Musk has been very busy tinkering around launching his SpaceX rocket to Mars. With his personal midnight cherry Tesla Roadster. And a mannequin astronaut called “Starman.” All while David Bowie is in rotation on the radio. Go figure.
Musk makes everything seem Forrest Gump simple. Or Bruno Mars hip. Or Douglas Adams geeky.
Yet he won’t spend a penny on advertising. What chutzpah!
That doesn’t make it cheap. On this mostly harmless planet on the outer eastern rim of the galaxy, Earth’s favorite multibillionaire has still dropped a wad of cash. SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket: $90 million. Tesla Roadster: $200,000. I have to confess I don’t know what a mannequin costs. I was never a fan of the Andrew McCarthy movie.
The February 6 SpaceX test launch of Musk’s Falcon Heavy rocket reminds me of the introduction of Mosaic in 1993. (Remember the Mosaic web browser? Everybody used it for 15 minutes. It made the World Wide Web cool by displaying pixelated pictures on the same page as pixelated type. It made the one guy in your office who wouldn’t go out for a drink with you giggle and snort until he realized you could hear him.)
Musk’s goal for SpaceX is simple. He wants to make it cheap to go to space. He really wants to go to Mars. Not for its bars. Rather, Musk believes it’s an insurance policy for humans should our planet become unlivable. You know, like if nobody’s allowed to surf porn any more. Or you can’t steal your neighbor’s Wi-Fi.
He’s as serious as a pay wall.
But SpaceX doesn’t have the scratch to run a few ads on the Travel Channel and sign people up. (It does get volunteers, though. Two suckers have already made a substantial deposit for a flight around the moon.)
What does a tech genius guerrilla marketer do when he’s got no ad budget? He tells the world he’s going to launch a car piloted by a mannequin called “Starman” in a space suit, and aim it toward Mars.
Did it work? Consider this. For the cost of this SpaceX rocket, Musk could have bought 18 commercials in the last Super Bowl broadcast. Had he flown with the Eagles, he’d have reached a cumulative viewership of 1.8 billion people. (If they weren’t in the john.) That’s way more than 14 million. (That’s how many of you loaded YouTube to watch Musk’s mannequin in the Space Tesla listening to “Space Oddity.”)
But don’t panic! Because it’s all about the brand.
You see, right now, everyone on the planet – from Kim Jong Un to the light-saber kid – knows that the only operation on this planet that can put a car in space is SpaceX. They also know the only car that’s been in space is a Tesla.
That’s sky-high awareness.
Brand equity? Beyond the moon. (Beyond Mars, actually.) Sure, maybe Musk could have powered the SpaceX with the Tesla’s batteries. That would have maxed out the branding. But recharging would have taken forever on the way up from Launch Pad 39A to beyond Mars.
The only thing that remains is for Musk and SpaceX is to do the tie-in promotions. The Falcon Heavy-branded Tesla. The be-a-Starman-in-a-Tesla memes on Facebook and Twitter. The live remotes with Jimmy Fallon. Maybe the only better thing would have been for Musk’s childhood Tamagotchi to have hitchhiked in the glove box. (Does a Tesla even have a glove box? Now I want to know!)
And that’s why this is the greatest car ad, ever. For no media money down.