Is Space the Final Frontier for Brand Marketing?

Plus: The co-branded experience, Luxury looks to TikTok commerce, and the world’s most-searched consumer brands.

Published three times per week, the Content Commerce Insider newsletter highlights how brands create content to drive revenue, globally. If you have received our newsletter from a friend or colleague, we hope you will subscribe as well and follow us on LinkedIn and Instagram.

In 2008, an article in the New York Times predicted that a “moonvertising” movement would emerge within a decade, with brands projecting their logos onto the surface of the moon using lasers capable of covering “about half the land size of Africa.” Now, thirteen years later, we haven’t come close to advertising on the moon, but outer space continues to serve as a source of inspiration for marketers.

With its escapist and futuristic appeal that draws universal fascination, outer space can be an ideal tool for brands to provoke awe through advertising. As far back as 1990, the Tokyo Broadcasting System celebrated its 40th anniversary by sending journalist Toyohiro Akiyama to Russia's space station, at a cost of around $12 million. Other companies have utilized the cosmos to create excitement around their products, from Pepsi sending a replica of its flagship beverage to float outside the Russian space station in 1996 to Israeli dairy firm Tnuva, which filmed an ad on the Mir space station in 1997, the first commercial to be shot in space.

Fast forward to 2021, 60 years since the first human was sent to outer space, and now just about every brand wants to launch itself into the great beyond. According to a 2017 report by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the space industry could be valued at $2.7 trillion by 2030.

In 2019, NASA announced that it was opening the International Space Station for business opportunities, ultimately allowing private missions for commercial purposes. American beauty brand Estée Lauder was an early adopter, paying $128,000 last year to have NASA astronauts take pictures of ten bottles of its Advanced Night Repair serum in the heavily-windowed Cupola observatory on the International Space Station.

Although Estée Lauder’s expenditure was a lot smaller than the millions spent on space advertising in the past, working in outer space remains a wildly expensive endeavour — it would run in the tens of millions to organize an independent trip. 

Companies are having more and more conversations about public space tourism in orbit, with the well-known start-up Axiom Space selling $55 million tickets for a stay on a SpaceX capsule last year. For now, space remains an ultra-pricey realm, one that the vast majority of consumers can only afford to experience vicariously, for example, by sporting a NASA logo on their clothing.

Bert Ultrich, a multimedia liaison at NASA, told the Los Angeles Times in 2019 that he received more than one request per day to use the organization’s logo, which has become commonplace on the streetwear scene thanks to collaborations with brands such as Nike, Vans, and Alpha Industries.

Chinese outdoor clothing label Bosideng celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing in 2020 with a NASA collection, offering logoed jackets that took their aesthetic and structural inspiration from spacesuits. 

China’s foray into intergalactic collaborations is notable because of the country’s fairly recent plans to dominate space. In 2014, the Chinese government designated civil space development as a key area of innovation, striving to take the place of the United States. It now ranks second to the United States in the number of operational satellites in orbit, and the focus on commercial opportunities is increasing as well, with 78 commercial space companies operating in China, according to the Institute for Defense Analysis.

It’s therefore not surprising that Chinese brands have also been motivated to tap into this new source of national pride. C-beauty brand Perfect Diary collaborated with the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation on a moon-themed eyeshadow palette to celebrate the 2020 Mid-Autumn Festival, while sportswear brand Anta hosted a livestream on Bilibili in November 2020 in partnership with Space China that featured a set crafted to look like a space station, where they showed that their down jackets were warm enough to hatch chickens.

There is another, more defined trend emerging of space companies collaborating for marketing purposes, rather than just producing space-inspired products. Boutique fragrance house Byredo’s latest Travis Scott collaboration, “Space Rage,” aims to simulate the smell of outer space — the beauty of it is that nobody really knows what it’s supposed to be.

Brands are ultimately chasing outer space as an infinite source of adventure and mystery. Trend Forecaster Emily Segal wrote in The Guardian that the global uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic will lead to a boom of escapism over the next decade – and if there was ever an era for space to be the next big thing in marketing, it’s now.

- by Sadie Bargeron

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Mentioned in today’s newsletter: Alpha Industries, Anta, Baccarat, Bilibili, Bosideng, Bulgari, Byredo, Clubhouse, Disney, Estée Lauder, Expedia, Nike, Pepsi, Perfect Diary, Roposo, Softbank, SpaceX, Vans.

CollaBrands: The Co-Branded Experience, Part One

by Steven Ekstract

Like many of you, I have been dreaming about when I’ll be able to travel again and experience the freedom to safely be around friends and family while enjoying the world. With vaccinations being rolled out, we can start to envision the end of the pandemic and the return of vacations.

The business of co-branded experiences has been growing steadily over the past decade — from music festivals and fan conventions to hotels and restaurants to tours and even escape rooms. In fact, co-branded experiences have become such big business that this report will be divided into three parts. This week we will look at a small selection of co-branded tours and hotels, and next week we will explore experiential retail, pop-up shops, gambling, and real estate.

Why Experiences Are More Important to Us Than Money

Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, has spent more than 20 years researching the idea of happiness and its relationship with money. Gilovich’s research has discovered that happiness is not maintained through buying things — even if those things are highly desired. According to Gilovich, “We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only temporarily. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them and they lose their excitement."  

When we purchase physical objects, we obtain something that is external to us, while experiences become a part of us. In fact, they make us who we are. Thus, branded experiences foster emotional connections and trust of the brand, which, coupled with the reward of the experience, offer the ultimate in collaboration between brand and psyche.

Travel Is One of the Few Things We Buy That Makes Us Richer

According to a study by Expedia and the Center for Generational Kinetics, travel tops the list of experiences that Americans save up for. The study found that 57% of respondents were currently saving money specifically for travel, highlighting the trend of prioritizing experiences over products or things. And millennials skew even higher, with 65% saving for travel. 

Co-branded tours and experiences have been on the rise over the past decade and continue to see new players entering the market as travelers seek out trusted brands to show them the world. Demographics play a major role in the type of co-branded tours that consumers choose. A young family with children may opt for a Disney cruise while a Gen X couple would prefer a branded journey led by the Smithsonian or the New York Times. The range of co-branded travel adventures is set to expand even more as the coronavirus pandemic comes to an end and the pent-up demand for real-world experiences is released. Below are just a few examples of well-executed co-branded tours and travel experiences: 

From the Smithsonian came the idea of bringing the world’s cultures and natural sciences alive through experience-rich travel. Inspired by the Smithsonian’s mission, the “increase and diffusion of knowledge,” Smithsonian Journeys foster the power that comes through travel — unlocking knowledge and cultural awareness — to better understand the world.

New York Times Journeys aim to create “exceptional experiences inspired by New York Times reporting around the world.” Going beyond reading and listening, participants are able to join journalists and experts “to discover the story of a place.”

The American Red Cross partnered with 360° Student Travel by Westcoast Connection, a leader in youth tours, on a brand licensing partnership to launch a unique summer program in Washington, D.C., that gives teens the opportunity to volunteer in ways that make a real difference. The youth are invited to turn compassion into action by participating in two Red Cross campaigns, including distributing care packages to homeless veterans as part of Totes for Hope and conducting fire safety risk assessments and prevention in homes supporting the Home Fire Campaign.

Co-Branded Hotel Experiences

Bulgari Hotels & Resorts evokes the distinctive, bold, and contemporary style of the Italian luxury house through a unique hotel design concept. It consists of a collection of a few select properties in major cities and high-end resort destinations (each is located in the most upscale area) with references to the local culture through a blend of traditional design and dramatic Italian contemporary architecture. 

Baccarat Hotel New York City

Recognized by Forbes Travel Guide as a five-star hotel and by Condé Nast Traveler as one of the best hotels in the world and included in its Preferred Hotels.

Steven Ekstract is Managing Director of Global Licensing Advisors, a consultancy that provides companies with insight and strategic direction to succeed in the $300 billion a year licensing business. Ekstract is the founder and former Publisher of License Global magazine, the leading information source for the consumer licensing business. He can be reached at


TikTok Take

  • Luxury looks to TikTok commerce: Vogue Business explores how luxury can tap into TikTok’s development into a shopping platform, first and foremost analyzing the differences between Instagram and TikTok content.

  • TikTok comes under fire in Europe over data protection: The European Consumer Organization (aka BEUC) filed a complaint against TikTok on Tuesday, alleging that the platform has not been transparent enough about its use of data and deploys “hidden advertising” aimed at children.

  • TikTokers are now eligible to join Hollywood’s biggest union: Influencers across all social media platforms can now organize via the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. Dazed reports that the new “Influencer Agreement” allows creators to reap the same benefits as A-list actors.

  • Biden era heralds TikTok ad surge: Erica Patrick, vice president and director of social media at Mediahub Worldwide, told Reuters that brand interest in TikTok has exploded since the election. Another source noted that “Trump’s defeat... was the turning point for many advertisers who were previously “on the fence about TikTok.” 

  • Short video rival may buy TikTok’s Indian assets: Bloomberg reports that Bytedance is exploring a sale of TikTok’s India operations toGlance, owner of short video app Roposo, in an attempt to salvage TikTok’s presence in the country, where it was banned by the government last year. The deal was reportedly initiated by Japan’s SoftBank and would require approval from the Indian government.

  • Seller University hits Indonesia first: A new education portal, TikTok Shop: Seller University, is currently being tested in Indonesia. It aims to serve as a “training hub to help you do business on TikTok” with an emphasis on e-commerce tools. 

  • TikTok whips up a delicious new feature: Responding to the endless foodie-focused videos that fill the app on a daily basis, TikTok is trialing a new third-party feature called Whisk that will allow creators to link directly to their recipes. Read more on Today.


Global News

  • Google, Netflix, and Amazon top a list of the world’s most-searched consumer brands, plus a set of handy maps that highlight who tops what country in various categories, from fashion to gaming. Visual Capitalist

  • The future of fashion weeks? Those with the money and marketing power will show whenever and wherever they want (including digitally), while smaller designers will join forces at the traditional week-long events held in global fashion capitals. Business of Fashion

  • Post Malone will help celebrate Pokémon’s 25th anniversary through a virtual concert, part of the brand’s series of “P25” musical events this year featuring Katy Perry as the headline act. The Verge

  • The power of K-pop: Popular idols have enormous influence to boost the engagement of their fans with global brands, from Pepsi to MAC. Hollywood Branded

  • Universal Music Group and South Korea’s Big Hit Entertainment (the label behind BTS) are developing an idol group competition show for U.S. television and will launch a joint-venture label to support the creation of the next global K-pop-style supergroup. Billboard

  • Can Facebook succeed with a watch where it failed with a phone? Ars Technica

  • The legacy of the Apple Watch: Tim Cook wants to see health and wellness become “Apple’s greatest contribution” to the world. Outside

  • Marketers are rushing into Clubhouse to make the most of the emerging audio opportunity for brands. Marketing Dive

  • This week also saw several deeper probes into the hottest new app on the planet, covering the “inevitability” of Clubhouse (Stratechery), its role as a “cult-driven” platform (The Information), and a broader overview of its rise (New York Times).

  • Amazon has acquired Selz, an Australian platform that operates like Shopify in enabling brands and merchants to launch their own online stores. CNBC

  • An industry group of Indian retailers are calling on the government to ban Amazon after a Reuters investigation revealed how the e-commerce giant favored a small group of large sellers on its platform. Economic Times