Pizza Hut delivered a 6-inch pizza (topped with salami) to the International Space Station in 2001. Elon Musk blew up his Tesla roadster in the direction of Mars in 2018. Earlier this year, Estée Lauder sent 10 bottles of his new skin serum to the International Space Station, presumably to prove how radiant you can look in weightlessness.
But sending brands into the afterlife is one thing. Still unexplored is the mysterious realm of how a brand markets itself when it’s up there.
At some point in the distant future, many brands will face this challenge. But right now it’s only about one thing: Virgin, the media, hospitality and travel conglomerate founded by Richard Branson.
Virgin Galactic, the brand’s aerospace division, began testing a spacecraft called the SpaceShipTwo a decade ago. When the ship reached 51.4 miles above Earth in 2018 and entered what NASA defines as outer space (over 50 miles), the prospect of space travel for civilians suddenly shifted from science fiction to reality.
That was the plan from the start. SpaceShipTwo, a carbon composite vehicle that vaguely resembles a paper airplane, offers space for six passengers in addition to its two pilots. And while Covid-19 plans to send civilian astronauts upstairs this fall, 600 people have reportedly already paid the $ 250,000 price for a ticket.
This presented Virgin Galactic with a unique brand challenge: design an indoor environment that meets all the functional requirements of space travel, but still makes it clear that passengers fly Virgin.
But that’s not as easy as it sounds. After all, this is hardly the red eye for JFK. SpaceShipTwo relies on a four-engine mothership called the White Knight Two to fly it up to 50,000 feet. After cutting loose, SpaceShipTwo tilts its nose close to the vertical and fires the rocket motor until it reaches a height of about 100 km above the earth. The passengers enjoy about five minutes of weightlessness before the ship “bounces” its oars and glides back to earth.
In order to do justice to the unique experience, the Virgin team (with the support of the London-based design office Seymourpowell) has developed a new slang for the interior design, which dispenses with logos and other obvious brand elements, but still ensures that the outstanding experience of the Passengers is a Virgin experience.
“We welcome the dawn of a new space age, and the reality is [involves] Astronauts are made of humans, “Virgin Galactic’s design director Jeremy Brown told Adweek. In the past, spacecraft interiors were purely functional. “That,” he said, “is something completely different.”
Forget about cocktail napkins with the Virgin logo or flight attendants in red blazers. SpaceShipTwo has no beverage service and no flight attendants. There are also no pillows, snacks, or movies during the flight.
According to Jeremy White, Seymourpowell’s transportation director, branding the cabin was largely an effort to “find the parts that will resonate with consumers,” subtle trimmings including “little magical touches” that the Virgin brand would convey without to say it whole.
Which sounds good in theory, of course, but what does it really look like? Below, Virgin Galactic and Seymourpowell introduce some of these elements and explain how they work.
An obviously functional device, the seats are used to hold passengers in place via a five-point harness, and sit back to tolerate the 3.5 gravity loads of ascent and re-entry. “These are space seats, not airplane seats,” Brown said.