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  • Writer's pictureRandy DeMuesy

A marketing lesson from Apollo 11

This NASA chart showing the tactics, timing and trajectory of Apollo 11 is simply extraordinary.

It makes the moon landing all the more impossible, therefore, amazing.

And it’s all based on two things: having a tightly defined mission, and using a blend of creativity (what if) and facts (physics) to create the approach to achieve that mission.

Those two critical elements were the guideposts for all the ideas, investments, tactics, tests and decisions to come.

And, funny, but if you’re a marketing guy like me and you squint hard enough, this graph sorta resembles a strategic marketing plan, doesn’t it?

Clarify the mission

It certainly seemed clear enough: Land a man on the moon.

But if they hadn’t properly clarified and clearly articulated the mission more, it would have meant big trouble.

Because the mission wasn’t to land a man on the moon. It was to safely return him to earth after having landed on the moon.

Interesting, too, that if you squint at this, it kinda resembles a mission statement like one you might have for your business.

Then, squint even harder, and you might even extrapolate the beginnings of a brand position: ‘We allow you to explore the cosmos safely

Create the approach

Once NASA had its purpose and mission tightly nailed down, Von Braun and his crew of 1000+ scientists and engineers started working on how best to accomplish their mission

That meant acknowledging a lot of hard truths (aka: challenges), the biggie being escaping the gravitational pull of earth (and later, the moon).

Three theories were proposed:

Direct Ascent — requiring a rocket to launch a vehicle that could reach the moon, land and then return directly to Earth without multiple stages.

Earth Orbit Rendezvous—requiring a number of rockets to lift segments of a moon vehicle into orbit around the Earth, where it would be constructed and then sent on its way.

Lunar Orbit Rendezvous—recognized that every part of the rocket (except the capsule) would be discarded during the mission, so why not have the lander be disposable as well? Which allowed for a smaller, less weightier rocket to get the capsule and lunar lander into space.

Made sense. Their (clarified) purpose wasn’t safely returning a machine to earth, but a man.

So off they went, developing the LOR rocket and anticipating/solving the other challenges it would have on the way there and back.

Do that squinting trick one more time, and it’s much like building a multi-faceted marketing program with a clarified reason and approach acting as guidepost when encountering and solving challenges down the road.

And, just like NASA, using a blend of creativity (emotional elements) and facts (features and benefits) to develop meaningful messages (and adapting them to the best delivery methods) that will safely find their way to landing on the customers’ mind, where the brand flag will be planted.

Or turning obstacles into opportunities (NASA used the earth’s gravitational pull as an accelerant to slingshot Apollo 11 towards the moon … Avis used the fact they were behind Hertz as a meaningful differentiator, as proof they have to “try harder” to please you.)

Shoot for the moon.

When you clarify and clearly articulate what your brand position and purpose is, every member of your organization will know what they need to solve and why they are solving it.

When you dream up and developed a strategic approach to bring your brand promise to the market, your potential customers will understand where you fit in their lives and why.

You’ll have something very powerful that can shake the earth and rattle your teeth.

Something that can take your company as high as it wants to go.

And it will be glorious.

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