We choose to go to the moon: What marketers can learn from Apollo

Posted by David Meerman Scott 04:45 AM on July 16, 2009

VisorToday is the fortieth anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11, the first manned space mission to land on the moon. A few days after launch, as Michael Collins orbited the moon in the command module, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to explore another planet.

I'm a big fan of the Apollo program.

M_apollo_astronauts copyMy family would say I'm "Apollo Obsessed." At events over the past decade or so, I've met and spent time with more than half of the 24 men who have traveled to the moon, including more than half of those who walked on the lunar surface.

Here is a really great site to follow the mission over the next week.

You can follow Buzz Aldrin on Twitter.

APKI've channeled my interest in Apollo to my "other blog" Apollo Artifacts which shows the many items from the program (the family calls it "space junk") I have collected. Many of the items I own come directly from the astronauts.

Nearly 100 press kits from NASA and the contractors

Equipment that was used on the lunar surface

Checklists and cue cards used by the astronauts during critical periods

Control panels from the Apollo spacecraft

Even a lunar module decent engine thrust chamber that sits in my living room

So on such an important date, I hope you don’t mind indulging me with these observations about what marketers can learn from the success of the Apollo program.

Set a really big goal

Apollo 11 fulfilled President John F Kennedy's goal, announced before a joint session of Congress on 25 May 1961: "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth." Damn. Walk on the moon in less than a decade? Wow.

What big, fat, hairy (but realistic) goal can your organization (and you) set?

Challenge conventional wisdom

For a long time, people in NASA wanted to get to the moon through the "direct decent" or "earth orbit rendezvous" methods. But a little known engineer named John Houbolt proposed Lunar Orbit Rendezvous as the way to go. Nobody listened. But he pressed his case and people started to see that the unconventional approach would work.

What "everyone knows" may not be correct: How can you do it differently?

It takes teamwork

At its peak, the Apollo program employed 400,000 people at NASA, at hundreds of contractors, and within other parts of the government and military.

Although the astronauts and to a lesser degree the flight directors in Mission Control get the glory, it takes many people to bring success.

Are you working well with the other departments in your organization?

Buzz Aldrin on the moon photo credit NASA

David Meerman Scott

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