Kudos to SpaceShipOne for making their second flight today to win the $10 million prize. “Burt Rutan (the aircraft’s designer) and others have said their ultimate goal is to bring the cost of a space flight for passengers down to the price of a low-cost car.” So what will the world of business do with space flight capabilities? Will it become an executive jet type luxury and convenience at the same time? Or the cruise of a lifetime? Richard Branson, entrepreneur extraordinaire, has already created ‘Virgin Galactic’ (a most corny name, I have to say, complete with corny logo, but hey, at least he’s doing something), to capitalize on this new race for space. And assuming that all goes to plan, I think there will be a booming business for tourism from all those baby boomers who watched the first Race for Space on black and white TVs; along with a healthy business in preflight medicals 😉 For a rather diversionary activity, you can read what it will be like on board Virgin Galatic.
But my point here is about brand extension. Routine space travel is a long way off, but companies who position earlier rather than later for key trends have bigger opportunities later on. Space travel is just one such (rather long term) trend, but there are hundreds of others in the near term, that companies can capitalize on. Keeping your eyes out for the trend, whether its appealing to young Hispanics, building on increasing numbers of re-mortgaged homeowners, knowing that women are key decision makers in purchases for the home even in ‘manly’ areas such as powertools, growing clusters of small businesses with similar requirements so that their needs can be served with the same precedence as a larger customer; requires that your marketing message at the least, and your new product/service offerings at the most, keep adapting to reach new audiences or the same audiences with different needs.
It is in these new areas that brand extension can work. We’re more likely to buy a space ride from VirginGalatic than we are from the makers of SpaceShipOne directly, because we have confidence in their offering – perhaps running space flights will be like running aircraft and perhaps it won’t. But we trust the Virgin brand, for safety, reliability and service in this new area. And this same thinking can be applied to other new trends too. Just by acknowledging a trend, your brand can help make it real. Which is of course, a double-edged sword. But at least its an innovative edge.