In the following article, Fast Company contributor Susan Karlin details NASA’s rebirth by rebranding. Just a few short years ago; America’s space program seemed in tatters. In 2011, NASA was preparing for the final flight of its Space Shuttle program to little fanfare. Despite 30 years of incredible advancements in space exploration, public interest had waned. Perhaps because the shuttle itself, once a futuristic-looking space vehicle, hadn’t changed its exterior design in 30 years and now looked less modern than every car on the roads of America. Perhaps because the Shuttle missions had become – as far as the general public was concerned – little more than a shipping operation for the International Space Station.
As NASA’s funding dwindled, new competition from the private sector – including companies like Space-X – began to command more attention. After 30 years and five Space Shuttles (two of which, Challenger and Columbia, ended in tragedy) NASA seemed like yesterday’s news. Of course, the folks at NASA weren’t sitting around in an empty warehouse, wondering what to do next. A decades-in-the-making plan to eventually send a manned space flight to Mars was taking shape, and soon, the public would start to take interest in the famed agency once again. But it wasn’t just the mission to Mars or the recent landing of a probe on an asteroid that piqued the public’s interest. NASA conducted a conscious rebranding of itself, utilizing emerging media technology – including a robust social media campaign – to connect people to the adventure of space exploration in a way never seen before.
Astronauts tweet from the International Space Station. NASA scientists sit on panels at San Diego’s own Comic-Con. The agency has even redesigned their mission control room to look more futuristic and “Sci-Fi.” NASA’s rebranding is an amazing success story, and you can read about it in-depth in Karlin’s fantastic article here.