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Kogod Students Pioneer Branding Potential of Space Station

Space: The Final Frontier . . . of branding?

A Kogod consulting practicum spent the fall investigating whether the U.S. portion of the International Space Station (ISS), set for completion in 2010, might provide branding opportunities. The three second-year MBA students presented their recommendations to NASA on Dec. 11.

Their conclusion? An emphatic yes.

“People are interested in buying space technology products,” said student Alexis Bawden. “Consumers are very interested in HD footage, clothing, and medicine from space. You’re going to give the taxpayers tangible results.”

NASA already conducted its own brand evaluation, producing a 2002 report that Kogod professor Stephen Day, who led the practicum, said “didn’t go anywhere.” The agency is reluctant to move forward with a branding campaign for numerous reasons, including its fierce protection of its own NASA brand, Day said.

The students addressed that issue head-on in their presentation.

“NASA’s values are safety, teamwork, integrity, and mission success,” student Krissa Lum said. “You want to make sure that’s the ISS brand as well.”

The business students landed before Mark Uhran, NASA’s assistant associate administrator for the ISS, thanks to Day, chairman of the Japan U.S. Science, Technology and Space Applications Program. A consortium of U.S. and Japanese scientists, academics, and government administrators, JUSTSAP believes branding the space station could be a big-time revenue producer.

“We initiated this project because we felt there is unexploited value to the American taxpayer,” Day said. “If this group demonstrates the value, this thing is worth taking a really serious look at.”

The group didn’t suggest actual branding campaigns, rather, it simply concluded that the ISS does indeed have a defined brand value. The students also completed a detailed, approximately 30-page report that Day will share with his JUSTSAP colleagues before forwarding it to NASA. Regardless of whether their ideas grow legs, the students all said the practicum was an outstanding experience.

“It was unlike any other class,” said Jonathan Marcus. “We didn’t just sit down and listen to a lecture. We treated it as if [Day] was the client and we were the consultant.”

“Often in a learning environment things are structured [so] you learn the lesson and the variables are very controlled,” Lum said. “This was much more real world. We had to think out of the box. It was interesting to triangulate and to use different methods to come up with what the potential could be. You had to stretch your mind.”

In a project unlike any other, these students clearly stretched their minds all the way up to the heavens . . . which someday could be brought to you by the North Face—the latest high quality adventure gear, equipment, and clothing. With the North Face gear you will Never Stop Exploring.