Mars Exchange
Expanding the Audience for Mars One: A Conversation with Nico Marquardt

Expanding the Audience for Mars One: A Conversation with Nico Marquardt

by Vince on Thursday, 15th December 2016 in Expert Opinions, People, Nico Marquardt

Nico Marquardt is an adviser to Mars One on matters involving social media, brand engagement, and marketing. Marquardt is currently the youngest member of the local parliament in Germany. He has created social media strategies for major election campaigns during the 2013 German federal elections and the state elections in 2014 and for corporations like American Express. He is CEO of the Rabbit Consulting Group, a global consulting firm that focuses on digital transformation and improving the management capacity of its clients. He is also a director at the German energy company EWP. This is an impressive resume for any person, but it’s fascinating to note that Marquardt is in his early twenties. All that said, space fanatics may know him even better as the boy who, in the year 2008 at age 13, wrote a research paper about the potential for a collision between a geosynchronous satellite and Asteroid 99942 Apophis, which in the year 2029 will pass only 31,300 kilometers over the Earth, much closer than the moon.

Earlier this year, I asked Marquardt about how he's helping Mars One. In this second of two parts, Marquardt discusses his involvement in Mars One and how marketing positively contributes to going to Mars. Also read part 1: Marketing Mars One: A Conversation with Nico Marquardt.

Mars One will be seeking to involve many sponsors to help support the mission. What are the benefits of involvement of outside corporations who wish to be involved with Mars One? What brands are currently involved with Mars One and how are these relationships working out?

"Remember that a successful business entity seeks to expand its appeal or, in marketing jargon, ‘to expand market space.’ In essence, this occurs when the entity adds a facet to its brand that helps it appeal to a new segment of the marketplace. So think of how companies might seek to expand their appeal by associating with the mission of Mars One.

In the brand partnerships we are developing, Mars One is reaching out to the ‘non-science’ community. A prime example at this point is the fashion apparel company, Björn Borg. Björn Borg has successfully incorporated the Mars One brand in its spring summer 2016 fashion show. We gained the attention of the fashion industry, which to date had nothing to do with science or even Mars. So, in terms of reaching new audiences, expanding market space if you will, and showing investors that our mission works even here, this brand alliance was wildly successful.”

It is easy to imagine brand associations between aerospace companies or even tech firms. But the example of Björn Borg seems unrelated to the mission of Mars One. What would you like to tell Mars One community members who think that an association between Mars One and some other non-technical company in some way diminishes the scientific and humanitarian aspects of Mars One?

“I agree, in the first moment one might think that a fashion show is not related to the mission of Mars One. But the point is, Mars One is about bringing humanity to another planet. Humanity is complex and does not only consist of science and technology. It also contains politics, art, culture, and even fashion.

I was together with Mars One’as CEO Bas Lansdorp, Suzanne Flinkenflögel, Mars One’s Director of Communications, and four astronaut candidates as guests of the Björn Borg show. It was incredible. They paid a lot of attention to Mars One’s vision and concept. The fashion industry is highly creative and the designers from Björn Borg widened our view and the view of the audience about colonizing Mars.

If we want to succeed then we must broaden up our audience. Scientist and engineers are a tiny percentage of the population. However, we want to convince everyone—teachers, artists, nurses, and so on—that this mission is necessary and that it will have a highly positive impact on our all lives. In order to reach those people it is necessary to be more open to companies like Björn Borg. I totally understand that it feels strange that the fashion and science community works together: But isn’t that our goal? Uniting everyone?”

Corporations generally take on this kind of activity to gain some benefit by publicity, by generating awareness, or by creating a positive association. What are the risks to the sponsoring brand (the corporations) should Mars One have a catastrophic event?

“At this point there is no risk that is not common to any significant business venture. If, for example a satellite is destroyed on its way to Mars, then there are obvious financial losses. But all industries have risks inherent to their business. Every sponsorship represents a mutual investment. If one partner makes a mistake, then both have an issue. That’s as true with a car company as it is a company bringing people to Mars. The only difference? Bringing people to Mars is quite possibly the biggest story of this century. Even though it’s risky, the possible benefit of a sponsorship with Mars One is so incredible that the benefits far outweigh risks. Imagine acquiring the naming rights of the rocket which transports mankind to Mars. Your company name would be known everywhere. Your investment will be returned many times over in terms of the increase in brand value.”

What are the risks for Mars One, and for the future astronauts, of having brand names involved with Mars One? With sponsors connecting their brand to Mars One, can they exert influence on aspects of the settlement? What does it mean for potential settlers and for the staff of Mars One to be concerned about raising enough funds, linking with the correct brands, and so forth?

“Just as with major league sports, for example, a sponsor does not have an influence on the game or the mission. Nike® does not dictate which quarterback plays on Sunday. Success is what drives the relationship. Successful athletes, doing what they know how to do very well and in view of the public, secure the most sponsorships. Mars One is in charge of organizing its human mission to Mars and, as it has more success, other entities will want to capitalize by associating with that success.

But not every brand is a good match so Mars One will be selective when considering a brand partnership proposal. We’ll seek established brands with strong reputations in their branches. Many different organizations could be interesting to Mars One: phone and car companies, clothing and appliance manufacturers. The sky’s the limit. We have our own set of criteria to evaluate a brand’s suitability for this sponsorship, and generally, we will not engage companies which could have a negative impact on Mars One’s mission."

What has Mars One done to offset or mitigate the risks of corporate sponsorship?

“Mars One is an organization that has risk inherent in everyday operations. Just as the early settlers of this country sent explorers, then adventurous pioneers into a new frontier, Mars One is working to do the same. We have an organization of some of the brightest minds in the world that are adept at operating under pressure. Look historically at the Apollo 13 flight and the calm and ingenuity which culminated with the safe return of that crew. Our reputation should allay concerns about dealing with risks.”

Should we expect to see the Martian habitat plastered with brand names, like race cars?

“It is essential that brand engagements will not have any negative impact on the mission or the lives of the future astronauts. This will be evaluated carefully before signing any partnership agreement. Mars One will aim to keep the habitat clean of too many brand names, but if one or more brands would be displayed they will certainly have paid a significant contribution to Mars One’s human mission to Mars.”

Some people feel that the involvement of brand names is a distraction. How do you respond to them?

“The mission to settle Mars is such a compelling, history-making odyssey that issues of commercial/brand involvement will simply be a casual byline on a slow news day.

Think about it. Kids love wearing their Jordan shoes because it represents a standard of excellence in athletic performance. They could tell you lots about the champion athlete, but not so much about the company whose brand he endorses.

Do you remember which brand of golf balls Alan Shephard hit on the moon? No? Because he took that secret to the grave, preventing any commercial gain from an astronomical physics lesson.

This mission is the same way. The focus is people on a new planet, Mars. Whoever sponsors them getting there will advertise the mission, to create association with the next greatest space achievement. The achievement. That’s what people will remember."


What do you think about the role of brand names, marketing and sponsorships for Mars One? We look forward to reading your comments on the story!

Story by Vincent Hyman, a writer and Mars One volunteer living in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA

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