SpaceX Just Formed A Hair Band


Coming to the community theater for one night only…Starship Super Heavy!

Well, not really, but it did rename its spaceship and BFR (for “Big F*cking  Rocket”), and I’m not sure either name is an improvement.

Branding is a funny, somewhat inscrutable pursuit, and for every opinion arguing in favor of some term or another, there’s always a countervailing point about why it’s just shy of insanity. That’s why branding is such a lucrative business; not only are there no established rules for its creation or conduct, but no accepted ways to measure it. 

The best definition I’ve found is also used for porn: I can’t tell you what it is, but I know it when I see it.

Have you noticed lately that garden-variety storms are getting named in addition to hurricanes? So are other natural disasters, like the recent Woolsey and Camp Fire wildfires in California. I think that’s good branding, because it makes it easier to reference them, and the personification thing helps give them some heft as events, not just observations.

I think Apple’s various products prefaced by “i” evidence horrible branding; sure, we remember it, but not because the labels mean anything. It would have been much easier, and perhaps more impactful in producing measures of branding benefit orgones to simply call them “Apple Phone” or “Apple Laptop.” Maybe they’ve got religion with “Apple Watch.”

I come out somewhere in the middle on Starship Super Heavy.

Starship is kinda generic, like naming a car “Vehicle.” Again, based on the porn measure of branding, NASA got it right when it named its capsules “Mercury, “Gemini,” and “Apollo” (which also became monikers for the programs that used the equipment); it lost its way when the space shuttle was named “the space shuttle.” NASA has got back some of its religion by naming the rocket it hopes to send to Mars “Orion.” 

And Starship isn’t even going to stars, at least not while we’re alive.

“Super Heavy” is just bad. It could be the name of a movie, a term of endearment, or an angry but otherwise polite descriptive coming from an overworked furniture mover.

Or a hair band from the 80s.

I get the challenge of BFR: it was a development code name, and marketers hate it when those internal labels get extended to become external brands. It’s also based on a swear word, which might offend some of the company’s more fragile procurement contacts at NASA.

But it’s also so very, very SpaceX.

And that’s the thing with porn. No matter how much pretense is wasted presenting things like character or plot, its sole purpose is to exhibit sexual acts…and everyone knows it. In this way, porn is authentic and sincere. It is what it is, even when it adds elements to suggest it’s not. Nobody falls for it (except for Marlon Brando when he did, well, his last tango in Paris).

Achieving that, er, depth of customer believability and engagement is rare. Most of the supposedly most successful brands fail to achieve it.

BFR was great branding, and my guess is that there’ll be fewer fans lined up for that Starship Super Heavy reunion concert than SpaceX might expect.

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