Saturday, September 15, 2007

Google Lunar X PRIZE Marketing and Public Relations

This article comments on the Google Lunar X PRIZE in terms of marketing. "This is the sort of brand and market development that continues to put Google head and shoulders above any other publishing enterprise for vision and return on investment". Google is known for not spending on traditional advertising, but rather relying on word of mouth and simply doing things that get people interested in them. Of course they have an advertising product AdSense, but that generates revenue for them. Clearly the public relations and marketing aspects are key at every level of this prize - the sponsor, the prize-running organization, other organizations like SpaceX helping with the prize, the potential competitor teams and their sponsors and possibly blogs, and of course the media effect if the prize is won and videos are sent from the rover to Earth. Marketing, public relations, public approval and recognition, and creating general energy and enthusiasm are central to most, if not all, innovation prizes (or even other prizes).

As a non-scientific assessment of how the initial media campaign is going, my wife happened to mention the Lunar X PRIZE in a class. I guess I must have been talking about it: "Let's go for a walk AFTER I finish this Lunar X PRIZE post ... just 10 more minutes ...". From her discussion, it sounds like the professor and most of the class knew about the prize already, and were able to discuss it in the context of government and private efforts. This is not a space or engineering- related class or school, so that's pretty amazing to me, given the low visibility of some other, much (MUCH!) larger space efforts.

One question this naturally brings up is will other large corporations, perhaps corporations that want to develop (or keep, or in some cases re-develop) a forward-looking, exciting, high-tech image, invest some of their advertising budgets in high-profile innovation prizes in attention-getting areas like space, robotics, environment, health, and others?

... or ...

Will they start to more often see innovation prizes as tools to help them solve technical problems that they would find advantageous for business reasons to have solved, but that they don't have the resources to reliably solve using in-house R&D or traditional R&D contracts or grants?

In either case, will they find it to be cost-effective to partner with like-minded foundations like the X PRIZE Foundation to help them manage the prize?