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How NASA Used Marketing to Sell Us John Glenn.

Does Marketing work? Ask NASA.

John Glenn,  one of the heroic “Mercury Seven” military test pilots selected by NASA to become America’s first astronauts, passed away last week at 95.  mercury-astronauts

“John Herschel Glenn Jr. (July 18, 1921 – December 8, 2016) was an American aviator, engineer, astronaut, and United States Senator from Ohio.

In 1962 he became the first American to orbit the Earth, circling three times. Before joining NASA, he was a distinguished fighter pilot in both World War II and Korea, with six Distinguished Flying Crosses and eighteen clusters to the Air Medal.” –Wikipedia

Years ago I had lunch with a NASA scientist.
She asked me:

“Why do you think the Mercury astronauts
wore silver metallic uniforms?”

I told her that I always thought it had something to do with reflecting heat or radiation.


You know what she told me?  “Marketing.”

That is, the shiny uniforms looked great in the black and white publicity pictures.

During the time NASA was trying to get the Mercury space program off the ground they needed to build rabid taxpayer support. They wanted average Americans to see those astronauts as heroes, and the most heroic figure at the time was TV spaceman Flash Gordon. Flash wore a shiny silver suit because it looked great on black-and-white television.

NASA simply emulated Flash’s flashy style to sell Mercury astronauts to the American people. It worked, and the rest is, quite literally, history.

Forty years later, NASA sought to reinvigorate interest in the space program.

After many successful and uneventful missions, the Space Shuttle program had stopped capturing the hearts and minds of Americans, and NASA needed a publicity hook to get back on the front pages. So they put the remarkable John Glenn back in a spacesuit at age 77.john-glenn-2

At the time, a typical Space Shuttle launch was covered by 300 reporters.

With septuagenarian hero John Glenn aboard, the launch was covered by 4,000 reporters worldwide.  4,000!

Yeah, marketing works.

PS. What’s a “Hero?”

These days, it seems like the media declares anyone caught doing a nice thing to be a “hero.”  I fear the word is losing its impact.  If you haven’t read Tom Wolfe’s powerful “The Right Stuff,” do yourself a favor, buy it now, and read it over the holidays.  The early test pilots and astronauts (e.g. Chuck Yeager and John Glenn), were truly heroic. Here’s the Amazon link.

“From America’s nerviest journalist’ (Newsweek)–a breath-taking epic, a magnificent adventure story, and an investigation into the true heroism and courage of the first Americans to conquer space. ‘Tom Wolfe at his very best’ (The New York Times Book Review)”


“Want a good end-of-the-year/holiday present to give to your associates?

The Ultimate Law Firm Associate’s Marketing Checklist_Book_6x9

“I’ve got the ideal gift idea. Give them Ross Fishman’s ‘The Ultimate Law Firm Associate’s Marketing Checklist,’ a 46-page, well-written, engaging and very practical guide—no, make that, bible—to show associates what they need to do to begin to build internal and external networks and eventually establish a book of business.

“Marketing Checklist offers associates who are early in their careers simple, real-world tips to develop their reputation among the partners at the firm, first, and for more senior associates, it provides tips on how to generate clients.”

(Of Counsel magazine, December 2016, Editor Steve Taylor’s “Taylor’s Perspective”)

Order copies for yourself or your associates here!