Failure IS an Option? Marketing Lesson from NASA & Edison

July 5, 2017

By Laura Packard

My family and I went to Johnson Space Center recently. While walking through Independence Plaza, which houses the original shuttle carrier aircraft and a shuttle replica, I was struck by one of the many inspirational quotes on the wall:

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” — Thomas Edison

It struck me because the quote I’m most used to associating with NASA history is, “Failure is not an option,” which of course you can hear actor Ed Harris utter in Apollo 13. Two very different outlooks, but what I learned about NASA’s attitude toward failure helps explain the difference, and is something we can all learn from in our marketing planning and execution.

NASA tests, tests, and tests again. The only way to determine something will be successful is to be fanatical about testing in different environments — every possible scenario — so that when a mission actually takes place everyone can be sure that movements are made with precision and confidence that there will be a successful outcome.

Sometimes I see clients expecting a campaign to be a home run right from the get go, and if results aren’t seen immediately, the “Abandon Ship” command occurs. Of course, in a perfect world every decision will yield positive results, but don’t forget that we should always try to learn from and test campaigns before we give up. For instance, is it the selected venue that is truly not a fit and not providing results? Or could it be that the ads or communications showcased are not effective for that particular audience? Is your organization willing to test different campaigns to see what is successful? And how are you defining success? Is it realistic compared to industry norms?

Give this thought next time you embark upon a new ad campaign, or an engagement strategy — before giving up, learn what you can from the experience so that more informed decisions can be made in the future. One of our favorite things to do at Aartrijk is help our clients hone messaging that reflects their brands, so that once a campaign is decided upon, everyone can be confident that the right voice is being used.

So chins up, fellow marketing rock stars! Don’t think of less-than-stellar results as failure, but as ways to ensure you’re on the right path for your organization.

P.S. If you ever find yourself in Houston, I highly recommend visiting NASA and everything it has to offer!

Diego Hernandez

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