So, when was the last time a radio station launched in the top 100 markets and truly made an impact? There has been a handful of impressive ones in radio over the years (The Bounce here in Detroit was one of the more spectacular in recent years), but the truly exciting, catch-your-breath, spread-the-word radio launch is sadly a thing of the past.
That’s because many of them have taken on a certain sameness – 10,000 songs commercial-free, no DJs, and other predictable features almost guaranteed to elicit a been-there-done-that response from local audiences. Stations used to actually stunt before launches, but even those clever little touches have largely gone by the wayside.
That’s why yesterday’s SpaceX launch of its massive Falcon Heavy craft was so riveting. It was reminiscent of the way radio used to launch its brand spanking new radio stations. And it was calculated to crack through the news cycle of dossiers, stock market fluctuations, and government shutdowns.
It worked. And yes, it was an actual launch.
In case you somehow didn’t hear about it, the enigmatic innovation genius – Elon Musk – is the driving force behind SpaceX. And the onus was on his team not just to pull off a safe launch of one of the most powerful rockets since the Saturn V took astronauts to the moon back in the ’70s, but to also gain attention in the worlds of media, science, and commerce.
After all, we’ve all seen shuttle launches over these many years, and barring a massive screw-up, they’re just not very spectacular anymore. In fact, going to Disneyworld is more exciting. So, the pressure was on not just to pull this off, remind us of the romance of space travel, and get us talking.
Here are the 10 reasons why SpaceX pulled off this buzzworthy feat:
Own your position
You heard it again and again: “The Most Powerful Rocket In The World.”
And it wasn’t just SpaceX using the phrase. It was repeated on all the news networks, as well as the many, many print and online story about this venture. There was no way you could watch this unfold without being reminded of this superlative in space.
Beyond the slogan, everything else about this project was bigger than life – the rocket itself, the massive crowd, the pre-event hype, and its overall scale. Plus, SpaceX used a classic launching pad – Cape Canaveral in Florida – to stage this launch, signifying it was going to be historic. After all, this was the same site where American astronauts set out for the last great adventure – going to the moon.
A cool name
The Falcon Heavy – perhaps inspired by the “Star Wars” cruiser piloted by Han Solo, combined with a brand name that connotes this baby can handle a BIG payload, signaled the name is clever, descriptive, and memorable.
Smart use of the technology
True to form, SpaceX live streamed yesterday’s launch, making it easy for anyone to see the show. And they produced it so you could see and hear the crowd gathered at the Kennedy Space Center. It wasn’t quite ball drop energy in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, but it wasn’t your average launch either. There was a definite buzz among the estimated 100,000 fans who showed up to cheer Flacon Heavy into space – and even watching on YouTube, you could feel it.
An air of mystery
Every launch needs a little uncertainty – what will it be, will it work, will it crash into flames. And Elon Musk was at the head of this “who knows?” parade, warning against getting too exuberant about a launch that could easily become the biggest hot mess in history. On Monday, he told CNN:
Whether the rocket succeeds or fails, it’s going to be exciting. People [came] from all around the world to see what will either be a launch or the best fireworks display they’ve ever seen.”
There was a great stunt
One of the things that made the launch special was Musk’s Tesla Roadster attached to the Falcon Heavy that is now careening toward Mars. Shooting a car into space? Why not? That’s part of what made this launch so fanciful and special. And to be sure everything was just right, it was a red Tesla – after all, it’s going to Mars. In the driver’s seat was a dummy wearing the cool SpaceX suit (merch?).
There’s occasion setting
Two of the three boosters landed safely back earth and will be used again, validating the concept’s mission. But SpaceX teased there might be as many as three sonic booms – that could be heard across as many as six Florida counties when they returned. So, people had to wonder: Will this happen? Will it be amazingly loud? Will there be three of them? You just had to stay tuned to find out.
There’s a soundtrack
And of course, it’s the original “Starman,” David Bowie who inspired Musk. The car was blaring “Space Oddity” when the Falcon Heavy launched. It all feels like a bizarre scene right out of “Back to the Future.” Instead of a DeLorean, it’s a Tesla.
There were even DJs
Hey, if you want an event to go right, you’d better have glib hosts. This pair was broadcasting at the launch, interviewing Tesla engineers and others along the way. Yes, it looked pretty slick, and you could imagine these two doing morning drive somewhere. (Hmm, that’s a thought.)
There was strong cross-promotion
They didn’t put your mundane time capsule inside Falcon Heavy. No, the cargo was that Tesla Roadster, the other pride and joy of Elon Musk. And now it’s on its way to Mars blaring Classic Rock music.
In just a few short years, this car has already proved itself to be special. But now that it’s been shot into space, it gives Tesla a certain imprimatur and reputation unlike any other car on the road – or in space. Who wouldn’t be proud to drive a Tesla now?
Ground Control to Elon Musk: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED
SpaceX didnd’t just show the world how to pull off and stage a successful, compelling launch. It captured our collective imaginations.
Now if only the next radio launch could do the same thing.
Thanks to WMMO’s Hildi for inspiring today’s blog post.
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
In 2008, jacapps was launched - a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,000 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created - a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media's commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.