PayPal in Space Launches Today: Clever Marketing or Legitimate Opportunity?

paypalThere are quite a few companies out there that follow the “do amazing things to build a brand and advertise” strategy. Red Bull comes to mind with their extreme sports sponsorships and dropping someone from miles up in the sky. One company that never comes to mind with that marketing strategy is PayPal, well, at least until today. PayPal’s getting involved in space commerce. For real.

Space Commerce…Is Real?

I can’t quite say I ever considered the idea of space commerce being a necessity in the near future, but apparently some people at PayPal think otherwise. As Julianne Pepitone reports early today on CNN Money, “PayPal is dead serious about getting into the burgeoning field of space tourism.” That’s a relief, it’s just space tourism. It’s good to know that PayPal doesn’t have connections with extraterrestrials it was trying to help with their Earth commerce issues.

Joking aside, someone at PayPal has recognized a unique opportunity. Knowing that, as Leena Rao writes on TechCrunch, “Astronauts inhabiting space stations still need to pay for life’s necessities” like their bills, PayPal sees the future of space tourism developing quickly enough for them to devote resources to a space currency. At the very least Julianne Pepitone understands that PayPal’s “goal is simply to start thinking about the complicated issues concerning space commerce.”

PR Stunt or Worthwhile?

There may be a small market for businesses and agencies to reach those wealthy consumers who will be able to afford space tourism. It’s going to be an interesting day when a business can include space purchases as part of their sales.  But for now, at least PayPal is trying to peek into the future and figure out how they can be involved in a future industry.

The fact that PayPal is making a lot of noise about this, plus the novelty of the story in general, is bringing them a lot of attention. All of the major news outlets have picked up the story and of course all of the tech sites have as well.

I don’t think PayPal can deny that this move is in part a PR stunt. It is a great way to get attention and keep the spotlight on their brand. But honestly, if all of the predictions are true about space tourism being ready to hit the stars in a year or so, they’ve managed to work their way into what appears will be a very lucrative market. PayPal “is positioning itself as the payment system capable of working on Earth, on other planets, and in space” as Jason Del Rey writes on All Things D.

Keep an Eye on Opportunities

This is a great example of a company recognizing an opportunity and milking it for all it’s worth. It’s not a phony, stupid opportunity; space commerce is a problem and examining it certainly has merit. It grabs our attention. But even if this (or any opportunity your business or agency might latch on to) doesn’t go through, you’ve still been able to attract lots of attention. As the web gets more crowded, getting that level of attention becomes increasingly more important.

What do you think about PayPal in space? Is it a legitimate opportunity or is PayPal just grasping for the headlines?

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Patrick currently lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, where he is studying for a Master's Degree in Intercultural Relations. Upon graduation from Penn State in 2008, he spent two years overseas in Kyrgyzstan with the U.S. Peace Corps. While writing is currently his chosen way to put food on the table, he loves fitness and exercise, which he believes makes up for his avid computer gaming habit.

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