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The NASA logo is having a moment

Samantha Masunaga and Hailey Mensik, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

It's the rare fashion emblem you can find everywhere.

Walmart and Target offer T-shirts, swimsuits, sippy cups and ugly Christmas sweaters covered with it. Coach put it on bags, shoes and sweatshirts priced at hundreds of dollars apiece. Singer Ariana Grande sold clothes emblazoned with it as a tie-in with her Coachella performance.

The NASA logo is having a moment.

"Very, very few brands have broad appeal," said Utpal Dholakia, marketing professor at Rice University. "NASA fits into the mold where it not only has broad appeal, but there is almost nothing to dislike about it."

As it did in other times of political polarization, love of the space agency brings the nation together. This affinity does not, however, bring revenues to NASA.

In keeping with its public mission, NASA doesn't make a cent off merchandise bearing its name.

 

Companies need permission to use the logo, and requests have been pouring in lately. Bert Ulrich, a multimedia liaison at NASA in charge of logo approvals, said he used to get one request every week or so -- until a few years ago. Now he gets more than one a day.

NASA officials and vendors say the growing demand can be traced back to the recent renewed push for education in science, technology, engineering and math. There's also a dose of nostalgia at work.

Ulrich credits the 2017 limited-edition line of space-themed purses and apparel from Coach as a turning point. Coach asked permission to use NASA's 1976-designed, retro red logotype for its collection -- an insignia that had not previously been approved for use on merchandise. At the time, Teen Vogue called the line "cosmically cool."

After Coach got the go-ahead, more companies expressed interest in using that logo, and approval requests doubled, Ulrich said.

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