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Neil Armstrong Kept His Brand Powerful

Posted by Mark J. Miller on August 27, 2012 01:28 PM

Neil Armstrong was a private guy. You never heard stories about him playing naked billiards in Vegas with a few young women he just met. He never got carried into an awards ceremony in an egg-shaped pod. He wasn’t out spreading his name, selling products with his name plastered all over them (or even products that didn’t have his name on them).

Yet he has one of the most memorable names in American culture.

According to Armstrong, there wasn’t a grand master plan for him to be first man to walk on the moon. “I wasn't chosen to be first,” he said. “I was just chosen to command that flight. Circumstance put me in that particular role. That wasn't planned by anyone.” 

He, of course, ended up being a brilliant pick. He got the job done and threw in some memorable lines that have embedded themselves in our culture to boot: “The Eagle has landed” and, of course, the completely brilliant “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

The Apollo 11 commander died Saturday at 82 from complications from a recent cardiac bypass operation. In a statement, his family called him “a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job." However, it would be wrong to label Armstrong a recluse. "What he didn't do was go Hollywood,” space history expert Robert Pearlman told Space.com. “He didn't seek the spotlight; he didn't walk down the red carpet." 

As Business Insider points out, the undying strength of Armstrong’s brand is due to the important stature of doing something so big first. USC Marketing Professor Ira Kalb writes that he opens a lot of classes by asking who the first man on the moon was, which gets a resounding reply. Then he asks who was second and few mumble, “Buzz Aldrin.” Then he asks who was third, and nobody answers. 

That power of being first as well as his disinterest in sullying his own brand or NASA’s has kept Armstrong’s brand at a height that doesn’t seem ready to disappear anytime soon. Kalb recommends that businesses take a lesson from Armstrong and be sure to communicate to consumers effectively when they are the first to do something. (And they might want to avoid the naked billiards part, too.)

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