Taking Cues From the Cosmos: The Power of Wonder in Driving Innovation

July, 2022

Culturally, we’re at an interesting crossroads. Many may be feeling numb to the dissonance of headlines that shift between monkeypox and rising temperatures to metaverse innovations and the space race to Mars. As we sit between the awe-inspiring possibilities of the next frontier and the reality of global issues, the influence of collective wonder at things that are otherworldly and astonishing – unearthed by our trend WonderFull – feels more resonant than ever. Wonder is a powerful propeller of culture, and when harnessed by marketers and brands, is a strong tool for engagement. 

For an endless source of inspiration, look to the stars. On July 12, NASA released the first infrared images from the $10B James Webb Space Telescope, bringing us closer to the cosmos than ever. The breathtaking images allow people to see thousands of distant galaxies, birthing stars, and black holes from the earliest stages of our universe in astonishing detail. An April Fast Company article noted, “Space exploration accelerates innovation and curiosity about the larger universe has brought about countless life-changing discoveries.” 

The historic images have struck an emotional chord with a huge audience. The hashtag #JamesWebb has over 272 million views on TikTok alone, and conversation is buzzing. As TikTok user @mazzzaagee commented, “Something about looking at this just makes everything feel like not a problem anymore.” The new telescope is bringing both perspective and inspiration. And brands and influential creatives are already leveraging the power of wonder to inspire magical innovations, fantastical getaways, and connective experiences that remind us of our own cosmic link to the stars.

Star-Crossed Experiences Foster Creativity and Connection

Inspired by how “our achievements in space represent humanity’s limitless potential,” the artist Jeff Koons is taking his collection out of this world – literally. Fifty years after America’s last manned mission to the moon, the project, Jeff Koons: Moon Phases, will launch his sculptures to the moon’s surface later this year, to live on in perpetuity. Each sculpture will be accompanied by unique digital NFTs documenting the exhibition. 

In addition to the large-scale creative possibilities outer space offers, a popular connection to astrology drives ‘inner-standing’ and connection on a smaller, more personal level. In December, 62% of 18-34s told us that they regularly follow astrology to explain the unexplainable in their everyday lives.* And brands are increasingly weaving this “pseudoscience” into their content strategies. Just this past week, Bumble launched “Astrology Tuesdays,” in partnership with astrologer Aliza Kelly, to U.S. app users. Users will gain intel on their ideal matches and learn to deepen their understanding of themselves and their relationship patterns by decoding their astrological charts. 

Everyday Magic Inspires “Out of the Box” Experiences

Awe-inspiring innovation doesn’t need to take its cues from outer space – products and experiences crafted from wild imagination can be just as alluring. One beauty brand leveraged the power of “magic” to inspire and drive sales. Earlier this year, iconic Euphoria and Moonlight makeup artist Donni Davy released a new highly pigmented makeup line, Half Magic. The Mouth Cloud Lip Cream in Magic Brownie is a natural lip color that adapts to the wearer while creating an out-of-the-ordinary cloud-like blurring effect. No longer exclusive to on-screen effects and CGI wizardry, movie magic can now drive everyday product engagement.

Fantasy is another pathway to wonder, and one candy brand brought dream-like scenes to life in an entirely immersive experience. One lucky sweepstakes winner and guests won a stay at the HI-CHEW Fantasy House, a pop-up getaway in Palm Springs, CA this June. The midcentury modern home was decked-out in candy-colored, fantastical décor and included a candy bar and synchronized swimming performance. For the sweet tooth, a real dream come to life.  

What it Means for Brands

From groundbreaking science and tech to social reform and healthcare, unprecedented change may continue as our constant reality. And brands can be the pioneers of tomorrow. For those that dream of what’s next, we’ve come up with thought starters that will help get you ready for lift-off.

  • Unchartered Navigation: An auto brand can capitalize on the growing excitement of interstellar travel by creating on-screen “skins” for their GPS console that turn everyday navigation maps into maps of the stars. Inspired by Tesla’s Mars Rover application, take this idea one step further by visualizing real road maps laid over deep space terrains inspired by the new James Webb telescope images. Update the car’s audio features to incorporate interstellar sounds while changing lanes, shifting gears, and adjusting mirrors and seats.
  • Closets of Creation: Imagine a shopping experience that begins and ends in the home. A fashion brand can partner with a high-tech 3D printing company and interior designers to build custom closets for patrons of the future. People can browse their touch screens at home in search of ideal outfits based on mood, astrological forecast, and daily plans. From there, an AI-powered 3D printer could generate clothing from organic materials to build the perfect biodegradable, mood-appropriate look – entirely one of a kind. 
  • Enhanced Flavors: A CPG brand can get to work on creating flavor-changing products that pick up on biological cues from individuals to not only create flavors that surprise and delight but to nourish based on needs. Add personalized doses of essential vitamins and nutrients based on the individual’s health requirements. Think Willy Wonka’s everlasting gobstopper, for the modern (and real) world.

Source: *Horizon Media, Finger on the Pulse. Survey fielded 11/29/21-12/9/21, n=1,140

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