Houston, we have a diversity problem.
In 2019, the first all-female spacewalk was postponed because NASA didn’t have enough spacesuits to fit smaller statures. And out of the 240 astronauts who have conducted spacewalks, 17 have been women. It’s evident that the space industry, much like the financial services business, has some major glass ceilings to shatter. So to inspire more women to participate in the lucrative future of space, reach new audiences and further its mission to make finance more attainable, Morgan Stanley crafted its own conceptual spacesuit: the Access I. Designed with a team of space experts, historians and engineers, the ensemble was unveiled at a “Creating Space” activation in New York City’s Times Square on Oct. 26.
The visually immersive installation invited consumers to take a journey through the history of spacesuit design with museum-like showcases of historic replica spacesuits and messaging around Morgan Stanley’s commitment to breaking down barriers across industries and audiences. As a nod to its tech prowess and recent acquisitions of companies like E-Trade and Parametric, the brand also invited visitors to pose for an augmented reality-powered photo op that transformed them into astronauts.
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The content could be shared on participants’ social channel of choice and was broadcast across the external signage of the company’s Times Square headquarters, a social media strategy that was supported by Morgan Stanley’s first-ever influencer partnerships. A brief documentary-style video detailing the creation of the Access I spacesuit built additional awareness around the brand’s efforts.
“Morgan Stanley’s been on a journey for the last several years in terms of growth and acquiring new companies, new capabilities, new technologies that appeal to a broader audience,” says Alice Milligan, cmo at Morgan Stanley. “This was another way to start to appeal to that broader audience. Typically, financial services is seen as something that can be intimidating and complex, so we wanted to do it in a way that was relevant to a broader and younger audience, make it feel more attainable and make it easy to relate to. And experiential opportunities are a great way to do that.”
Following their otherworldly photo op, consumers could walk through a galaxy room with LED walls, and mirrored floors and ceiling, featuring dramatic projection-mapped images from the James Webb Space Telescope. And as visitors left the room, they encountered the Morgan Stanley Access I spacesuit on display in all its glory.
This isn’t the first time in recent memory that Morgan Stanley has demonstrated its commitment to inclusivity. In addition to establishing an Institute for Inclusion, the company has collaborated with fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff to redesign the traditional banker bag to help reflect the current face of Wall Street, and with tennis champ and newly inked brand ambassador Leylah Fernandez to help create greater equity in sports.
“It’s been important to look at what the company is strong at, the legacy that we have and then figure out how do you talk about it through channels, through activations, through collaborations that are appealing to a new generation of consumer and institution,” says Milligan. “And the sources of information and how you get confidence in a brand that you use are different. People really want to participate with firms who do good for the world, not just for them, economically and personally. So it’s about showing that and showing up in that way.” Agency: Courageous.