Marketing for Scientists

Top Five Science Marketing Hits of 2011


To help ring in the new year and wrap up the old, I thought I’d post a list of my top five favorite science marketing successes of 2011, based on discussions on the Marketing for Scientists Facebook group.

#5.    The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Wed, October 26.

Jon Stewart's sketch "Weathering Fights — Science –What's It Up To?"

Stewart and his writers did a sketch called “Weathering Fights – Science: What’s It Up To?” that had us rolling in the aisles.  Or at least rolling by our desks next our YouTube feed.   Science writer Daniel Pendick said:Here is a devastatingly funny satire of global warming “skeptics.” It’s astonishing to actually watch candidates for national office say, without hesitation or a trace of irony, that scientists are faking climate change to make money! I wonder how that looks to a scientist. Does it make you laugh? Angry? Depressed?”

#4  Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed

A Science Tattoo from Carl Zimmer's new book.

It’s a new book by science blogger Carl Zimmer. The New York Times posted a slide show preview of it. Usually a tat signifies the outlaw archetype, which is curiously rare in science these days!  But as marketers, all twelve archetypes are available to us for framing our message–thanks to Zimmer for reminding us of this truth!  Astronomy Professor Angela Speck said of it, “The book is wonderful! Although I confess I am one of those tattooed scientists…”

Another example from this year of some archetype-bending science marketing was the October 8 “I FUCKING LOVE OUTER SPACE” tweet by Astrophysicist Neil Tyson—brought to our attention by Christian Ready.  And don’t forget Will.I.Am’s Science Is Rock And Roll campaign with help from Snoop Dogg and Justin Bieber.

#3.  Astrobites

A new daily online astronomy  journal. Says the site, “Our goal is to present one interesting paper per day in a brief format that is accessible to undergraduate students.” As Physics Prof. Adam Burgasser described it, “these are grads giving great descriptions of their research to undergrads (and kinda marketing in the meantime):”  I think making cutting-edge astrophysics accessible to undergrads  is a great example of marketing.  And I’m delighted that this project is run by graduate students from around the world.  My hat is off to them.

#2 Big Win for Protein Folding Gamers on 

This year saw several big victories for Citizen Science.  Maybe the top one was from the website, where volunteers solved the structure of a retrovirus enzyme whose configuration had stumped scientists for more than a decade. The results were published in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology: “Crystal structure of a monomeric retroviral protease solved by protein folding game players” and the names of the champion citizen scientists are in the author list.

#1  There were many inspiring science marketing successes this year.  But there was no question in my mind which example was my favorite—the one I would put on top of my list of best examples of science marketing in 2011.  It’s the CDC’s (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) Zombie campaign!!

CDC's Zombie Pandemic
CDC's Zombie Campaign!

Here’s an overview of how the campaign came to be.  As biosecurity expert Jennifer Nuzzo said, “I like the quote from CDC communications person about what happened after posting the first zombie blog post: “Then we waited two days to see if anyone got fired”. It’s not so easy to take risks when you are in government–I give them a lot of credit. And NASA’s carbon crisis video maker Peter Griffith pointed us to the CDC’s new Zombie Comic Book.  Expressing his sentiments about the project, Griffith spat out a mouthful of brains and said “This is good! Very good!”.

Congratulations, everybody, on a busy year of spreading the good word about science. See you in 2012!

Marc Kuchner