Solar Fred’s Introduction to Solar Guerrilla Marketing, Part 1

Last week, I wrote about a missed opportunity for great solar guerrilla marketing, and people shared that post 71 times on Facebook alone. Why? Because the idea was fun, creative, surprising, and effective. But specifically, what is solar guerrilla marketing?

The short answer is that solar guerrilla marketing is a courageous, creative, positive, and outside-of-the-box way to bring brand attention and loyalty to a product or service. For our purposes, that product or service is solar energy, primarily for residential and commercial customers. Last week’s solar guerrilla marketing idea inspired by Nivea had all of those qualities, except its goal was to sell sunscreen, not solar, and I gave a suggestion for solar marketers to adapt this tactic.

In the past, I’ve received some skeptical feed-back about guerrilla marketing. Some have called it just “a stunt.” If you feel that guerrilla marketing is just a “stunt” or beneath you, or that it will hurt your brand and reputation more than it will help, nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, I’d argue that more than any other time, solar needs MORE courageous, creative, positive, guerrilla-style marketing and that it can only help you to compete and succeed in an increasingly commoditized and corporate installer market.

Not only is this bad for your business, but I strongly believe it’s bad for the entire industry. Keeping our collective solar industry head down only allows more attention for the coal and oil industries, which are getting attention the old fashioned way: Lots of PR money, slick, fear mongering advertising, and highly paid lobbyists.

I actually think that larger solar companies like the idea of solar guerrilla marketing, but with perhaps one or two exceptions, they can’t take the risk. Or if they can break out of the mold, they pull their punches because there are too many decision makers, and they all have to get top-down approvals to do something that’s anywhere out-side of the box of traditional, boring, marketing, and social media. If they’re public companies, it’s even worse, because they’re afraid of what their investors and stockholders would think if they did anything beyond a traditional expensive ad campaign or give-away.

And even when a big solar decision is made to do something “different,” they hire high-priced advertising agencies that may be creative… but don’t understand our solar industry and the day-to-day concerns of our customers. So, what inevitably happens is that the ad agency produces something slick that looks great and may be surprising, but falls flat. People don’t get it.

For the above reasons, I think that’s why solar guerrilla marketing works best with small to medium size solar companies with a small marketing and corporate decision-maker team. They can be nimble because they can speak and work directly with the head decision maker. In fact, often the head marketer and head decision maker are the same person, making creative decisions really streamlined.

Is guerrilla marketing always just a surprising event or stunt?

While stunts offer a lot of publicity potential, guerrilla marketing concepts can be applied to all aspects of marketing, from events, to sales, to lead generation, customer service initiatives, and websites. Whatever you do, the main goal is for customers and potential customers to notice and remember you in a positive way. That imprint cements not only memory, but also brand loyalty. If the sale doesn’t happen in the end, chances are they will still remember and refer you to friends, family, and colleagues for your creative efforts to delight, care, and educate them about solar.

I think Nivea’s campaign was more than just a stunt, and it certainly made viewers think of the brand in a positive way. Personally, I never thought about Nivea as a sunscreen brand, but now I definitely do. When you think about it, this “stunt” was actually a fun customer service campaign, helping its beach-going customers to enjoy their time in the sun with a free solar cellphone charger. That outside-of-the box customer care helped spread the brand’s message over 100,000 times on YouTube, bringing millions of dollars worth of international PR attention for its risky creativity.

This type of marketing doesn’t have to be unique to non-solar companies or even to large companies. We’re all creative. We just have to have the time–and the courage–to break out of our regular solar marketing habits and to take a little risk. It’s another way …to UnThink Solar.

The above was an adapted excerpt from my new e-book, Solar Fred’s Guide to Solar Guerrilla Marketing. Next week, Part 2: The Qualities of Solar Guerrilla Marketing.

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