Solar Fred’s Introduction to Solar Guerrilla Marketing, Part 2: Qualities

In Part 1 of this intro to solar guerrilla marketing, I discussed an example of good solar marketing…from a non-solar company, Nivea skin care. This week, we’ll refer to that and also to an example of poor solar guerrilla marketing at last week’s Intersolar conference.

First, let’s define solar guerrilla marketing. Ideally, it should have some or all of the following qualities:

1) Solar guerrilla marketing is relatively inexpensive. It has to be, especially for this growing solar industry. The good news is that those limits can force us to find ways to create more bang for whatever bucks are necessary to pull it off.

That being said, most solar guerrilla marketing ideas are going to have some cost, whether that’s investing in some type of referral fee, demonstration project, gift to a customer, or perhaps it will only cost you time. Nevertheless, the goal is to make it as inexpensive as possible — and certainly less expensive than traditional, boring, non-interactive advertising.

With Nivea’s campaign, there was certainly a cost to producing a limited supply of magazine size solar thin film solar panels with USB ports. Was it worth it? With as much positive publicity that it’s received, definitely.

2) Solar guerrilla marketing is surprising. It has a twist. Being a solar marketing guerrilla implies that you’re employing surprising and unconventional marketing methods and ideas. So, whatever marketing ideas you come up with, it should be a tactic that is uncommon in the solar industry.

Nivea’s campaign was certainly unique and surprising. The twist was that people could charge their cell phones with a paper-size solar panel and not worry about running out of power while at the beach. As I mentioned in the original Nivea post, it’s too bad a solar company didn’t think of this tactic first.

There’s an art to Solar Guerrilla Marketing.

3) Solar guerrilla marketing shows and tells something.  Many believe that solar guerrilla marketing is just a stunt. It can be a “stunt,” or a one-time event, but the best stunts have a specific message or goal — ideally to promote the name of your company in a positive way. For Nivea, their message was: “With Nivea sunscreen and our solar cellphone charger, you can stay at the beach until the sun goes down! So, no worries about sunburn, playing your music, text messaging, or watching videos while you play in the sun.” Perfect.

Want an example of a bad stunt from Intersolar? Look no further than a new European solar PV manufacturer that created a booth with caged women wearing cat suits. That was bad enough, but for some reason lemons were also on display. Yes, lemons. I’m still trying to figure that one out…

This stunt sure did create buzz at Intersolar…but for the wrong reasons. While the same booth may have played well for Europe’s Intersolar attendees, it was widely considered to be tawdry, dumb, and sexist for the American audience. Regardless of the sexism and the nonsense lemons, the booth’s design didn’t tell us anything about the brand’s solar panel qualities. Yes, the PV panels were named after a Jaguar, but that metaphor is very thin. And so what? Are they just trying to say that their panels are sexy because they’re black like a billion other solar PV brands? The manufacturer would have been better off having a classic black Jaguar on display. That would have been a better metaphor for quality and beauty, and it certainly would have gotten a more positive response from both male and female Intersolar attendees. As for the lemon metaphor…I have no clue what they were going for.

Bottom line, know your audience, number 1; and number 2, have a clear metaphor that positively reflects your product.

4) Guerrilla marketing inspires people to act or talk to their friends and neighbors about your actions/and or customer care.

Whether it’s extra-mile customer service, a surprising event, or a surprising image on your website, solar guerrilla marketing’s main goal is to encourage people to either talk about you to their real and virtual social networks, and/or to contact you for a solar quote. A pretty website doesn’t do that. However, a pretty website with a home page photo of puppies climbing over solar panels can. Visitors will ask themselves why you have that picture, and when they click on the photo’s link, they might learn that you donate $5 to the a local animal shelter for every solar quote.

The women-in-cat-suits stunt at Intersolar may have inspired people to talk to their friends, but not in a positive way. In fact, I’ve already read several negative industry blog posts about it. You need to care about something to inspire people to pass positive word of mouth. The stunt gave no reason for anyone to recommend that brand for solar installations. It was just weird and sexist.

5) Solar guerrilla marketing has the seed to get attention from the media. The media is always looking for different, fun, or inspiring stories. Solar guerrilla event marketing can offer those opportunities. It may be just a footnote at the end of the local nightly news, but that, “And finally tonight, a local solar company has unique way of spreading the news about solar being affordable. That’s not the case for every idea, but if you do something bold, public, and creative, and then videotape it, there’s a good chance the media will pay as much attention as onlookers.

An example of great solar guerrilla marketing that gets positive media attention every year is Solar Battle of the Bands, where solar industry pros become rock stars for a night and the solar industry comes to celebrate with song. If you haven’t heard about it, tune in for next week’s blog post.

6) Solar guerrilla marketing is non-violent and legal. Whatever we do as solar guerrilla marketers, it always has to be legal and safe. This really doesn’t need much explanation here. While guerrilla marketers should be creative and take creative risks, ideas should not endanger anyone, including employees, and they should not stretch or break any laws or regulations.

7) Solar guerrilla marketing isn’t perfect. As much as I’m giving guidelines here, if it’s true guerrilla marketing, there’s no real rulebook. That doesn’t mean you should ignore everything I’ve just written above, but it does mean that you may not execute your own ideas or my ideas perfectly.

Perfection is for machines, and even they malfunction. Solar guerrilla marketing is more like an art, and as such, you may have an outline here or in your own mind, but the final product may come out unexpectedly better …or worse.

Whether you use the ideas here or are inspired to create your own solar guerrilla marketing ideas, be like Nike, and “Just do it!” Don’t wait to get all of your ducks lined up. Just make a plan, believe in its purpose, and start executing it with whatever resources you have.

In summary: Be bold for solar. Stand out and educate. And as always…UnThink Solar.

The above was an adapted excerpt from Valenza’s new e-book, Solar Fred’s Guide to Solar Guerrilla Marketing.

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