People rarely ask me about what goes into a solar brand, and I think that’s because solar CEOs feel that it’s just one of those marketing thingys that …ya know… kind of, sort of needs to be somewhere in the business plan, but not really. Your brand is just a logo, right? Wrong.
Your solar logo, as beautiful as you may think that it is, is not your brand. It’s just a graphic representation of your brand.
Your slogan or tag line is not your brand either. They’re just a verbal representation of your brand.
Your company name, your mascot, your colors, your fonts, your mission statement–none of these things are your solar brand, but just different types of brand tools or symbols.
So what is your company’s brand? It’s a good question, and it’s different for everyone. Fortune 500 companies will pay big ad agencies millions of dollars to help them define their brands for them, and it’s often worth it.
Why? Because once you truly define your brand and your customers and employees understand that definition, then you stop being a commodity, and in today’s price-competitive world, that’s very relevant for solar companies today.
Whatever sector we’re talking about, no solar company wants to be the lowest dollar per watt commodity. They’d prefer that people ask for their solar brand and even pay more than the going rate.
Hence, we have the term “brand loyalty,” where customers recommend and buy the same product or service, regardless of a competitor’s lower price or innovations.
We also have “brand awareness,” where new customers contact you with a built-in level of trust because they’ve heard about your brand—or at least they think they have.
And then there’s “brand equity,” where your company has built so much fantastic brand loyalty and brand awareness that both new and old customers automatically love almost anything you make or do. In the non-solar world, think Apple. Think Chanel. Think Tesla.
Of course, not all famous brands are positive. Think Solyndra. No solar company will ever call itself Solyndra again. The brand is associated with failure and divisive politics, not solar success or innovation.
So, if your brand isn’t your logo, fonts, hash tag, slogan, colors, mission statement, etc, what the heck is it?
Your brand is a feeling.
Words, colors, images, sounds, fonts, etc reflect that feeling, but they are not your brand. How you create that feeling is a result of many factors, including your innovative product, your customers, and your employees, but there are many more elements.
If your employees and customers think of your company name, logo, or whatever and have a positive feeling, then you’ve created a terrific brand. Congrats. If, however, your staff and customers feel neutral when they think of your company, then that’s a sign that your brand—and your company—may be a solar commodity, lacking brand loyalty or brand equity.
The best brand example that I can give you in the non-solar world is Nike.
“Just do it,” the Nike swoosh logo, the energy in every one of their photos, they all evoke a feeling of strength and determination, don’t they?
That, my solar marketing friends, is the brand that you’re feeling, and it’s a great example of how to create a premium, non-commodity brand…and how to UnThink Solar.
Tor “Solar Fred” Valenza is the Chief Marketing Officer of Impress Lab’s new Solar Lab, and the author of Solar Fred’s Guide to Solar Guerrilla Marketing. The thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog are his own. For more solar marketing info, sign up for the UnThink Solar newsletter or follow @SolarFred on Twitter.