UnThink Solar Blog has moved….

Hello fellow solar UnThink-ees. As you may have seen from this website, UnThink Solar has joined with Impress Labs. Since then, we’ve created a brand new solar marketing thought leadership community and blog that we’re calling the Solar Marketing Think Tank. From now on, please follow Solar Fred and the rest of the Impress Labs solar team there. We’ve created several new channels to keep you informed about the Solar Marketing Think Tank activities: Join our new LinkedIn Group Follow us on Twitter at @Solar_ThinkTank Get the Solar Marketing Think Tank newsletter Check on the latest posts published at SolarMarketingThinkTank.com Contribute your original solar marketing and communications posts to solarthinktank@impresslabs.com, or feel free to ask us any questions. Thanks for UnThinking Solar! Now it’s time to use that Unthinking for our Solar Marketing Think Tank. Cheers, Tor “Solar Fred” Valenza is the chief marketing officer of Impress Labs’ Solar Lab. Follow him on Twitter at @SolarFred and @ImpressTweets....

Case Study: The Making of SEIA’s Solar ITC Video for SPI in 10 Days

If you attended Solar Power International this year, you might have seen SEIA’s call-to-action video to extend the 30% solar investment tax credit (ITC). If you missed it, here it is: We’re very proud of this video for several reasons. First, it supports SEIA and its ITC extension efforts. Beyond that, we’re also very proud that we were tasked with creating this video <em>in 10 days—</em>and completed it on time. Normally, a motion graphics video of this scope and length would take two months. 6 Key Questions to Ask Before Creating a Motion Graphics Video 1. Who is the client? Before we start any project, we need to get to know the client. As solar industry veterans, Impress Lab team members were very familiar with the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the main trade organization for the U.S. solar industry, but we hadn’t worked with SEIA until this video project. In general, learning as much as we can about the client helps Impress create a video that closely reflects its existing brand. 2. What is the video’s goal(s)? This is the most important question for any project. The Impress team needs to understand the client’s goals, whether that’s brand recognition, customer education or a specific call-to-action. For this project, SEIA’s main goal was to inspire the solar industry to join SEIA and support its efforts to extend the 30% Solar Investment Tax Credit, commonly known as the ITC. 3. Does the client have a visual style in mind? Some clients know what they want when they contact us, while others will leave the visual style up to us. If clients have...

To Tagline or Not to Tagline, That Is the Question … for SPI Booth Walls

Every year at SPI, I like to walk the halls and see the latest trends in solar event marketing, but nothing jumped out at me this year until I started noticing the extremely varied messaging strategies on the booth walls. As marketers, every word we display should count—especially when those words are set in large type on a booth wall. Naturally, the event marketer’s main goal is to motivate distracted conference-goers to stop by their booth. But as we’ll see, a booth’s messaging can say much more about a solar company than identifying the name of the solar company. As I walked around the show floor, I noted three basic wall-messaging strategies: 1. Name + Tagline: “Stop by because we’re different.” With the name + tagline strategy, the event marketer is trying to attract conference attendees through reflecting their customers’ concerns. The subtext of having a tagline says, “This is what we care about, and we think you should care too.” With mounting company IronRidge, “Make Solar Stronger” may be three words, but if racking durability is your top priority, those three words may be just the message to make you stop and check out IronRidge’s spec sheets. Similarly, Array believes that conference-goers value a tracking technology with experience, a big part of its brand’s messaging, and it wants to make sure this message is front and center for all to see. 2. Name + Parent Company: “Stop by because we’re bankable.” With the Name + Parent Company strategy, the messaging informs conference attendees that this solar brand is a part of a much larger conglomerate.   While being part...

A Solar on the Street Survey: “Solar Energy Is … ”

As we noted in our last Solar Marketing Think Tank post, we here at Impress Labs strongly believe that solar’s brand has yet to be truly defined for the public—or the industry. What does someone think of when they think of solar? PV? Clean energy? Solar hot water? CSP? CPV? Portable solar chargers? A waste of taxpayer dollars? Obviously, solar means different things to different people, but how do we capture all of the positive meaning into one solar energy brand? To move toward that definition, we decided to go outside the door of our San Francisco office and ask nonsolar industry people some very unscientific questions about their immediate thoughts about solar. Yes, we know that these random questions and answers aren’t the kind of scientific market research that we’d normally do for clients, but we were curious. So we put a camera inside our office door and invited anyone who passed by to come inside and answer some brief questions about solar. Surprisingly, 37 San Francisco business district pedestrians actually stopped. We didn’t pay them a dime, but once again, that really doesn’t matter. We know this spontaneous street survey isn’t scientific. And yet … I must tell you that we received some very interesting answers. Read more on Impress...

From a Marketing Perspective, Solar’s Growth Has Never Been Due to Lower Prices

At first glance, solar pros and policy advocates are going to totally disagree with the title of this post, but before you submit your comments below, let me fully explain what I mean. You’re probably thinking that lower pricing and subsidies have everything to do with the last 10 years of solar industry growth. Without a deep drop in solar manufacturing and installation prices and low upfront solar PPAs, leases and generous FiTs, and net metering, the global solar industry would not be where we are today, right? Right. I agree. Thank you for all those efforts. But here’s the nuance that I want to drive home—especially if your solar business is feeling like a commodity these days: From a marketing perspective, lower costs, subsidies, financing, and technology innovations are all really marketing tactics for making it easier for people to install or buy a solar product or service. This concept may seem obvious, but I think many solar CEOs and their marketers miss or downplay its significance for shaping their solar products, services, and messaging. Whether the goal is to help someone to switch from utility power to solar or to switch solar racking brands, getting people to change a long-held belief or product choice is challenging. On the other hand, staying with a familiar product—or utility service—requires no effort at all. Since that’s the case, the most important goal for solar marketing, solar product development, and solar advocacy can be summed up in three words: “Make solar easier.”   In this context, everything the solar industry has collectively accomplished in the last 10 years can be seen...

5 Solar Fred Tips for Solar Industry Email Marketing, Regardless of Sector

Whatever solar sector you’re in, email marketing with relevant content marketing should be a key instrument in your marketing toolbox, and it’s not just me saying that, but other marketers in other industries surveyed by Sales Force. Before I give some specific tips for solar email marketing, let me share a few of these results from Sales Force’s 2015 State of the Marketing Report: 73% of marketers agree that email marketing is core to their business. That’s huge, and yet I still know a lot of solar companies in all sectors that do very little email marketing. Why? Perhaps it’s due to staff concerns, because: 43% of businesses have email teams of 2-3 people. That’s not a majority, but it is nearly half of the survey, so email marketing can be labor intensive, even with today’s automated email programs. Solar companies are lean so, devoting two people, let alone one, to email marketing is tough. Nevertheless…. 74% of marketers believe email produces or will produce ROI in the future. So, even if you have two email staffers, most marketers seem to think that it’s worth the time and effort. Besides, it is what the customer wants: For 69.7% of US internet users, email is the preferred method of communicating with businesses. (eMarketer) I recently wrote about a similar stat from Marketing Sherpa, which found that regardless of demographic, the overwhelming majority customers prefer being contacted through email. So, let’s agree that email is a great solar marketing platform and that solar companies should be taking more advantage of it. With that in mind, here are five tips to enhance your email...