Below is another fascinating TED Talk from Jonah Sachs, one of the creators behind The Story of Suff. Here, Sachs talks about how the old tricks of traditional marketing are losing their mojo. He says that brands (and I’ll add solar brands) can no longer scare our customers into “needing” to buy a product.

In the traditional consumer world, this refers to when a person’s dating life is tied to not using mouthwash or deodorant or tax software. The old tactic is that if we inspire anxiety and doubt in our customers about their current product choices, then they will switch to a better product that will solve all of their ills:

Bad breath ruining your dates? Use Scope. Is your co-worker getting a better tax refund? Ditch your accountant and switch to Turbo Tax.

We do this to some extent in the solar world, too. We tell residential customers that their electric rates are going higher and higher, and that a solar lease is the only solution to runaway electric rates. In the solar products world, we may warn our customers about competitors who have poor quality foreign made components or who may not be “bankable” or last through the warranty.

The problem with these anxiety-type marketing messages is that customers eventually become immune to them. The nightmare scenarios don’t come to pass, or they hear the same type of anxiety messages from multiple sources and they start to mistrust the messenger—the marketer. Whether or not the message is true, the customer thinks, “They’re only saying that to make me buy something.”Solar.Anxiety.Marketing

That’s why word-of-mouth social media and content marketing are becoming so important today. We don’t trust the 30 second commercials anymore, but we do trust well written articles and blogs, informational webinars, and especially the recommendations of our friends and colleagues. If they’re real customers who love your solar product or service, then your brand leaps over advertisements and their empty fear! sell! sell! messages.

Sachs says that the basic tactic is to move away from anxiety marketing and instead develop story-based content that inspires customers.

On the surface, you might conclude that solar marketers just need to do more case studies and customer testimonials. While these are essential, I think case studies can be generic and boring. We need to do better.

For residential solar, that may mean celebrating customers who are early adopters. Not only are they getting a good price and saving money, but they’re courageous pioneers of solar. Instead of just happy customers, they’re cutting edge homeowners. They’re standing up to the Man—the Utility Man, that is.

For solar products, this may mean highlighting solar project managers who are confidently rely on your brand and wouldn’t choose any other, at any price. …Nevertheless, price will always matter in an increasingly commoditized solar product world, and your will have to remain price competitive. Bummer.

Here’s the full video. It’s only about 12 minutes, and it’s worth your time. As you watch it, think about your solar messaging and how you can steer away from anxiety marketing and instead…inspire. UnThink Solar.