Most of us probably remember the “Get a Mac” campaign from about 10 years ago. It wasn’t about Macs or PCs, or which are better. That’s what it seems to be on the surface, but really this campaign was about YOU, the buyers of either Macs or PCs.

The campaign asked all of us to either identify ourselves with someone who likes a simple, well-designed computer, or a common, overly complicated, somewhat unreliable operating system.


Sure, you can ask that question, but how did these advertisers get so under our skin? I mean, they’re just products, right? The power came from the advertisers first defining being “a Mac” or “a PC,” and personifying these operating system personalities and relating them to the ideal “us.”

Mac, portrayed by Justin Long, was young, thin, and casual, while PC, played by John Hodgman, was geeky, clumsy, and always formal and rigid in his suit and tie. PC was also portrayed to be in denial about his numerous faults and vulnerabilities, as was Microsoft.

So what does this campaign have to do with marketing and advocating solar energy?

First of all, don’t even think about trying to mimic this campaign with coal and solar or utility and solar. The entire globe will roll their eyes and dismiss your message, however valid, because it so obviously ripped off this famous Apple campaign. Been there, done that. Moving on.

But that’s not to say that we can’t compare solar and coal or gas, or solar and utilities, so please do that, just not with two guys standing in a white room.

So what should we do? Once again, this campaign really is about consumers and how they feel about themselves…as reflected by these computer products.

In the same way, solar marketers have to find ways to artfully ask consumers (and businesses and installers) “Are you one of them? Or are you one of us.” We do this by starting the conversation and defining who we (solar) are, and who they (fossil fuels/utilities) are.

I’ll bet if you first defined solar as being clean and healthy and compared it to coal and gas being dirty and unhealthy, then creatively created a video campaign that made the viewer identify with bing a Solar Person or a Coal & Gas Person, that most consumers would choose to identify with being a Solar Person.

And if we made the case creatively, those consumers might even pay more for being identified as a Solar Person, just as Mac people pay more for “being” Macs… as well as for the promised benefits of owning a Mac, namely: reliability, simplicity, elegance, and innovation.

With all of this in mind, let’s agree that most consumers now identify themselves with being a Utility Person. Why? Because most are used to being Utility People and they falsely believe that it’s too inconvenient, costly, or risky to switch to being a Solar Person.

As solar marketers and advocates, let’s start defining who they and who we are. Once making the comparison, we don’t have to ask consumers to choose. If we’ve effectively made the comparison, as Apple did, consumers will naturally identify with solar.

That is, I bet very few consumers would identify with air pollution, fracking, mountain top removal, and being beholden to a utility overlord. Given the choice, I believe that most people would want to see themselves as the personification of clean, sunny energy and personal energy independence.

That’s the basic idea, anyway. Now all you have to do is make your customers aware of their choices. UnThink Solar.

P.S. If you’d like to talk about this or other hot solar advocacy topics, get a free ticket to the SPI Tweetup! See you there.

Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” is the founder and CMO of UnThink Solar, and the author of Solar Fred’s Guide to Solar Guerrilla Marketing. For more solar marketing info, sign up for the Solar Fred Marketing Newsletter or follow @SolarFred on Twitter.