Walk with me around the vendor exhibit floor of a major clean energy conference. If we’re alike, you want to see what’s new and compelling, and who the players are. Better energy efficient and renewable energy products are a critical avenue to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
I toured just such a trade show recently and came away frustrated. My time was limited, so I wanted to talk to the “best” companies; the ones that somehow differentiate themselves from their competition. Which of the dozen solar installers that I could speak to should I speak to? Of the firms that develop displays of home energy use, which should I investigate because their approach might motivate homeowners to change how they light, heat and cool their houses?
Passing each booth, I looked at each sign and display. Sometimes the company names conveyed some idea of what the firm did; too often they did not. I was looking for messages that grabbed me and the words the companies presented did not help.
Here’s a sampling of the actual “tag lines” from these companies:
Dedicated to Building a Sustainable Future
Go Green . . . Earn Green
Solutions for Sustainable Designs
A Passion for Green Power
Open Up Your World
Solar Products for the New Solar Paradigm
Innovation in Energy
Energy, Water, Environment
Building Community-Owned Sustainable Energy
Energy Systems & Installation
No learning curve. No guesswork. No assumptions.
Gives You The Power To Choose
Build Around You
Smart Choices for a Sustainable Future
Learn Solar, Buy Solar, Solar Business Success, Solar Project Support, Solar Solutions
A Top-Down Approach to Building Efficiency
Green Built, Energy Efficient, Comfort Lifestyle
Solar Living Since 1978
Renewable energy from earth, sun, air and water
Simply the Best
The Revolution Has Begun
Climate of Innovation
We measure anything
Many of these marketing slogans came across as simplistic platitudes; others were so encompassing that they conveyed nothing. If I sound a bit piqued, it’s because I want clean tech companies to succeed. These tag lines, emblematic of a marketing approach – or lack of one – don’t help.
Owners / managers of clean tech firms are often engineers, scientists, contractors, installers and the like. People tend to stick to what they know and that leads these types of firms to focus on product performance and implementation processes. So, that’s where they spend their marginal dollar.
To succeed, though, they need to motivate the market and drive potential customers to action. That is a function of marketing, a discipline frequently foreign to the individuals who run young clean techs. Many clean energy and sustainability entrepreneurs have told me that marketing is the last place where they plan to spend.
That’s too bad and needs to change if clean techs are going to make it as businesses and have the kind of important environmental and economic impact we would like to see.