Marketing clean technology like we mean it

Building a coalition for marketing cleantech encompassing the breadth of technologies that make up the sector, allows us to pull together the hardcore, most impressive technologies and bring cohesion to the cleantech spectrum. Imagine ads run by America's Clean Technology Industries. Imagine press junkets and major social media efforts. Imagine the sound of your combined voices. Now: Imagine winning.

Messaging: No More Polar Bears

The key to great marketing, great advertising, is to do something unexpected, to blow up the stereotypes, to work against type -- to be disruptive.

We need to start blowing apart the embedded stereotypes routinely attributed to cleantech industries. They are holding us back. We can start with the stereotypes of being overly feminine, impractical, tree-hugging, and affordable only to niche audiences of the rich, celebrities or Democrats.

Why did T. Boone Pickens get so much media traction when he supported wind? It was because he's a Republican "oil and gas" man. We should never air another commercial for any cleantech product with a polar bear or fuzzy animals or forests, or use a Hollywood spokesperson. It doesn't work.

Hire marketing people who understand disruption. Make them blow up the stereotypes and the worn out metaphors and visuals. Start with the polar bears.

Messaging: Speak the Language of Business and First Order Benefits

What does work is being for something. The way to get massive uptake of clean technologies is by hammering first order benefits in our communications and speaking the language of business and consumers.

What do most clean technologies really offer? A reduction in fossil fuel dependencies; a reduction in waste; lower water usage; lower materials costs; greater visibility into future operating costs; lower volatility in pricing -- for fuel, for electricity, for core inputs; lower risk due to lower dependence on exogenous markets and geopolitical instabilities. Greater certainty. The language of cleantech marketing can and should mirror the key set of concerns most on the mind of CEO's today.

The same is true of consumers. We frequently hear about the high cost of clean technologies like electric vehicles or solar panels in the press, but are consumers likely to see their oil or utility bills go down? Wouldn't they like to know about innovations that can give them increasing control over costs of water and energy?

OPEC has declared oil will stay at about $100 per barrel, or higher, forever. Why aren't we marketing against this declared price statement? Consumers don't want to be victims. They want greater control over their future in an uncertain world.

The cleantech sector needs to better capture this zeitgeist. Everything cleantech offers is eerily close to what the market is clamoring for. But we're focusing on everything but. It's easy to figure out what to say. But will anyone listen?

Messaging: Grow a Sense of Humor

Getting folks to listen to marketing means they have to lower their defenses. But, the cleantech sector has tone issues that can increase the barriers. Our communications are generally humorless, reinforcing the worst stereotypes. Blowing up those stereotypes means signaling we understand and are able to laugh at them.

We can throw elbows, talk about breaking OPEC's iron grip, and still have a sense of humor. We can make fun of the stereotypes, and definitely make fun of the opposition, while still making our point, and increasing our audience.

When we get people to laugh, they let their guard down. If we can get them on our side they start listening. When we begin to craft a personality for cleantech that is unambiguously joyful about the future, we've won. In short, we can be a lot funnier.

Be Everywhere, Everyday, All the Time, Right Away

To sum up: We need a massive collective marketing campaign for the Clean Tech Industries of America. We need to collaborate with a plan, well devised and executed, that flattens the pervasive misconceptions, throws elbows, is unyielding as a rapid response team, enables cleantech leaders to lead the discussion, gets us out of a defensive crouch, and frames the present and future in a positive, benefits oriented, relentless program that is everywhere, everyday, all the time. We need to do this with a sense of humor. And we need it yesterday.

Sound like a tall order? It's a challenge no bigger than the environmental and energy problems we're already hard at work solving every day.

So let's get going.

Solar panels photo via Shutterstock.