marketing monday: 6 tips for marketing in the clean economy

Technologies and services that reduce natural resource consumption and emissions are the future of global growth, as well as the pathway to climate stabilization. In China alone, expectations are for a $1 trillion annual “cleantech” market by 2013.

We are now entering a transition phase in cleantech, with focus shifting from technology to market commercialization. The winning technologies will win in large part because of marketing and communications. In the case of cleantech, it’s not enough as a marketer to be a good practitioner of marketing.

In a world of ever increasing sophistication and specialization, in-depth knowledge of key drivers is essential to success. That means a deep understanding of underlying technology, cultural perceptions, policy, and consumer and enterprise behavior.

Moreover, there is interconnectedness in cleantech that does not exist in other areas of the economy, which requires maintaining unusually high levels of visibility into multiple vertical industries. Here are six keys to success:

1. Think systems. One of the unique things about cleantech is that you can’t effectively talk about what you’re doing in a silo. It is all inter-related. If you do power storage, it relates to renewable energy and smart grid. If you do water, it’s connected to energy. If you do biofuels, it impacts food, water and energy. Your point of view must be developed accordingly.

2. Market the solution, not the problem. There is enough fatigue out there already about the environmental problems we face. Be a face for the solution.

3. Be specific. Talking about “green jobs” or “renewable energy” is no longer enough and audiences are growing more skeptical about “greenwashing.” Talk about “wind energy jobs” or “solar power.” The more detail you provide, the more believable you become.

4. Drive sales by focusing on your customers’ strategic priority. While it may be tempting to lead with the environmental benefits of your product or service, our research shows that compliance and cost/ROI take precedence. Take time to research your customers and understand their primary motivations. You can adapt your message (and channels of communication) accordingly and be far more impactful.

5. Be a policy wonk. Perhaps more than any other space, cleantech requires that you have your finger on the pulse of policy. Whether you are in clean energy, water, smart grid, biofuels or transportation – national and international policy will play a major role. Ignore engagement with policy-makers at your peril.

6. Go digital. Communications have moved online. Social media is the new currency. Find compelling content that can mobilize online communities and get traction for your brand. Ad spend and press releases are becoming less and less effective as the role of online search takes stories directly to individuals at the touch of a button. It can be very cost effective, too.

This first appeared in MediaPost’s Marketing: green newsletter

World’s Shortest Climate Change Post?

I signed up to blog about climate change for Blog Action Day, but I’ve been so busy trying to do something about climate change that I didn’t have time to blog.

Does this count? Yeah cleantech! Boo climate change!

Cleantech Companies Failing Communications Test

New research from KRC Research commissioned by my company Weber Shandwick was released today and shows that poor communication from suppliers is impeding the growth of the cleantech market. The research, pulled from interviews with 400 senior purchasing decision-makers in the UK, Germany, Span and France, revealed that although 8 of 10 organizations in Europe have specific cleantech purchasing policies, two thirds indicate that cleantech companies are failing to get their message across – 29 percent said they currently receive no information at all from cleantech companies, 26 percent said information was insufficient, and 11 percent said that if they were receiving information that it was too complicated. Demand is there (60 percent of European organizations are placing the same level of importance on green procurement as they did before the economic downtown), but half of those interviewed perceive cost to be a barrier to making cleantech investments. The research also shows some interesting differences between the various markets. Take a look at the full report, and if you’re interested in learning more, let me know.

David Against G-Oil-iath

This week I had the opportunity to join 200+ business leaders from 35+ states in Washington, DC to present the business case for comprehensive climate and energy policy for the US. The We Can Lead group met with senior Obama administration officials and members of the Senate. It was a great first step in kicking off an effort to provide an institutional counter-point to the fossil fuel lobby, but my conclusion from the event was that we face a major uphill struggle. Specifically:

  • the current Administration is still measuring itself against the inaction of the Bush years, and needs to measure itself against the action of China and other governments that are accelerating their steps toward a clean economy while we appear to be stuck in 2nd gear.
  • the US Senate is still nowhere near enacting any climate or energy policy. 2009 is definitely out because of healthcare (I heard last week at REFF that the market has already discounted anything for 2009 as well). And there is even the possibility (albeit remote) that immigration reform could be up for deliberation before climate.
  • There are doubts on the key Senate finance committee about imposing a cap on carbon. The complexity of the issue has people searching for band-aids, and I fear stepping away from what’s really needed – reconstructive surgery.

 

On the positive side, it’s about time that the business sector representing the clean economy finally has an influential voice on Capitol Hill, and money to put behind it and against the fossil fuel lobby. I am a founder and on the steering committee of the Clean Economy Network, which was one of the co-organizers of the DC event (along with CERES).

EV Turning a New “Leaf” in Seattle

Here’s a post from my colleague Chris Elliott on the electrification of urban American transport:

The future of transporation in the US rests in the hands of Seattle.

That might seem like a bold statement, but the Emerald City is key player in deciding the role vehicles (EVs) will play in our lives.

Seattle, along with cities in Oregon, California, Arizona and Tennessee were selected by The Electric Vehicle Project as ‘test markets’ for Nissan’s LEAF zero-emissions electric vehicle. This effort, with the support of ECOtality’seTec, the backbone of the charging infrastructure, will be the largest deployment of EVs and charging stations in history.

Today, I attended a presentation by Nissan’s North America Product Planning Director, Mark Perry, which served as a kick-off to get people excited about this historic endeavor. This rah-rah event drew a full house at the Rainier Square Atrium and was held in part with the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, the Seattle Climate ProjectClimate Solutions and others. I was thoroughly impressed by the number of attendees that either belong to one of the many EV clubs in town or own electric cars themselves. Everyone seemed to walk out of the room excited about the future and aware of how much work needs to be done before it gets here. According to Perry, the LEAF will hit Seattle in December, 2010.

The presentation ranged from why Nissan moving into the market in the first place to specifications of the LEAF itself to how the infrastructure and charging stations might look like. Overall it was very informative and was gobbled up by hungry Seattleites looking to change the world one eco-friendly bite at a time.

I found the topic of charging the LEAF the most fascinating as there’s a variety of ways to do so. First, you can just plug it into any ordinary 110-volt outlet you have in your home or garage. Simple enough right? However, the major drawback here is that it could take up to 18 hours to fully charge this way. As we all know, us American’s can’t wait for anything, right? Plug the LEAF into a 220-volt outlet (commonly found where home dryers and other major appliances are plugged-in), and the time is cut in half—about eight hours. Good enough to charge while you sleep. These 220-volt outlets will have to be installed at your home and most likely, sold to consumers when the buy/lease the LEAF. Charge Northwest showed one of their charging stations off in the lobby after the presentation. But here’s the cool/fascinating part: use a 550-volt outlet and the LEAF can charge in 20 to 50 minutes. The LEAF can go a hundred miles on a full charge but if you need to go further, imagine just pulling over at a charging station or coffee shop, plugging in, and within 20 minutes (time enough to grab a cup of joe and hit the bathroom), you’re back on the silent road. Pretty amazing.

Seattle is truly in the driver’s seat when it comes to changing the world. However, the road ahead is a bumpy one as there’s a lot of work to be done, from educating consumers about the benefits of EVs, to developing incentives for businesses to offer charging stations at work, to developing the infrastructure that would support thousands of LEAFs. But with the right support, drive and will-power, Seattleites can all show the world how really green the Emerald city is.