What’s an iPhone and Solar Have in Common? Nothing. Bummer.

In my last post about the Solar Tipping point, commenter SolBrodan wrote, “Technology is the driver and will continue to make PV Solar more efficient and cost competitive.”

Efficiency, plug and play, and design will all certainly fight against the commoditization of solar PV and help push past the tipping point, but I’d like to offer another solution to commoditization: The iPhone.

What I mean is that you can have the best solar panel since solar panel sliced wheat bread, but customers—including installers—still need to connect with your company. ::continue::

People are intrigued by the concept of solar technology just as they are a smart phone. But I bet if if you ask a consumer if he or she knows the difference between Brand X solar panel and Brand Y, he really won’t care beyond the per watt quote and perhaps some good installer service and salesmanship. That’s not the case for the iPhone.

People ask for the iPhone. They save for the iPhone, even in a recession. They’ll even forgo their preferred cell phone carrier for an iPhone. Solar needs to be the same way. For the consumer to ask the installer for Brand X, there must be a relatable identity with that panel–in addition to the technology and design behind it.

Certainly, Apple’s technology is valuable and innovative. And yet smart phones and computers are really a commodity. So, why are people willing to pay a premium for an Apple MacBook or an iPhone over any other Smart phone?

It’s what I call “Connection Branding.” It’s the icon status of Steve Jobs. It’s those two actors in the “I’m a PC/I’m a Mac” series of commercials. Beyond the technology and even the attractive Apple designs, people are connecting and paying extra for the “feeling” of these human symbols, such as the happy-go-lucky, easy to use, uncomplicated, yet attractive Mac dude.

What I’m suggesting is elementary marketing, and yet I don’t see this type of connection branding in the solar industry. Name me one well known Solar spokesperson or symbol. You may not need this type of branding in 2009, fine. But you’ll need it eventually for the residential solar tipping point. You’ll need to create that unique solar panel x feeling. Who’s your Steve Jobs? Perhaps it’s a cartoon or a cute dog or just an average Joe or Jane with personality. Whatever it is, find it and start using it.

When you’ve established that unspoken “connection,” that special “Brand X” feeling, customers will not only ask for your solar product; but also may pay more to have it….not to mention share that Brand X feeling with others.


Thanks. Unthink Solar.

Tor Valenza aka “Solar Fred” is a solar consultant and partner at solar referral service, SolarPowerRocks.com. Follow him on Twitter @SolarFred.

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Tor Valenza aka "Solar Fred" is the Chief Marketing Officer of Solar at Impress Labs, a PR, marketing and communications firm dedicated to helping solar companies reach solar customers through innovative messaging, branding, PR, and social media communications. Follow him on Twitter @SolarFred.

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