Effective Advertising: A Look at the Success and Failure Attempts of Solar Energy Companies

Effective advertising targets a specific audience and frames a provided good or service in a positive light; ideally, advertisements attract consumers that would otherwise not consider the product. Solar energy, a modern-day replacement for harmful traditional energy sources, has many benefits that most consumers fail to recognize. Commercials and other advertising techniques target middle-aged, wealthy home owners in an attempt to embed this relatively unknown phenomenon in a society that seems to resist change. Solar energy, though a large initial investment that may repel lower and lower-middle class citizens, will pay off in the long run as solar panels have a twenty year horizon to receive a return on investment. Typical Americans do not think about energy beyond paying the bills. We flick on a switch and expect power without giving the source a second thought. Solar energy cannot help but change this mindset. The panels gleaming from residential rooftops demand attention. All things considered, solar energy attracts a progressive audience because implementation requires a transition from typical, traditional energy that conformist citizens will not want to transfer from. Only through deliberate advertising will the unbacked stigma concerning solar energy be erased resulting in widespread popularity that will inevitably lead consumers away from traditional energy sources.

In an attempt to convert traditional energy users, the solar company, Sunrun, created a brief cartoon advertisement with talking kitchen appliances, but it appears they have misjudged their target audience. Although the ad is creative and unique, thus naturally retaining attention, the cartoon seems very childish and would not attract the middle-aged, upper class audience that solar energy pertains to. The novelty of the ad discredits the sophistication of the company and its product. Though the commercial may convince viewers to research solar energy, why should consumers trust Sunrun? With that being said, solar energy is a relatively difficult issue to comprehend because of its infrequency in comparison to traditional sources of energy. The ad is simple to digest and speaks to an audience that does not know much about solar energy. It sparks interest by declaring that solar panel implementation will decrease monthly energy expenditures. Similarly, the talking appliances draw attention to just how much energy we use on a daily basis. With a need for so much energy to fuel our daily activities, we need a cheap, efficient source of energy. The increasing price of traditional energy will veer economically minded persons towards solar panels. The feel of this modernized cartoon speaks to the forward thinking associated with environmentally conscious energy sources, and the puns throughout create the sense that reliance on solar energy results in a carefree lifestyle. The slogan “Switching to solar isn’t just smart. It’s brilliant.” alludes to the sun while evoking a sense of pathos by telling their audience that switching to solar is the right thing to do.

In contrast, the German energy company, Solon Corporation, released a video ad in 2007 showing batteries raining down from the sky and destroying the city. A fact flashes across the screen: “970 trillion kWh of energy fall from the skies every day” and then the chaos ceases. This commercial is powerful in that as the batteries fall and destroy the city, we see how destructive traditional energy sources are, yet when we rely on solar energy, the chaos stops. Immediately, the color scheme of the video changes from a dark, brown tint to the blues and greens of a solar panel filled grassy field on a sunny day. Traditionally, the metal of solar panels would seem to ruin the beautiful grassy landscape, but in contrast to the darkness and destruction of the city, it invokes a sense of desire. The commercial demands your attention, but at the end, Solon misses the opportunity to seal the deal of a very captivated audience. The end of their video refers to solar energy by saying, “Good we can’t see it […] Bad we don’t use it.” This pedestrian vocabulary and poorly constructed statement makes the company lose credibility and potential customers, so even though consumers may be attracted to the idea of solar energy from this commercial, they will be deterred from doing business with Solon based on this oversight.

Later that year, Solon Corporation released an ad with people walking around a rooftop covered in solar panels. Plastered on the photo is their newly patented slogan, “Don’t leave the planet to the stupid.” This slogan invokes dozens of negative connotations, and potentially offends a number of different individuals. It remains unclear who Solon intends to insult. Are they saying that policy makers are stupid, so they should not be trusted to change laws to promote unconventional energy sources? Are they saying that other energy companies are stupid, so when buying solar panels, you should choose Solon? Are they calling the general public is stupid, therefore you need to contract out to Solon for an energy resource? It is ambiguous, but depending on which stance you take, a variety of audiences could be offended. So why did Solon think this was a brilliant slogan? It appears that they are trying to invoke a sense of trust from consumers. They are attempting to get consumers to trust them with their energy needs instead of others, thus calling themselves smart and reliable. Ironically, this is the same company that used poor grammar in their previous commercial ad. Nevertheless, Solon’s ad captivates. Anyone who comes across this advertisement cannot help but do a double take. Did they really just say that? A huge part of the battle with advertising is catching the attention of prospective consumers, so for better or for worse, this slogan cannot be ignored. Moving beyond the slogan, the photo promotes a sense of comfort. The people walking amongst the solar panels reassure consumers that there are people behind the face of the technology in order to support the transition. It removes some of the mystery behind such an advanced and uncustomary technology. One possibly fatal assumption that the company is making is that everyone knows what solar energy panels look like. Within their ad, there is no mention of what the company does or what they are advertising. Solon misses the opportunity to appeal to a larger mass of people by choosing not to include information about solar energy.

Due to the hassle associated with changing energy sources and the upfront investment necessary to implement the technology, solar energy must speak to a progressive audience. Environmentally conscious individuals may be interested, but interest is not always enough for a commitment. The Sunrun video advertisement speaks to the wallets of consumers, claiming that solar panels will decrease your monthly energy expenditures. The Solon video advertises to the environmentally conscious while their graphically designed advertisement utilizes the technique of being bold to attract attention. Universally, each of these ads fail to outline the necessity of solar energy. Fear is a powerful motivator because it promotes a sense of urgency. With technology like unconventional energy sources, the desire to switch is diminished because the ominousness of depleting traditional energy sources seems so far off. However, if these ads were to outline the effect of global warming on the strength of storms like Hurricane Katrina, suddenly, the hassle to switch from existing energy sources to solar energy seems trivial. Furthermore, widespread distribution of an ad is crucial to gaining awareness, yet all of the aforementioned ads fail to do so. Whether or not they are successful in attracting an audience, their lack of prominence and detectability contributes to a weak impact concerning the future of energy resources and global sustainability.

Works Cited

Solon. “Don’t Leave the Planet to the Stupid.” 11 Dec. 2007: Web. 23 Nov. 2014.

<http://cdn5.triplepundit.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/solon-stupid.jpg>

Solon. [Solon Commercial]. 7 Mar. 2007: Web. 23 Nov. 2014 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P281f14R0-I>

Sunrun. “Run Your Kitchen on the Sun.” Vimeo 17 July 2014: Web. 24 Nov. 2014.

<http://vimeo.com/101004161>

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