Thursday, December 30, 2010

Do get caught with your pants down

My boyfriend and I took a walk to Bernal Hill this evening.  We set out originally to catch the sunset, but a brilliant conversation distracted us from our goal, slowing our gait without our realizing.  By the time we reached the top of the hill, we were surrounded by a 360 degree view of the city's twinkling grid of lights under a very black sky.  It's a breathtaking sight to see, but Bernal Hill is creepy at night - no lighted pathways, rocky, steep trails, dogs off of their leashes, lots of wind.... So we descended as quickly as my treadless cowboy boots could handle.

Muses was the topic of conversation.  Namely, the fact that many people attribute their creative genius to a force outside of themselves that is conjured at random moments.  So how do we capture those random moments?

As we walked along, we veered off into a mini park between houses.  And there, randomly, was a slide.  A gargantuan slide!

I hastily swung onto the slide and coasted down a little less quickly than I had expected.  When I reached the bottom, I turned around, and there at the top sat my boyfriend.  Stuck, unable to slide.

"What happened?  Am I not a little boy anymore?"

"Lean back!" I suggested.  It didn't work.  He pulled himself down the slide kicking the heels of his boots ahead of him.  He tried again, swinging harder from the bar at the top of the slide.  It still didn't work.

"Maybe it's my pants, or maybe I'm just getting old," he said.

"So then take them off," I jokingly responded.

"Good idea!"  He dropped trow, swung from the top of the slide, and slid down that slide faster than any adult would feel comfortable with.  Pure genius...

Moral of the story: genius comes when you let your pants [ahem, guard] down.

PS he was wearing long johns.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

... and by the way, you're saving the world

So now that I've given out these super energy efficient lightbulbs to dozens of cutting-edge cafes, restaurants, bars and design shops in SF, I need to create marketing materials to educate and intrigue consumers about the product that is lighting up their field of vision.

First stop: Google
Search phrase: "Green Marketing Strategies"
Result: a bunch of boring philosophical articles on best practices for marketing nichey green products

I appreciate the marketing and branding jargon, but frankly I don't have time for it right now.

I began to list successful products that were substitutes for prior "dirtier" products.  Here were my top three:

1. Toyota Prius
2. Civic Hybrid
3. Phillips "Marathon" lightbulb

From these three examples, I learned something AMAZING today that I want to share.

Toyota began marketing the Prius 2 years before it was available for purchase.  They spent millions of dollars on marketing that educated consumers and, in particular, early adopters.  When the Prius came out in 2000, it was purchased by a relatively small group of these early adopters.

Honda began marketing the Civic Hybrid in 2002.  They focused on appealing to the mass market immediately by positioning the vehicle as a regular Civic, but with the added benefits of increased gas mileage and environmental friendliness.  It quickly became greatest selling hybrid in the US.

Phillips began marketing the "Earth Light" in 1994.  Marketing targeted the green-conscious consumers.  This was a niche audience, and despite the superiority of the bulb, sales were dismal.

In 2004, Toyota marketed its Gen II Prius to target the "Early Majority."  They created a larger vehicle, and utilized tv advertising to tout the vehicle as a “performance car that happened to be environmentally friendly."  By 2008, Prius sales had far surpassed the Civic Hybrid sales.

In 2000, Phillips changed the name of the Earth Light to Marathon to explain its benefit of long life.  The marketing message was "save money on lighting" versus "save the Earth by saving energy."  Consumers liked the fact that they could buy the CFLs and not have to replace the bulb for weeks or months.  The Marathon increased in sales by over 10% year on year from 2000 onward.

In 2010, Toyota's tagline for the Prius is "Harmony between man, nature and machine."  The campaign paints the Prius as offering what buyers want--advanced technology, more power, interior space, safety, and the magic 50-MPG figure--while simultaneously giving nature what it wants: lower tailpipe emissions.  Prius sales are now far, far beyond sales of any other hybrid vehicle on the market.

Civic Hybrid ... who would buy one when they could have a Prius?

So I think this is amazing because it means two things:

1. People buy green when the product is presented to them as being, foremost, a high performance technology with the added benefit of a positive environmental impact

2. If a company educates consumers without asking anything of them, then consumers will eventually pay the company back.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Door to Door Giving

In the process of trying to take some time off, I decided I'd take on a fun, little contracting job for a company I've watched grow over the past year. As it turns out, this work is mostly fun and rarely little. As for my free time ... poof! gone for now.

The company makes lightbulbs, LED lightbulbs to be exact. LEDs are the best efficient lightbulbs on the market right now - they're pretty, they last forever, they use virtually no energy, and they're safe to dispose of. Did you know that CFLs (the lightbulbs shaped like a coil) have liquid mercury in them and are extremely dangerous if broken or left in a landfill? They're so awful that in 2012, CFLs are no longer going to be available for purchase in the US.

The drawback for LED lighting is that it costs a heck of a lot, and I don't know anyone who feels comfortable fronting a chunk of change for a 25 year commitment to a lightbulb. In order for massive adoption of a new technology in an otherwise mundane area of people's lives to occur, the lightbulb paradigm must change. This is where I come in.

We decided that people must begin to see the bulbs in places they like to go, learn about LEDs firsthand, and be given the option of purchasing the bulbs on the spot.  We're giving out 5 free LED bulbs to choice locations in San Francisco. Locations include bars, design shops, furniture stores, restaurants and cafes. Each lightbulb that replaces an incandescent will save that location an average of ~$20 per month in energy savings ($2.00 for CFLs).  It's a no-brainer for these locations, or so you'd think.

Of the 50 emails and calls I have made to locations, 5 have expressed interest.  Of the 20 in-person visits I have made to locations, 2 have decided to take the bulbs.  The vast majority of companies are simply not interested - citing their current design specs (understandable), their need to speak with HQ (understandable), or their distaste for third party marketing in their own stores (understandable, but these are just lightbulbs).

My opinion as to why people are not interested is that most are uncomfortable with change, even when it is nonimpactful.  The reason I believe this is is that the locations that were open to the idea were those that were the most cutting edge, successful, popular and young cafes/restaurants/bars in the city.   Upon my call or email, they responded with a resounding "yes, please come in! We're looking for ways to be green, and this seems like the perfect opportunity."

I'm suddenly not surprised that these are the most well-reviewed, well-attended locations in the city these days.  These types of locations are managed by open-minded, enterprising people, people who are a pleasure to work with and meet.

My task of finding 30 locations is going to be tough.  But, when I find the "right" locations, it's wonderful, and as far as I'm concerned, these are the locations that are going to continue to thrive as the world changes around them.  Let me know if you have any locations in mind - whether it's in SF or Silicon Valley, I've got a huge task ahead of me.