I’ll tell you the awful truth about why I began my solar marketing career—and it wasn’t to make money.
Making money is a result of doing great work, not a goal.

In 2007, I was bored with the blockbuster movies at my local theater, so I walked into a double feature of “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Who Killed the Electric Car?” What I saw in the theater that night was both inspiring and depressing.

It was inspiring because I realized that solar and other renewable energy sources were finally ready to change how the world produced and consumed energy.

And yet it was depressing because it seemed like nobody knew about this clean energy revolution that was upon us. I talked to my friends and family, and everyone seemed to think that solar, wind and EVs were future energy sources and not ready for prime time.

So I searched for solar information on that 2007 Internet, and then I understood why solar was so under the radar:

  • Traditional solar communications and PR were too technical and complicated for the average UnThink.Solar.and.Impress.Labs_croppedconsumer.
  • In general, solar marketing was boring. Videos and digital ads were all “just the facts and specs.” Nothing inspired the reader to take action or made them feel part of the company’s brand community.
  • Solar marketing was mostly advertising-based. Few solar companies used blogs and social media, and those that did used them as just another push-marketing platform: “We’re the best.” “Buy our amazing solar product.” “Look what we’ve done.” Yada, yada, yada—all about the brand, and not about solar’s solutions to their customers’ problems.
  • Solar myths about affordability, storage, safety and the ability to build your own solar panels seemed to pervade the Web more than real information.
  • There was no solar marketing thought leadership. In fact, I couldn’t find anyone writing about best solar marketing practices on the Web.

I became so frustrated with the lack of … well … energy behind modern solar marketing practices that I started a solar blog and founded UnThink Solar, a strategic solar marketing consulting company that eventually merged with Kiterocket.

Writing under the blog name and Twitter handle of @SolarFred, I began to evangelize about building social media communities and being more audacious with our industry’s marketing and advocacy.

Eight years later, the solar industry has grown, with more B2B and B2C solar companies embracing social media and content marketing practices. However, residential solar marketers are still struggling under high acquisition costs and the perception that solar PV is either too expensive or still not ready for mainstream deployment.

On the solar technology side, many solar components and installation services are viewed as the lowest dollar-per-watt commodities—a false perception, but a marketing challenge.

So as much as I had evangelized on my blog and Twitter, and consulted with major solar brands, I knew I wanted to do more to help solar companies replace fossil fuels. And that’s when I met Dave Richardson and Martijn Pierik, managing partners of Kiterocket.

Over several solar marketing think tank discussions, we recognized the same vision for solar marketing’s strengths and weaknesses. Not only did we agree that solar companies needed to be more bold with their PR, design and marketing, we also strongly believed that solar’s brand was undefined.

For example, when one thinks of “solar,” they most often think of solar PV, but they may also be thinking of solar thermal, CSP or even CPV as the “solar” technology. From a political standpoint, solar’s brand brings up visions of either an oversubsidized boondoggle or a green energy movement that will create jobs and disrupt energy monopolies.

Kiterocket’s solar team also believes there’s no such thing as a lowest-dollar-per-watt solar commodity. We know that every solar brand has its own voice and values and people, and we love finding and developing those brand voices until customers see how truly different each company can be.

This new Kiterocket solar blog will be delving into these topics and more. So, think of this page—and our future Kiterocket Solar Lab newsletter—as a solar think tank that shares solar communications information and builds a vibrant solar marketing community.

In the near future, we’ll be rolling out even more ways to join in the conversation and be a part of the community. For now, feel free to comment below or send me an email directly at tvalenza@kiterocket.com.

P.S. Speaking of community, if you’re on any social network and going to be at SPI in Anaheim this year, please join me at my annual SPI Happy Hour Tweetup. Looking forward to seeing you there.

Tor “Solar Fred” Valenza is the chief marketing officer of Kiterocket’s Solar Lab. Follow him on Twitter at @SolarFred and @ImpressTweets.