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UnThink Solar
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A Solar Fred Caption Contest Featuring a Viral Slinky Video

There are times in solar marketing when one can use seemingly unrelated memes and turn them into useful (and inexpensive) solar advocacy and commentary on social networks. Case in point is this Slinky-on-a-treadmill video below, which now has over 1 million views, according to YouTube. We'll get to why in a bit. First the video:

Let’s discuss why the above has so many views and then how you can use it for your own social media marketing and a small-prize contest.

  • It’s familiar with a twist. Everyone knows what a slinky is and everyone knows what a treadmill is. They’re both familiar, but combine them and you get something familiar — with a fun twist (in small doses).
  • It’s funny. The humor comes out of the twist and the music that adds an extra element of ironic drama. Comments on YouTube have people rooting for the Slinky, believe it or not.
  • It’s relatively short. It could be shorter, but that’s live stunts. You never know how long they’re going to last.
  • Someone laughed and shared it with someone who knows an influential blogger. This might have remained in obscurity if a single viewer hadn’t shared it with someone …who shared it with someone…who eventually shared it with an influential blogger on Gawker. You just never know where or when you can hit social media viral magic, which is why every viewer is important.

So, how can this Slinky video be useful for solar marketing and/or advocacy? Well, you can’t use it directly for advertising. That would be a copyright violation without getting the uploader’s rights. But you can use it for solar commentary on your blog, Facebook page, Twitter, or LinkedIn group. In other words, you can embed the above video on your own blog and insert a few words about how the video is a solar metaphor for x.

In fact, there are tons of viral YouTube videos that can be embedded and used as a solar metaphor in the same way. As for the above Slinky-on-a-treadmill video; creative marketers can turn it into a New Yorker magazine style caption contest. Here’s the video again:

Below are five suggested metaphors that you can put underneath this video on your blog or Facebook page, and then ask your followers to add their own captions related to solar or energy politics. You can then set a deadline, choose the best one or one with the most votes ("likes" on Facebook)  and give away a small prize, such as a tee-shirt, solar discount, or a gift certificate to a local eatery or national chain. So here are my quickie five:

  1. Why struggle paying utility rates year after year… after year? Help Slinky to get off the utility bill treadmill. Go solar.
  2. You were proud of your kids’ backyard science experiment…until you saw that month’s electric bill. Go solar and stay proud.
  3. Every time we think Congress is going to end oil, coal, nuclear, and gas subsidies, they just keep going, and going, and going. … Isn’t it time to pull the plug?
  4. Solar panels are warrantied to lasts 25 years! Even longer than this Slinky-on-a-treadmill video. Learn more solar facts.
  5. There are many ways to waste time and money in the world… Getting a solar quote isn’t one of them.

Feel free to use these or make up your own. In fact, please share yours in the comments below. Twisting internet viral videos is just another example of how to... UnThink Solar.

Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” advises solar companies on marketing, communications, and branding. Contact him through UnThink Solar or follow him on Twitter @SolarFred.


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