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UnThink Solar
a div of Impress Labs
811 Sansome St
San Francisco, CA 94111
United States

No. of Employees: 33
Phone: 415-395-0941

How the CDC and Zombies Can Teach Us to Guerrilla Market Solar

In 2011, the U.S. Government’s Centers for Disease Control and Preparedness (a.k.a. “the CDC”) published a guide to prepare citizens for a potential Zombie Apocalypse. No joke. This wasn’t a waste of taxpayer dollars, but actually a brilliant guerrilla marketing campaign that solar companies can and should learn from.

As always, good guerrilla marketing starts with an educational purpose: Part of the CDC’s mission is to prepare citizens for natural disasters, such as snowmageddons  and swine flu, as well as unnatural disasters, such as terrorist attacks and fossil fuel-related oopsies, such as the recent West Virginia chemical spill.

The problem is that few citizens pay attention to the CDC’s well-thought-out advice until disaster has struck. But as the CDC’s director, Dr. Ali Khan, noted, "If you are generally well equipped to deal with a Zombie Apocalypse, you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, or terrorist attack."

So, to help the public to pay attention to real disaster preparedness, the CDC launched a Zombie Apocalypse campaign to help the public prepare emergency kits and have a communication plan for both Zombie and non-Zombie disasters.

Using real facts with tongue-in-cheek Zombie situations, the CDC created an educational school program for kids, as well as shareable infographics and a graphic novella for adults who still had possession of their brains to download a PDF and read such things.

The campaign got national attention in the media, and it also inspired an award winning guerilla marketing campaign for a data center company who took the same basic concept and enhanced it further.

More solar related, our good renewable energy advocacy friends at the Rocky Mountain Institute wrote a recent blog post about micro-grids and the Zombie Apocalypse.

Obviously this Zombie Apocalypse concept has turned into a mini internet meme, and that means that many individuals and marketers are creating their own spin on the same concept, so does that mean you should do your version?

Perhaps. If you’re so inspired and feel creative enough, go for it. But that’s really not my point for this solar marketing post.

My real point here is that solar companies are often very serious about solar energy and our products and services, and I think we should lighten up. If the CDC and a data center company can break from their serious subjects and promote themselves with a Zombie joke, then solar companies should also break from their living dead “serious” marketing personas and take other cues from iconic pop culture.

Just in case an Undead have already broken down the door and eaten your brains already, here are few more tips:

  • Have a point. Don’t just pull a monster stunt that doesn’t educate your customers about your solar products or service.
  • Don’t copy what’s been done. As I mentioned, this Zombie meme has been done in many industries and at least one blog post in the solar industry. If you’re going to do a Zombie campaign, do it like no one else has done it before. Otherwise, you’ll be seen as a been-there-done-that-rip-off and your message will be dismissed with a roll of the eyes.
  • Don’t be afraid to include humor! Yes, solar can be serious when you’re up on a roof and playing with kW of power, so don’t do anything that might inspire kids to stick their fingers in a socket or go on a roof. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with Dracula, Gremlins, and other horror figures, especially around Halloween when solar sales may be slowing.
  • As with these other Zombie campaign examples, be visual, be relevant to customers’ needs. Provide lots of content marketing that’s shareable and that people will want to share because it’s useful info wrapped in a fun package.
  • Don't forget to alert the media. Write a press release with an eye-catching headline and explain your point.

Bottom line, let loose and use your solar marketing imagination…to UnThink Solar.

Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” is a solar marketing and communications consultant and the author of Solar Fred's Guide to Solar Guerrilla Marketing. Sign up for the Solar Fred Marketing Newsletter, or contact him through UnThink Solar. You can also follow @SolarFred on Twitter.


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