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NRG Just Purchased a Consumer Solar Gadget Company. Can You Make the Same Solar Marketing Play?


By now you’ve probably heard the news that pro-solar energy giant NRG is purchasing Goal Zero, a relatively tiny solar consumer electronics company. But why? NRG is a huge residential and utility scale solar integrator, while Goal Zero sells enough solar PV to power maybe a single NRG utility project.

Of course, the answer is that NRG isn’t buying Goal Zero for its technology or its relatively small revenue stream, but for its residential solar marketing power.

In fact, I’d say that NRG hasn’t purchased a consumer electronics division, but rather they’ve purchased a new residential solar marketing division, and here’s my guess how that synergy might work:

1) Rebrand Goal Zero, at least slightly. I haven’t talked to NRG or Goal Zero, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Goal Zero products don't become NRG branded products over the next year or two. Goal Zero’s portable solar products aren’t cheap, and they’re marketed toward affluent active consumers who are either worried about losing power in an emergency or not having power as they hike the Rockies or camp for the weekend. With that in mind, my guess is that NRG’s due diligence report revealed that many Goal Zero customers were non-solar homeowners. Go figure.

2) Market NRG Home to Goal Zero Customers. So you’ve just bought your little consumer gadget and what’s this? There’s a $500 discount coupon inside to install residential solar via NRG home. Nice incentive to get a solar quote. There might even be a battery backup discount coupon in there too, or other coupons related to NRG Home products, such as its EV charging stations.

3) Celebrate the solar energy independence lifestyle.  In terms of packaging and web marketing, Goal Zero is telling product consumers that they’re free from the grid, and isn’t that a great feeling? Further web marketing, blog content, and promotions can also make the suggestion that going solar at home can also be just as liberating—and save you money. In fact, Goal Zero just started a new blog, "The Solar Life," seemingly dedicated to off-grid...for now.

4) Going Solar helps preserve the outdoors where Goal Zero customers are playing. Aside from the energy independence angle, these consumers are outdoors people who appreciate nature, or perhaps they’re disaster refugees who understand the threat of climate change. Once again, NRG has the opportunity to use Goal Zero to connect with these customer concerns and develop product messaging that encourage Goal Zero consumers to go solar at home too.

5) Give away Goal Zero/NRG products at the next natural disaster grid outage. In terms of philanthropy, NRG could also get some great brand equity by donating Goal Zero products to the Red Cross and other agencies at the next grid disaster. Unlike other energy companies, NRG is a strong proponent of climate change action, so these donations would be sincere, and they’d also have the positive effect of spreading NRG’s brand.

Can You Make the Same Solar Marketing Play as NRG?

The real solar marketing strategy here lies in a partnership that is beneficial to your solar brand. That’s why SolarCity is partnering with Carrier air conditioning, and why many EV car companies and home improvement companies are signing similar co-marketing deals with other solar companies.

In fact, a good portion of Vivant Solar’s marketing plan is tied to its home security division. In a similar play, NRG recently made a deal to bundle solar with Comcast cable services!

Regardless of your size or company purchasing power, you can do the same solar co-marketing strategy with smaller, local companies in your area, and you don’t even have to buy them. You just have to have the same values and work out a plan to promote each other’s products and services.

So look around to your city or town. Who would be a good fit for your solar company? Co-marketing solar partnerships are a brilliant way… 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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