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Six Basic Emotions to Market Solar: Anger, Disgust, Fear, Happiness, Sadness and Surprise


A few days ago, I read a blogpost from marketing author and speaker Seth Godin about the theory that there are six basic emotions that drive people to take action. After I read it, I of course wondered if the same emotions applied to solar marketing. Short answer: Yup.

You can read Godin’s original post here, but the six basic emotions he identifies are the following:

  1. Anger
  2. Disgust
  3. Fear
  4. Happiness
  5. Sadness
  6. Surprise

Let’s go through each of them and see how solar marketers might create solar messages that tap into these primal six.

1. Anger. In general, I recommend staying away from negative emotions like anger in marketing. Rather than anger, let’s take a step back and call it “frustration.”

Because consumers may not be angry at their utility bills, but I’ll bet many are frustrated by them, especially when they go up. Consumers may also be frustrated by politicians doing next to nothing about climate change. Many may be frustrated about being reliant on the utility, foreign energy, or being reliant on any energy source beyond their control.

With that in mind, you can craft blog posts, Tweets, videos, and banner ads that recognize those frustrations and offer a solution: solar.

2. Disgust. Like anger, “disgust” is a very strong negative emotion, but once again, we can direct that feeling into a solar energy solution.

As solar marketers, we can identify with consumers' disgust of unabated air pollution from coal plants. We can share and name their disgust with the unregulated hazards and environmental damage of fracking. We can sympathize with their disgust of billions of dollars in oil and gas subsidies that have continued for decades. All of this, you can show with images, as well as words.

But after identifying that disgust, you can’t leave it there. Once again, you must show with words and images how solar is a clean and affordable action (solution) that consumers can take, if only they will get a free solar quote and find out if it's right for their homes and budget.

3. Fear. Here again, we have another strong negative emotion, but we don’t want to be fear mongers and say that the world is going to end if consumers don’t install solar. So let’s take this from a “fear of the unknown” standpoint.

By that I mean that consumers have many misunderstood fears about solar. For example, that it’s too expensive, or that solar needs batteries, or that they’ll have no electricity on cloudy days and nights, etc. 

Our job as marketers is to shed light on those misunderstandings by providing FAQs and customer education about solar economics and the basic technology. We can give solar tours and explain how their neighbors and businesses like Wal-Mart and IKEA aren’t going solar because it’s expensive, unsafe, or unreliable. Rather than fear mongering, we’re revealing the truth behind fearful rumors that prospects may be hearing from their friends, family, colleagues, and Fox news.

4. Happiness. Must I even explain this one? Briefly, any happiness emotion that we can use in solar marketing must be tied to saving money. Yes, solar is a solution to climate change, and air pollution, but let’s all agree that most consumers and businesses go solar for the bottom line. So hone your message on the joy that consumers will feel saving money. 

5. Sadness. Is there any reason to use sadness in solar marketing? I think only in a humorous way. For example, you could show a video with a couple crying over their high utility bill, and what makes them happy again? Getting a solar quote and eventually getting the new utility bill. Beyond humorous sadness, I recommend staying away from that emotion in solar marketing.

6. Surprise. Surprise is by far my favorite solar marketing emotion. In fact, I just wrote a book on the subject. Surprise is story-telling worthy. It’s share-worthy. It’s “Hey, Jane, did I tell you what happened after Acme Solar installed my solar system?” In short, surprise is embedded with solar guerrilla marketing. To utilize surprise, think about what’s expected in a typical solar sale or customer service--and then do something surprisingly beyond that standard. In other words, do something so positive, so creative, and so unique that it will make your customers spontaneously smile. More than any of the other emotions, surprise creates a lasting experience that is shared multiple times, often for years.

So now that you have these emotions in mind, use them!…And UnThink Solar.

Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” advises solar companies on marketing, communications, and branding. Want more solar marketing info? Sign up for the Solar Fred Marketing Newsletter, or contact Solar Fred through UnThink Solar. You can also follow @SolarFred on Twitter.

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