If the marketing class will come to order, we have an interesting case study today. We’re going to focus on a product, the market penetration of which is being limited by an attribute that–on first glance–would seem to be a good thing.
Home geothermal systems reduce heating and cooling costs. They do this by running vertical pipes underground–about 150 feet–to levels where the ground will be warmer than the surface in winter, and cooler than the surface in summer. And, unlike some “green” technologies, they aren’t aesthetically intrusive. Once the holes are filled and the system is complete, there’s nothing much visible. Unlike, for instance, a solar-cell system with its rooftop arrays.
And that’s exactly where the difficulty comes in. “The problem is that we don’t have some big, fancy piece of equipment outside,” says John Kelly, head of a Washington trade group for geothermal companies. So–unlike the case with a solar system or a Prius–a homeowner’s investment in geothermal will not be obvious to neighbors and passers-by.
To which Sarah responds:
This is just too rich. You know there are people out there who are dying to go green, but only if it’s ostentatious. You mean geothermal is the way to go, but my friends and neighbors won’t be able to tell I’m doing anything? Nevermind. What a riot — it’s good for the environment, but they’re having a hard time marketing to ecotards who only want solutions that shout “Look at me, I’m saving the planet!”
Let’s try to help Mr Kelly out. You have a new job as head of marketing for a geothermal company. Let’s stipulate that the financial return on investment for geothermal systems is variable with location–in general, it will be better in places with severe weather and lower in temperate zones. You are competing for the home-improvement dollar–and, in particular, the “green” home-improvement dollar–with lots of other project types and technologies.
What will you do to market geothermal to people who want, not only to be “green,” but to be seen to be green? Or will you ignore this segment and focus only on those for who geothermal provides absolutely unbeatable ROI?