Apple didn’t invent tablet computers. This is one of those facts that Microsoft fans like to throw out sometimes, and if you ask nicely they might show you Bill Gates’ 2001 keynote speech at COMDEX. It’s worth watching, not least because it’s so far removed from the slick TED-style talks we’re all used to now. Which is probably part of the problem.
See, while Apple might not have invented tablet computers, they did invent the best way to sell them. And while part of their approach was to make iPads look cool, they also got something else critically right: Apple invested heavily in educating their consumers.
That in itself is a story too long for this humble blog post, but the takeaway here is that educating consumers can be the difference between a total flop and a successful launch. Especially when what you’re selling is a little out of the ordinary.
A New Thing Under the Sun
When Wabash Valley Power told us they were launching Co-op Solar, a new solar power program for their members, we jumped out of our seats. When they explained how it would work, we sat back down.
Not because we weren’t excited—we were thrilled. The program offered the easiest, most affordable way for their members to invest in solar power. But it was also completely different from anything we’d ever heard of.
When most people hear ‘solar power,’ they think of rooftop panels. That can mean high upfront expenses, equipment installation, and regular maintenance, all of which can be big barriers to entry. But Co-op Solar is different.
With Co-op Solar, the solar arrays are built and maintained by the local electric cooperatives that own Wabash Valley Power. Co-op members—the people who actually use and pay for the electricity—can then purchase shares of those arrays to start using solar power.
That opens up a lot of exciting possibilities. First, it means people can invest at a level they’re comfortable with, instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars on rooftop panels. It also means that there’s no installation or maintenance to worry about—the solar arrays are all taken care of by the cooperative. And finally, it means a little bad weather isn’t such a big concern. With solar arrays across three states, a few clouds over one is no big deal.
The more we understood Co-op Solar, the more excited we got about the program. Our challenge, then, was to help consumers understand too—because we knew they’d be as thrilled about it as we were.
How We Did It
We began with something simple—a handout for Wabash Valley Power representatives to give their members addressing the most frequently asked questions people had about Co-op Solar. This was the start of the conversation, and a great way to begin helping people understand what the program was, and what it offered.
But our plans were a lot bigger than that. We didn’t just want to tell people about Co-op Solar—we wanted to show them.
We created a set of tools that anyone could use to explore and interact with the Co-op Solar program. First, we built an interactive dashboard that allows users to see solar power production as it happens in real time. Users can also explore how much solar power they could be using—and the difference it makes to the environment.
And we also wanted to make sure people understood how the program actually works. That meant following the path of solar energy, from the moment photons leave the sun to when a member flips on a light switch. This interactive animation, created through the collaborative effort of Well Done’s writers, designers, and developers, was one of our most ambitious projects of the year. It’s also pretty dang cool.
Educating consumers takes time. It takes thoughtfulness. It takes a willingness to try new, ambitious things in order to connect with your audience.
But the payoff is that people get excited about what you’re offering. Because once people understand that you’re doing good, bold work, they’ll want to be a part of it.
And frankly, if that’s the kind of thing you’re doing, we’re the agency for you. We love doing great work that makes the world a better place. Talk to us about how we can help.