It’s Not Easy Being a Green Apple: 3 Cleantech Lessons from the iPhone 6 Announcement

Apple logo with a green leaf.

Apple logo with a green leaf. by Scott Beale, on Flickr

Buried deep in Apple’s big announcement yesterday was a small checklist that ticked off their environmental credentials. I cannot overstate how unimportant this was to the full announcement, the fact that it was even on stage is surprising.

You won’t find the checklist in any of the coverage, which focuses entirely on the features and benefits of the new Apple products. There is plenty written about the new Pay feature as well as the design of the Apple Watch, but want to know how green the product is? I found only one story on that and it’s mostly a critique of people critiquing Apple’s environmental credentials on Twitter.

The checklist itself can be found on the iPhone 6 specs page. What, you’ve never read the specs on the iPhone 6? Oh, well go do that, then scroll all the way to the bottom and you’ll find a small checklist. Here’s a screenshot:

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 6.36.41 AM

It’s a decent list, but look at how it’s presented. The important elements are in darker text so your eye finds them fast, the rest are really secondary. You know it’s environmental because it has that cool Apple logo that they roll out once a year.

But I don’t put this here to bash Apple, they’re just reading the market and maybe satisfying that segment that wants to check the “green” box. They know that consumers have a passing interest the environment and the list is enough for them to say “OK, Apple’s got this” and then move on to the cool stuff like how big it is, how fast it is and when can you take my money!

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For companies in the cleantech and clean energy space, this means something much more.

When branding a sustainability, clean energy or cleantech company, it’s important to keep the true buyer in mind. If you are marketing to a checkbox item, then you’re not core to the business thereby making your sales position weak. Worse, your value proposition won’t enable you to charge a fair price, or even a premium, for your products, since “nice to haves” are cheaper than those products that speak to core business needs.

Here are 3 lessons from Apple’s announcement:

1. Separate the Mission from the Message

Tesla makes cars. Tesla makes technologically advanced cars. Sure, the team wants to disrupt the auto industry and even have an environmental bent by taking on the internal combustion engine. But at its heart it makes cars that are as good or better than anything that Mercedes puts out. That’s what sells, it’s what people want, it’s what Tesla makes. No one buys a Tesla just because it’s electric.

Yes, you may have a mission of saving the environment, you may even have done the math and realized that if a large portion of your the market uses your product, it can reduce water usage, power usage or CO2 by massive amounts. But, before any of that happens, the buyers must make a business decision to buy and that decision is based on factors that simply don’t include “being green.”

2. Focus on the Real Competition

You may feel like the competition is in the environmental industry, but it isn’t. Apple may be committed to putting a glass on its iPhone (and Apple Watch) that uses no arsenic, but first and foremost the glass must work for the phone. If it’s weak, cracks and scratches easily, or doesn’t have the right feel, then it wouldn’t be on the iPhone. The company may be running an entire factories and data centers by solar power, but if that power drives up the cost of doing business or can’t support the manufacturing infrastructure, then Apple will just put itself back on the grid. First and foremost, the plant needs power. How it gets that power is secondary.

As a company, your real competition is the alternative method of doing business. Your solution needs to not only be sustainable and provide a positive environmental impact, but also do the job as well, if not better, than what it’s replacing.

3. Listen to your Sales People

Sales folks are on the front line and constantly getting feedback from customers, they know what works, the competition and the true concerns of their prospects. Listen to them, go on calls with them, get their feedback on the messaging. They will know what motivates customers and therefore what should be built into your marketing messages.

 Just like in other industries, any advances are only as good as the benefit they bring. And for cleantech and sustainability companies, that benefit must go beyond the environmental impact.

Mower

About Mower Boston

Boston's Mower office is a full-service technology marketing, PR and branding agency. Our B2B stories illustrate projects and campaigns in a variety of markets and media that range from local impact in Boston and New England to global proportions.

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