Friday, March 12, 2010

Edison was a Marketing Strategist

Most history books say 1882 was the year the light bulb was invented. This is incorrect. The basic technology had existed for almost 100 years. The reason 1882 is important is because that's when Edison extended the adoption of electric power and light to the early majority. And the methods he used are strategically very important to the solar industry.

Edison’s strategy for accelerating the adoption of electric light was based on minimizing disruption to people's lives. Since gas lamps were the dominant method of indoor lighting, Edison designed his electric lights to look and operate almost identically. His initial electric lights provided 13 watts of light, almost the same as the 12-watt gas lamps he wanted to replace. The new electric lamps looked almost exactly like those same gas lamps.

Recognizing that many commercial and residential landowners in New York had invested considerable capital in gas infrastructure to light their buildings, Edison chose to run his first electrical wires through existing gas lines, fitting directly into the system people already understood for the delivery of light.

Edison’s technology was new, but the form and function were decades old.

But Edison's most ingenious strategy was in selecting the location of his first customers -- financial institutions in lower Manhattan. Seeing the windows of the financial district aglow by night demonstrated electric lighting technology to the metro population living across the Hudson River in New Jersey.

Because the financial community was seen as a credible source of innovative building technology, Edison helped meet the reference requirements of early adopters, who then shared the idea with their local communities. This endorsement of electric power and light, by demonstrating its use in a visible location, had tremendous influence on the rest of the country.

Who should the solar industry be using as a credible reference?


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