Firefly Power

Micro Wind for the Masses. For most of us, “wind power” brings to mind towering white turbines strewn across a distant landscape. But Firefly Power saw the potential for gently spinning blades of a much smaller size to become a ubiquitous fixture in urban and suburban neighborhoods as well, thanks to a novel vertical-axis turbine design. As is so often the case with startups, what began as a technology challenge became a marketing challenge. And Firefly found itself in a common Catch-22.

Addressing Two Audiences at Once

In order to appeal to homeowners, facilities managers and business owners, the company had to offer superior performance for the price. So the principals set out to raise the capital required to certify performance data and build a manufacturing facility to scale up production. But before investors would part with their funds, they demanded evidence of a consumer market. Educating target customers so that they saw the benefits of “micro” wind turbines would be essential to winning over investors. Firefly asked Posit Partners to help do both.

What are You Talking About?

We began with a deep dive into the engineering specs and the business plan. Then, we interviewed the principals, and took a look at other micro wind turbine manufacturers targeting the small business and residential markets. The good news was that, based on the significant blade design innovations, there were areas of clear competitive differentiation. The bad news was that the consumer audience wasn’t well-versed enough to understand the distinctions. Worse, they were unlikely to care; they were largely unaware of wind power as a financially feasible way to generate electricity. While solar energy became more widely understood, available and accepted among consumers, wind power was associated almost exclusively with utility-scale power generation.

Context is Critical

Lack of demand is no good for any business. But if it can be attributed to a lack of awareness, it stands to reason that market education will move the needle in the right direction. For Firefly, this meant explaining not how the turbine works, but why it works better than alternatives—and why that matters. Posit Partners worked with the Firefly team to simultaneously travel three of the fastest avenues to “A-ha!” that we know: an analogy, a descriptive tagline, and imagery.

The goal of all three was to establish context, because the best way to explain something new is usually to compare it with something familiar. The analogy was to solar. (“Our turbine is light and sturdy and sits on your roof just like an array of PV panels, but it costs less.”) The tagline: Simple, efficient, affordable wind power. These were accompanied by photos of Firefly Power’s micro wind turbines placed on roof lines of all kinds: an office building, a city apartment building, suburban homes and a country cabin.

Creative Execution Helps Build Credibility

Translating an impressive set of engineering specs into an object of consumer desire was the first of two objectives. The second was attracting the capital required to bring the solution to market. Various organizations approached Firefly on a regular basis with invitations to enter investor pitch competitions, speak at conferences and participate in industry expos. Each inquiry was accompanied by a request for succinct summaries of the company and the technology. Firefly quickly realized they’d need some marketing communications basics as well as a pitch package. So they partnered with Posit to develop a new website, a downloadable one-sheet, a PowerPoint presentation and a display poster.

Together with strong intellectual property, consistent performance data and the indefatigable passion of the company’s founders, these assets are essential. They serve to translate technical advantage into consumer benefit; provide potential investors and partners with data that lends credibility to Firefly’s value proposition; and offer both audiences a powerful vision of a world powered by practical, cost-effective distributed wind power.