Kettle Chips Solar Panels

How NOT to Use Solar Panels to Market Your Business

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I love Kettle Brand Potato Chips. It’s the kind of love that let’s me empty a whole bag in one sitting. I picked up a bag of the Backyard Barbeque flavor today at Ada’s Natural Market in Fort Myers, and when I got home I noticed that they advertise their use of solar panels on the back of the bag.

Kettle Chips Solar PanelsNow I really love Kettle Brand Potato Chips!

What I don’t love is how they are conveying their good deeds. Using solar panels to help in your marketing efforts is a great idea. It adds extra value to an investment that is great on its own. When you take the public relations aspect into account, an investment in solar panels can be a slam dunk.

I don’t blame Kettle Brand. They just didn’t get good advice from their solar people, or maybe they let the marketing department drive the bus without some basic fact-checking.

So what has me all upset? Perspective. There is none.

First, 120.000 kWh (kilowatt-hours) is a measure of energy – power over time. Without knowing the timeframe, we have no idea how long it takes the solar panels to generate this much energy. Is that six hundred 10 watt panels over 20 years or six hundred 200 watt panels over a year? Or is it six hundred 2.4kW panels over a month? There is no way of knowing.

Don’t even get me started on the difference between panels, modules, and arrays.

If I had to guess as an industry pro, I’d bet the system is a bit older and they have six hundred panels rated around 200 watts each, which could reasonably be expected to produce in the ballpark of 120,000 kWh in a year in their neck of the woods. But I’m speculating, and that is not good.

More importantly, the general public has no idea what 120,000 kWh means. After defining a timeframe, they should put it into perspective. For example:

With 600 solar panels on our roof we generate 120,000 kWh per year, enough energy to power 100 homes for a year.

There is a concept called greenwashing where marketers use “green” things like solar panels to promote their business in disingenuous ways. If you put up a few solar panels and create the impression that it offsets all of your business’ electricity, you are greenwashing. I don’t think that’s what’s happening here. But they could have done a much better job.

So kudos to Kettle Brands for the solar panels. But step up your game and tell us what your investment really means.

Speaking of perspective, the statement doesn’t tell us how much of an impact their investment makes relative to their consumption. Do 600 solar panels cover all of their electricity needs? Is this just a small fraction? We don’t know. Again – a problem of perspective. Businesses like Apple and Google are doing it right, reaching thresholds and telling the public that they are generating enough energy to offset all of their energy usage.

I love ya, Kettle Brands. I will keep buying your chips. In fact, I’ll probably buy more now. Maybe the marketing department is doing something right! 🙂

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