The Voltaic Solar Backpack, despite being fairly expensive, has been a great success for entrepreneur Shayne McQuade. It’s also an interesting case study in how to launch and market a sustainable product.
Note – I did a little work for the Voltaic a while ago (hence the sponsorship banner on 3p), but this success story is inspiring enough to merit a few words from the founder:
On marketing and publicity:
I think there is a tremendous public and media interest in sustainable products. This partially accounts for the enormous media interest we have had since we launched this product last December. With no marketing budget and no PR we have managed to get coverage on: CNN, NY1, Discovery Channel, BBC, ABC, NBC, FHM, T3, Stuff, Cargo, Organic Style, Plenty, Fortune, Fast Company, The Guardian, US News and World Report and the list goes on.
There is another story here, which is the power of the blogs. This was all sparked by one posting on Treehugger.com, which was picked up by Cool Hunting and Gizmodo. The blogs are word of mouth marketing at internet scale. They can make, and break a product. Check out the Fortune article and ABC radio story on our site.
On making solar attractive:
In the case of the Voltaic solar backpack I think the design challenge was to use solar power in a practical and attractive way. When you think about it there are very few examples of solar panels being used as a design element. The portability of solar power had also not been fully leveraged. Previous ‘portable’ solar chargers were designed to be carried and set up somewhere, not to work as they were moved around.
On the asthetics of sustainability:
I think our experience reflects a broader challenge for sustainable product development, that is doing it in a way that does not compromise function or aesthetics (and preferably enhances both). I think for many product categories, achieving that is key to mainstream adoption.