The Cleantech Brand Is A Failure If No One Knows What It Means

Invariably, it happens. I’m out at an event with professionals. Maybe it’s a business awards dinner like last week or at a convention. Someone will ask me what I do for a living, and I explain, “I’m a branding and marketing strategist with a focus in the cleantech sector.”

Wait for it…the blank stare and nod.

The question, “What does that mean?” or “Who do you work for” gets asked so regularly, I already have a pat response. “I work for growth-stage companies who are solving issues of water, energy, and waste.”


The Problem Might Be Me…Or Not.

If you’ve read Jay Baer, Sally Hogshead, or Nick Westergaard, they’d tell you the problem was I didn’t fascinate my listener, or I didn’t pique their curiosity enough. Because they didn’t understand my first answer, how could I possibly get them to ask me a follow-up question that would hook them into learning more about me? And I can completely forget about them asking why I chose to do what I do for a living, and how it could help them. And, they would be right.

Unfortunately, I’ve tried those approaches, and I still end up with the same awkward pause in the conversation.


Does SEO Hold The Answer?

This was one of those times when the phrase, “Google knows everything,” had a positive connotation.

When I start working with a new client to build their brand and to expand their communications infrastructure, I invest a significant amount of time in keyword research. These are the powerful words and phrases consumers and businesses use to search for products and ideas. Matching those inquires with commonly used synonyms is the underpinning of much of marketing in the 21st century.

And, lo and behold, there was the answer.


What SEO Says About Cleantech

According to Google’s free keyword forecasting tool, the phrase “cleantech” only gets about 3,000 inquiries across America every month…after being the umbrella term for industries focusing on energy, water, materials, chemicals that are more in harmony with our planet for nearly 20 years. Break “cleantech” up into two words, and the number of inquires drops to 368.

Number of times people in the U.S. search for "cleantech."

Google’s Forecasting Tool Shows How Rarely People Search For “Cleantech.”

Compare that with how people would respond to my job description if I told them I was in the business of “climate solutions,” according to Google.

"Climate Solutions" is a much more commonly searched term

The term “climate solutions” is searched far more often.

Yep, seven times more people searched for that term than “cleantech.” Is it an exact correlation? No.

Could I make it easier for people to understand what I do for a living by telling them, “I help brand climate solutions and tell the stories of companies trying to solve the climate crisis?” Absolutely.

Because people are far more in tune with that phrase, they are far more likely to inquire more about me.


This Is An Endemic Problem In The Cleantech World

By being too clever by half with our language, as the British say, it appears the climate movement has been set back by a generation. The words we use to describe the climate crisis haven’t connected or caught on, which is one of the reasons why the underpinnings have been consistently knocked from under it by those with hostile agendas and profit motives.

How do I know? Let’s turn to the all-too-powerful Google again.

Air pollution has been a common term since the dawn of the industrial age. Is it any surprise more people understand what it is and how they can help reduce it in their own lives?

Air pollution is a more commonly known and searched term than what the climate community has traditionally used.

“Air pollution” is a more commonly known and searched term than what the climate community has traditionally used.

Like my confusing description of my career, the same thing has happened on a macro scale when trying to connect the dots of climate change to the lives of everyday people.

Perhaps we all ought to revisit whether we practice what we preach when we say to the rest of the world, “Think Globally. Act Locally.”


CleanTech Focus