Posts Tagged conversation marketing

Lessons From a Dry Lake Bed

Sail Magazine has just published an interesting article on an experimental wind-powered vehicle that does its job amazingly well. And is also extremely ugly.

Background: “Common wisdom” shows us that a sailing vessel, when traveling directly downwind, can only move as fast as the wind that powers it. A well-designed sailboat, or landsailer, or iceboat, can move significantly faster than the wind on other courses, but not directly downwind.

So a bunch of really smart folks began debating in online forums about whether it would be possible to design a craft that could sail downwind faster than the wind blows. And while the debate was raging, some of them actually went out and built the thing. They thought it might go perhaps twice as fast as the wind.

In March, at the annual meet of the North American Land Sailing Association, on the flats of Ivanpah Dry Lake, near Primm, Nevada, it achieved 2.5 times the wind speed. The team is now shooting for three times the wind speed. They’re sponsored by Joby Energy, which develops airborne wind turbines, and by Google, which does everything.

So the thing works. And it is insanely ugly.

Lessons learned:

  • Sometimes, what we all think to be true, isn’t.
  • Really smart people are all around us. So are really obnoxious people. People who can get their ideas across without being obnoxious get listened to.
  • There’s a big difference between talking and doing.
  • Anybody can shoot off their mouth on the internet. Sometimes they also shoot off their foot.
  • Form-follows-function is nice. Purpose-built is nice. Ugly machines are still ugly.

Here’s a couple of samples of some of the debate that got this whole thing going. It gets a bit uncivilized in places:

http://talkrational.org/showthread.php?p=858049

http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?p=2656451

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Building Brand Enthusiasts

Yesterday, Chrysler demonstrated eight factory customized Jeep and Dodge vehicles at the 44th annual Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah. Five of the trucks are one-off hand-built concept cars that show what might be possible. The other three are modified production vehicles designed to showcase select add-on parts. All of them are very cool and show some unique thinking.

What’s most interesting to me is how these vehicles were introduced. Chrysler had a big event, invited a bunch of media folk, and sent out press releases. Standard procedure. But backcountry vehicle enthusiasts have known about these trucks for some time. More importantly, they’ve also been talking about them. Why? Because Chrysler started the conversation and gave its fans the tools to carry it forward.

Rumors and occasionally images of the vehicles began to surface weeks before the official launch event. A couple of weeks ago, Chrysler released some concept sketches of some of the vehicles. These began to circulate and appear on blogs and in online forums and got folks talking about what might actually show up at Moab. A day later we saw some spy photos of one of the trucks, a Ram Power Wagon concept, out on the public roads in Michigan. The volume of the conversations in the forums went up several notches.

On March 27, several days before the official launch, the JP Magazine blog published pictures of a till-then secret Chrysler concept truck. The photos were taken in a dark parking lot and delivered more of an impression than any real details. But the copy mentioned some technical information that could not have been seen just by looking at the truck. The forums were filled with talk about this secret new truck.

Of course other blogs and media outlets picked up the story and it began to gain a lot of momentum.  For the next couple of days JP Magazine continued to release more dark teaser photos of additional Chrysler concept trucks saying things like, “Yet another Jeep we weren’t supposed to see ’till Wednesday.” The title of that blog post was “Mopar Project Left in Parking Lot.”

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