Brand Spotlight: BioLite Looks to Light the World
NYC Energy Start-up Wants to Lead Renewable Energy Revolution
Bill Gates once said, “Almost every way we make electricity today… puts out CO2. And so, what we’re going to have to do at a global scale is create a new system… we need energy miracles.” BioLite is positioning itself to be that miracle and in a place you’d least expect: East Africa.
BioLite, a New York City start-up, develops and manufactures affordable, durable off-grid energy products designed to cook, charge, and light households by harnessing surrounding energy. In March, they released the documentary Connecting The Watts, which told of recent efforts in Africa.
Telling the story of a brand using the documentary format
“A project over two years in the making,” wrote Jonathan Cedar, BioLite CEO, in a press release, “each short follows the power of energy through a different lens… [and] a broader picture emerges of a micro-revolution of practical solutions.”
It was an empowering series, not just on a small scale—but on a global scale too.
The documentary had three chapters. First was Grid in the Sky, the story of an East African farmer and how cell phone usage jump-started the use of solar micro-grids in villages. Second was Forest for the Trees, which documented Kenya’s staggering loss of forest and how traditional weather forecasters and Kenyan meteorologists empowered locals despite climate change. Finally, the series ended with Mobile Money, a piece about the rise of cell phone-based currency in East Africa and how it is outpacing the country’s electrification, resulting in an energy paradox.
Each chapter was a brisk, effective five minutes and had wonderful, sharp cinematography that captured the beauty of the African landscape, yet un-abashedly put us in the poverty that plagues the region. Not only was it an excellent documentary, but also ingenious advertising.
Focusing on how the problem/solution impacts the individual
The energy crisis is a global issue that affects all of us. However, there are those who disregard it. So how does BioLite—which is about eco-safe, renewable energy—market to a mass audience where half of the people are not on their side? The answer: The individual. Tackle a global problem by documenting individuals coping with it.
Each short had a subject that used BioLite products for his or her own need—from a woman in need of security, a farmer knowing when to harvest, to a restaurateur who wanted reliable phone charging means to keep his business afloat. Companies are not relatable, but a person is. By focusing on the individual and how he or she dealt with their dilemma, BioLite exposed a global issue and how their products can be the solution.
Grid in the Sky featured their micro-solar grids; Forest for the Trees showcased their clean cook stoves; and Mobile Money revealed how BioLite products act as energy sources (stoves can charge a phone and lights can double as PayGo systems). Marketing works when it is relatable. When it is relatable, the audience see themselves. When they see themselves, they want to benefit themselves.
Connecting people with the power & purpose of their mission
Jonathan Cedar & Co. wanted audiences to walk away from Connecting the Watts knowing BioLite believes:
(1) everyone deserves clean, renewable energy;
(2) that such energy empowers the individual;
(3) BioLite is the energy revolution and its products are the means by which it can be accomplished.
By telling stories of everyday people using their products in the direst of circumstances and most impoverished places on earth, BioLite not only made a good documentary-ad hybrid, but also left little to no room to discredit their claim.