Turning the Tide: How a Smart Motors Company Uses Storytelling
Look around the room right now. How many motors do you think there are? The one in the overhead fan or air conditioning unit, in the computer, in the smartphone, in the refrigerator, in your electric toothbrush. Worldwide, “motors use most of the world’s electricity,” says Eric Meyerson, VP of Brand and Marketing Communications for Turntide Technologies. And most motors use a design patented in the 19th century by Nicola Tesla, which hasn’t been much improved on. This leads to inefficiencies and waste.
That’s where Turntide sees an opportunity to save nearly everyone money by conserving energy. Their smart-motors technologies have been installed in major department stores, manufacturing plants, electric vehicles, and on farms. Convincing consumers that their motors are the right move should be easy—you’ll save money and help the environment, after all—but sometimes business leaders need a little nudge. That’s when Turntide’s clever brand positioning and Meyerson’s knack for anecdotes and storytelling come to the rescue.
We spoke with Meyerson about Turntide’s successful storytelling strategies.
01. What’s the one thing that Turntide can show and tell a potential customer that usually makes them a convert?
We're not in the energy business, but for any company to achieve net zero requires them to use less energy. The good news is that investing in energy efficiency has shown quick payback for years, going back to companies upgrading their lights to LEDs in the 2010s. Our solutions for buildings and farms so drastically reduce energy waste, that they pay for themselves in less than 4 years, which is a tremendously high ROI.
This was already the case before the Russian invasion of Ukraine threw global energy markets into chaos. Every company and every household in the world are dealing with much higher energy prices in 2022. Without intending it, Vladimir Putin has just created a new, urgent financial incentive for companies to look hard at how they use and waste energy.
So a few years ago sustainability was a charitable act by a business. I pay for the upgrade, the world benefits. Maybe I get some PR value from it. But now it's just a no-brainer business decision. I pay for it, I financially benefit, too. No matter whether you're a climate doomsayer or a climate denier, you pay the same price per kilowatt. Everyone has a reason to use less.
"So a few years ago sustainability was a charitable act by a business. I pay for the upgrade, the world benefits. Maybe I get some PR value from it. But now it's just a no-brainer business decision. I pay for it, I financially benefit, too."
02. How do you overcome industry and scientific jargon when telling your story to the public or potential new customers?
Sustainability isn't any different from any other industry. We need to understand our audiences, and customize our language for those audiences.
In a B2B business like ours, we're never selling to one person. We're always selling to a cross-functional set of people who can influence the purchase decision at every phase. We need to clearly communicate the benefits of our solution to people at each phase, using language each person understands.
When we're speaking with the public, words like “electrification,” “decarbonization,” and “sustainable operations” are challenging to say and hard to interpret. So we ground our broad communications in ideas and words that everyone understands: wasting less energy; spending less money; reducing pollution; energy security; switching from gasoline to electric. We give our products simple names like Smart Motor System and Turntide for Buildings.
03. What are the difficulties you encountered when talking about Turntide’s sustainability story? What are some important ways you were able to overcome them?
We have a couple challenges here. The biggest is that most people's sustainability expertise generally begins and ends with "fossil fuels bad, renewables good." They may not know that the world can't build enough renewables to meet all our energy needs, unless we also slash consumption. They may think that reducing consumption means conservation, which means personal compromises.
What this means is that we have to start every conversation with some basic facts. If you watch any of our content for the general public, we always establish that motors use most of the world's electricity, and that most of those motors are based on a 19th-century design that wastes a lot of energy. If we replaced all the world's motors with efficient, intelligent motor systems, we could reduce pollution enough to be equivalent to adding seven new Amazon rainforests to the world. That helps people understand the enormity of the opportunity here, and it gets people on our side.
04. What types of media are most successful in marketing your products? How do you use different media to speak to different audiences?
Video is how we most effectively reach all our audiences. I ran advertiser marketing at YouTube in the early 2010s, when big brands were still reluctant to invest in online video because of outmoded perceptions of "premium content" and "brand adjacency." Meanwhile, upstart brands saw that online video had a lot of advantages over TV and other analog-era mediums, and they built their brands with younger audiences for a fraction of the price of a TV campaign.
Because we're offering high-impact solutions for complicated problems, we really have to show, not tell. So no matter whether we're speaking to broad audiences, talent, or prospective partners or customers, video is how we bring to life our solutions and demonstrate their benefits. We use video everywhere.
But it's not our only medium. Some topics–like rare earth minerals or technical explainers–require text and graphics, and we try to assure that the medium fits the story we're trying to tell.
05. What has been one of your most innovative storytelling campaigns to date?
We're about to launch a new multimedia content series called Net Zero Action Heroes, which includes podcast, video, and text formats. We're interviewing influential people whose decisions impact emissions at scale, and therefore the health of the planet. If humanity can save the planet from the worst of climate change, it will be because these people transformed the systems generating most of the emissions.
The icing on the Net Zero Action Heroes cake is a series of superhero cartoon shorts we're producing. It's going to feel like the behavioral lessons you'd see at the end of after-school cartoons, where the hero would swoop in and help a kid make a good decision. In this series, a child will be on the cusp of deciding whether to do something good for the environment. But we're going to turn this scenario on its head: when the superhero shows up, they'll inform the kid that their individual consumer decision is ultimately insignificant. The hero shows the child that the real impact will happen with companies and governments transforming the systems that bring goods to market. The kid is both shocked by this revelation, and also inspired to become a Net Zero Action Hero themselves.
We tell stories that matter
For over 20 years, Magnet’s mission has been to tell stories that matter so that we live in a more empathetic and just world. We intentionally pursue this mission by:
Having our teams and work represent the broader culture
Choosing projects that have positive societal impacts
Creating a community of thought sharing and leadership
Let us know what you want to know!