“I’d Like to Drive a Hybrid Car” Hyundai Commercial Debunks Stereotypes

[Note: This post was originally featured on Gas2]

Hybrid cars should have much higher sales in the U.S. They’re a compromise between the conscious knowledge that fossil fuel engines hurt the environment and the subconscious stress produced by range anxiety. So, why aren’t more people buying hybrid cars?

Maybe it’s because of misinformation campaigns from fossil fuel-funded news outlets like Breitbart, which states that, “Apart from being poky and tinny and smug and expensive and utterly useless for long distances, electric cars are also terrible for health and the environment.”


Whew! There is so much research out there to contradict these Breitbart fallacies. Here are some stories that demonstrate how foolish the Breitbart claims are. (Hang your cursor over the explanations.)

The popularity of hybrids is growing annually, and they have the potential to unseat gasoline as the fuel for our cars, which scares the bejesus out of oil companies.

Yet, let’s acknowledge a fact about consumerism: people tend to buy items that are highly marketed. Since U.S. automakers have devoted nearly nothing to advertise any type of electric vehicle, their appeal remains relatively low in the U.S.

That is, until now. The folks over at Hyundai have a new commercial out on the television airwaves right now that pitches the 2017 Ioniq, a hybrid vehicle. The commercial is an overt attempt to debunk stereotypes of a hybrid driver. Instead of hiding behind research data, Hyundai has created a marketing message that explicitly addresses the average U.S. person’s concerns about driving a hybrid car. It’s funny, self-deprecating, and very effective.

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Misinformation Site, Breitbart Offers Nod to Tesla’s Elon Musk; What Purposes Do Musk’s Tweets Serve?

[Note: This post was originally featured on Teslarati]

Breitbart News Network featured a story recently on its website called “Elon Musk’s Tesla Stock Up $2 Billion Since Joining Trump’s Team.” The story argues that, as a result of recent Tesla stock increases, Musk owes allegiance to Donald Trump. Attention from the far-right Breitbart website, which is the most viewed U.S. conservative news, opinion, and commentary source in the U.S., comes at a time in which Elon Musk’s reputation has been questioned by his once-loyal following.


Why is the Breitbart story such bad timing for Musk?

Breitbart is known as the most significant misinformation site on the Internet. Privileging one set of representations over another, discourses like those typical within the Breitbart publication tend to claim the status of truth. Their discourses, which work as truth statements, make it difficult for many readers to identify how reality is shaped. Breitbart’s executive chairman, Steve Bannon, aligned the site so specifically toward a Trump vision of the world during the 2016 Presidential election that employees began to raise concerns about it being little more than a “fan club” for Trump.

Moreover, the right-wing outlet has been accused by some as being a hate site.  Breitbart engages in coordinated plans to bring their particular brand of intolerance to the political realm in because their style of propaganda works well. Linked to relations of power, the Breitbart stories tend to be constructed and reinforced by those in professional positions like Bannon who hold a particular authority and, thus, create knowledge about certain subjects like climate change, health care, and trade.

In the article about Elon Musk this week, Breitbart referred to individuals who seek equality for all as “the left’s social justice warriors” and described Twitter reactions to Musk’s collaboration with Trump as “vicious colorful language that cannot be reported.” The implication here is that Musk followers are immoral, disreputable people whose language is so coarse that it is would clearly offend the enlightened Breitbart readership.

Yes, this was a week in which the Tesla Motors, Inc. CEO found himself defending his position on Trump’s executive order that limits immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Musk has become a target of malaise due to his role on Trump’s manufacturing council. Disgruntled fans tweeted about how Musk could design a Mars mission but fail to retract a “BS Muslim ban;” what ownership of the competitor’s Chevy Volt would be like; and, his position on AG Sally Yates’ dismissal over the immigration issue. Some tweets, on the other hand, also supported Musk and implored him “to make a positive impact.”

Breitbart recounted that Musk’s attendance on “an official White House committee” (i.e. the Strategic and Policy Forum) on January 27 generated controversy. Breitbart characterized the comments as “mournful,” which cast Musk as leader of a losing battle to limit anthropogenic climate change through decentralized energy, especially the remarkable Tesla electric vehicle line. Breitbart noted Musk’s reply,  which included, “It’s getting me down. I’m just trying to make a positive contribution & hope good comes of it.” Interestingly, the publication allowed Musk’s empathy and altruism to shine through the otherwise negative narrative.

Breitbart also added in the article that, “when it comes to U.S. employment and manufacturing, Musk’s companies are near or at the top as the fastest-growing players.” It seems clear from this statement that the Trump administration recognizes the power that Elon Musk has to create U.S. jobs and further the country’s emergence from the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Breitbart’s care in recognizing Musk’s wherewithal suggests that the Trump administration is looking down the GNP road and wants to keep Musk close by, regardless of Musk’s opposite political beliefs and progressive values, just in case.

Musk’s use of Twitter to inform, educate, and empower

Twitter can be a site where democracy, messy as it can be, is at its best. Twitter’s multiple viewpoints allow for rich, if sometimes uncomfortable discourse. Musk understands this and engages in conversations with the public as a means of communication, education, and empowerment. For example, he wanted his followers to be intimately knowledgeable with the immigration order and to let him know “specific amendments,” which he would then bring to the advisory council to seek “consensus & present to President” Trump.

Indeed, Musk asked his followers to read “the source material” of the immigration ban; it is a way to infuse voices of reason and expertise rather than emotion and hyperbole into the conversation. That request, in turn, fostered a conversation about the importance of reading original documents and reports, rather than relying on tertiary sources for deconstruction and explanation. It was a lesson that many could have learned during the 2016 Presidential campaign, which was rife with fake news.

Rather than the “Trump / Musk charm offensive” that Breitbart suggests is the reason for Tesla’s rising stock prices, perhaps we should look to the Trump effect as just one of multiple reasons why Tesla is on the rise. The acquisition of Solar/City, the announcement of solar roof tiles, the 2017 production of the new Model 3, production at the Nevada Gigafactory, SpaceX series of successes… the list of recent accomplishments is quite long. Investors like to back a winner, and, even if Musk must hold his nose as he negotiates with Donald Trump and his advisers, the value of Tesla will continue to be robust.

It’s just not the White House that so many of us, Musk included, envisioned just a few months ago. And Breitbart’s entry to the field is scary enough for many of us to take notice. Be strong, Elon; you’re going to need tenacity to stay a step ahead. We know you’ll probably have to step up more than you originally anticipated when you agreed to serve. Thanks for taking on this huge responsibility on behalf of U.S. progressives.

Photo credit: Goat4421 via Foter.com / CC BY-SA


Branding Opportunities around the Holidays: Tesla and Radio Flyer

A child looks up wide-eyed as the holiday tree twinkles. “Ooh! A Tesla! My own Tesla!” she cries out, a smile spread wide across her face.

It’s a scene that’s been played out, in one form or another, for generations. This year’s holiday dream-come-true is the Tesla Radio Flyer Model S Electric Kids Car. In another generation long ago, it was the No. 4 Liberty Coaster — the first in the long line of historic Radio Flyer wagons to come from an immigrant named Antonio Pasin.

There’s another immigrant whose skills, like Pasin, brought him to the United States. Elon Musk, too, sought the refuge of new beginnings. After being bullied as a school child in Pretoria, South Africa, Musk attended college in Canada before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania in the U.S. Musk has been the driving force behind Tesla Motors, Inc., one of the most innovative technology companies of the 21st century, and has revolutionized how we think about transportation.


With a keen business sense, Musk knows that Tesla should be looking to the next generation of U.S. citizens in the same ways that other companies seek out branding opportunities. Branding, which is the marketing practice of creating a recognizable name that holds deeper symbolic meaning, identifies and differentiates a product from others in its line. And branding has the capacity to instill positive images of Tesla for generations to come through a sense of nostalgia.

Enter the Tesla Radio Flyer Model S Electric Kids Car.

Robert Pasin, a grandson of founder Antonio Pasin, is “chief wagon officer” for Radio Flyer and has run the company since 1997. He spoke about the connection between certain classic or nostalgic items from our childhoods and their associated branding. “People love them,” he admitted readily, while also acknowledging that a company is “always going to be innovating.” The idea of Tesla in the Radio Flyer business family also helped to solve some of the electric generating problems that the company had encountered.

“When we started looking at the category of battery-operated ride-ons, one of the main pain points consumers would talk about is whenever the kid wanted to ride the car, the battery was dead. Our team thought they could solve it with a lithium-ion battery, but it’s really expensive. So if we were going to do lithium-ion, we should partner with Tesla, because they have the hottest, coolest electric car on the planet. We pitched it to Tesla about three years ago.”

According to Tesla, “Every Tesla Model S for Kids is a battery powered ride on that comes equipped with high-end features to recreate the ultimate Tesla experience.” Like the Radio Flyer brand itself, the Tesla for Kids car has the potential to become an American icon.

For 98 years, Radio Flyer toys have sent children on countless voyages of fantasy. With beauty, simplicity, and standards of safety, Radio Flyer toys have encouraged adventure and discovery; they’ve helped to capture the wonders of youth. In the same way that the Radio Flyer is rediscovered with each new generation, so, too, can the Tesla become part of a nostalgia of the timeless symbol of childhood freedom.

Moreover, Tesla will be adding credibility from a parent’s point of view with the Tesla Radio Flyer Model S Electric Kids Car. Just like the full size Tesla, parents can choose the paint color, performance, accessories, and personalization. Pasin says of their pitch to Tesla, “They didn’t bat an eye at Radio Flyer, but it did take awhile to sign the deal and convince (Tesla) it was a good thing to do.”

Pasin thinks his grandfather would like the Tesla within their product line. “One of his nicknames was ‘Little Ford,’” Pasin remembers. “The idea was he did for wagons what Ford did for cars. He was really interested in the latest and greatest products; he was not a nostalgic person at all. Partnering with Tesla, he would have thought was just awesome.”

And so will lots of children this holiday season when they discover a Tesla under the tree.

[A different version of this article appeared on Teslarati.]

Photo credit: Tesla

Seven Techniques that Donald Trump Uses to Control the Media

[Note: This post was originally featured on PlanetSave]

At the time of our nation’s inception, the Founders supported an open, free exchange of ideas as a necessary ingredient for the survival of a representative democracy. As Benjamin Franklin proclaimed, “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” Freedoms of speech and press in the First Amendment, according to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black are essential to the U.S. constitution. “The Framers knew that free speech is the friend of change and revolution. But they also knew that it is always the deadliest enemy of tyranny.” Censorship is used to stop truths or ideas from emerging, to prevent the ability to draw attention to powerful people or governments, or to undermine ideology. President-elect Donald Trump understands the power of a free and independent press, according to Robert Reich, and does what all tyrants do: he tries to “squelch it.”


Reich, the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has outlined seven techniques that Donald Trump has used to undermine the power of the press. Reich calls these strategies “worrying.”

1. Berate the media: Trump “summoned” two-dozen TV news anchors and executives and berated them for their election coverage.

According to Vanity Fair, sources told the New York Post that Trump, in a dressing-down, characterized the assembled media execs as a “fucking firing squad,” with the president-elect attacking CNN in particular. “Trump kept saying, ‘We’re in a room of liars, the deceitful dishonest media who got it all wrong,’ ” the source said.  Reich related how another person who attended the meeting said Trump “truly doesn’t seem to understand the First Amendment. He thinks we are supposed to say what he says and that’s it.”

2. Blacklist critical media: Trump’s Facebook page read that the Washington Post was “phony and dishonest” and later revoked their press credentials.

Post Executive Editor Martin Baron said, “Donald Trump’s decision to revoke The Washington Post’s press credentials is nothing less than a repudiation of the role of a free and independent press. When coverage doesn’t correspond to what the candidate wants it to be, then a news organization is banished.” CNN Money has the Trump Blacklist of media outlets, which includes Huffington Post, Politico, and Buzzfeed.

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Using Digital Media Wisely in Cleantech

Cleantech marketing can take a good product or service and make it recognizable, familiar, and comfortable for consumers. This is generally known as branding, in which a company develops and promotes an idea that captures and transmits the essential raison d’etre of their business model. Today, in the era of our complex digital world, branding should be embedded across multiple media but contain consistent messaging. Appropriate digital media marketing can create a whole picture of the consumer cleantech experience you provide without relying on the traditional 30-second sound bite.



Communication possibilities within digital media spaces require new cleantech marketing structures that address branding through concise messaging and a keen understanding of your intended audience.

Enrich your network of contacts through digital platforms

Networking involves creating win-win situations with other people by being helped and helping others. Your cleantech company can establish a circle of influence that encompasses other people who are also in the cleantech industry, the technologists who are driving cleantech behind the scenes, existing customers who may help your cleantech company to grow, and others.

Yes, like many businesses, you’ll need to join like-minded others at conferences, cocktail parties, and community events. You’ll extend the buzz you create at these events, however, if you can share clever and catchy digital platforms where your message is featured. Bring your iPad! Your digital presence can make all the difference in the way you are perceived by potential customers and investors— for positive or negative effect.


When designing your cleantech business website architecture, infuse lots of white space and intuitive navigation. Design should be consistent with style expectations of your audience. The contemporary, sleek, minimalist look that appeals to 25-40 year olds, for example, looks easy to create but is a consequence of careful planning and design. Get rid of the visual pollution.

Moreover, don’t assume your audience knows about your cleantech industry. Use your cleantech business website to narrate specifically and succinctly who you are, what you do, and how your cleantech business will benefit the consumer or investor. Make sure the copy defines terms and concepts in ways that are understandable. Pay attention to how images and design elements reinforce the points you are trying to make.

Describe what you do in a concisely worded slogan that is then explained in detail afterward through floating text boxes. Focus on function over flowery language, please. Emphasize how your customers save money, are more efficient, and belong to a sustainable community when they use your products or services.

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Elon Musk Becomes the Latest Target of Fake News

[Note: This post was originally featured on PlanetSave]

A mixture of Trump insiders, Alt-Right supporters, the fossil fuel industry, and climate change doubters have combined forces to create and propagate fake news about Elon Musk with the intent of undermining his influence in the automotive and energy sectors. Attacks on Musk and his companies have intensified since the Electoral College results were announced after the November 8 election and a surprise win by Donald Trump returns the Republican party to the White House.

fake news

Florida-based fact-checking outlet PolitiFact found that, of a set of 158 things Mr Trump said during his campaign, 78 per cent were false.

Musk inspires strong admiration for his industry-disrupting companies: Tesla, SolarCity, and Space Exploration Technologies (i.e. SpaceX). Each has been instrumental in fostering a significant shift in the way that consumers think about transportation and energy sources. The fake news attack on him is part of what many people fail to fully acknowledge: echo chambers — spaces in which ideas, information and beliefs are enforced through repetition and outside or opposing views are unable to penetrate — have a way of turning bad information into facts.

Indeed, some of these fake articles have been written by fake persons. An entirely falsified article titled “Elon Musk Continues to Blow Up Taxpayer Money With Falcon 9” was tagged with author, Shepard Stewart. Earlier the same week, Stewart had written “Here’s How Elon Musk Stole $5 Billion in Taxpayer Dollars.”

“Definitely a fake,” says Gavin Wax, editor-in-chief of the Liberty Conservative. That publication took down the article, as did the Libertarian Republic. Only recently did The Federalist site remove authorship information about Stewart from its website.

Sam Jaffe, managing director of Cairn Energy Research Advisors, says there are several reasons that Musk has become a fake news target. One is that whoever is behind the attacks fears Musk could enter U.S. politics. “There’s a portion of the political spectrum that is scared to death of Musk as politician. They see him as a threat. They’re starting that process.”

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Budweiser’s “Not Backing Down” Ad: Corporate and Political Parallels

[Note: This article was originally published on PlanetSave by Carolyn Fortuna.]

In a divisive year in which the U.S. Presidential and multiple Congressional seats are uncertain, candidates have drawn upon large pools of corporate support to fund campaigns. The messages within the commercials we see during our favorite screen shows contain many of the same themes that have emerged in the 2016 elections. Research-grounded climate change continues to divide political parties, and it scares big corporations who produce the largest carbon footprint of all. The messages of campaigns and corporate products have a significant common element: they use embedded messages to divide their audiences into groups. That division reinforces the wishes of corporate sponsors, who seek to maintain their power and influence, regardless of the effect on society and our world.


Budweiser, that “King of Beers,” has been strategically advertising its products since 1852 when salespeople provided beer trays for taverns. Throughout its long history, Budweiser has reflected the times through specific social messages that connected beer drinkers with its products. That advertising expertise is evident in a 2016 Budweiser commercial which recently aired during the World Series.

As we analyze this commercial, we not only see the marvel and complexity of marketing; we see how international corporations embed messages within their texts to perpetuate systems, institutions, and structures that privilege some and diminish others, such as those of us in the world of sustainable living, who threaten the status quo. This is often referred to hegemony at work.

The commercial is titled “Budweiser’s Not Backing Down.” Iconography of large scale brewing machinery, hands of hard-working employees, people drinking Budweiser hungrily, bands, athletes, dancers, and the ubiquitous Budweiser Clydesdales appear in a montage. The overt theme is that Budweiser will not allow craft beers to surpass it in popularity, and it places this theme within the idea that Budweiser is not for everyone, but this Bud’s for you.

The commercial is divided into sections, and each section has a marker phrase that encapsulates the message within that section. Let’s look at these sections and deconstruct how Budweiser moves beyond a superficial theme about product competition to see how it has Othered certain individuals and groups within society. Sustainability initiatives, by definition, fall into these Othered categories.


Budweiser’s message: The Clydesdales are the biggest and most formidable of all horses. If you want to be on the side of power and dominance, stick with us at the Budweiser Corporation. We’re on the side of Big Horses and Big Business.

Oppositional reading: Budweiser — and other international corporations — can exert power in ways you haven’t even imagined. Don’t even think about siding with the little guy, um, I mean, horse, or you’ll regret it.


Budweiser’s message: Budweiser is a full-time, established brewery with over 150 years of experience. Why would you want to choose a craft beer to drink when its makers are little more than homebrewing hobbyists? The 3,500+ craft breweries in the world comprise only about 12% of the market, although Anheuser’s U.S. sales have declined for the third time in four years.

Oppositional reading: Craft breweries and other innovative startups are slowly yet incrementally gaining a market share of a huge and formerly closed industry. If craft breweries can do it, what’s next? Vegan restaurants? Almond milk in every refrigerator? Cleantech startups?

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