A (Technology) Home Invasion

Best Buy has recently announced that it will be selling several home gadgets that can help homeowners cut their energy consumptions and lower their bills.

A couple of months ago, I looked at a startup in this space; ThinkEco makes smart modlets that can both track and control energy consumption in the home or office. Their product comes bundles with a wireless USB transmitter and software that generates handy graphs. 

In its initial marketing strategy, ThinkEco hoped to tackle the corporate customers first. It wanted to focus on the offices in NYC who were most guilty of around-the-clock energy consumption and who had the most to gain from cost savings of scale. Plus, it was an easy sell in terms of boosting PR. ThinkEco also formed partnerships with large energy companies, such as ConEdison and Tendril.

This approach is markedly different from that of Nest and its thermostat, another product that addresses the same pain point and is also offered at a premium to its peer products. The Nest thermostat launched on 10/24 and has already sold out on their online store. Recently-ordered Nest thermostats will only ship in 2012 due to high demand. 

It would be easy to credit this success to the impressive background of the Nest founders. Or even to the Apple-like esthetic simplicity of the Nest thermostat over the cutesy branding of the ThinkEco modlet. I like to focus instead, however, on the value proposition the two products are offering. 

While the ThinkEco modlet is marketed to our rational side (logos*) by emphasizing the cost-savings and eco-friendly nature of the device, the Nest thermostat plays mainly to our emotional side (pathos*). ThinkEco modlet’s first press release is focused on the amount of consumption reduction and the corporate stamp of approval for the product. Jun Shimada, President & CEO of ThinkEco, is quoted on the energy efficiency and cost savings aspect of the modlet. The founder of Nest, Tony Fadell, forgoes the formal press release and instead makes the announcement with a personal blog post. He writes about introducing the Nest thermostat to his friends and how it fits into the day-to-day routine of a typical household. Where ThinkEco has failed to make a connection with the average consumer, Nest has approached the product from a homeowner’s point of view. The difference boils down to this: while ThinkEco makes an interesting argument, Nest has gone a step further to make a compelling one. 

Both the Nest thermostat and the ThinkEco modlet are available through Best Buy’s Home Energy portal. As an environmentally-conscious person, I’m a huge fan of both products and I’m excited to see their mainstream adoption. It’s about time technology invaded our households to make them more efficient, and with a company named Nest, I can only hope they have a couple more household gadgets in their pipeline. 

*Apologies for the use of Ancient Greek in this post. You can thank the Columbia Core for that. 

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