What does Marketing have to do with Nuclear Fusion?

At a recent conference run by WPP, I had the unexpected opportunity to lead a discussion on fusion and its relationship to marketing. A strange topic, perhaps, but the discussion was fertile and enlightening. I must thank those in the audience- thank them profusely- for their intelligence, awareness, and curiosity. A few years ago, such a discussion in such a venue would have been impossible. It is therefore encouraging to see fusion make the grade as a topic of interest even at a conference focused on other things.

As we framed the subject, fusion and marketing intersect in four crucial ways-

  1. Creating interest for investment.
  2. Generating palatability amongst the populace for fusion at scale.
  3. Reducing fusion marketing hype.
  4. Developing a digestible category and naming conventions for the industry.

A small note on each-

Investor interest– in the absence of a sensible-if-dreamy narrative about what a world of abundant, clean energy could look like, no investors would be interested in funding fusion research, development, and operations. To maintain interest, even through troughs, fusion firms must continue to communicate and frame their excitement. That is the role of marketers.

Palatability– research has indicated that fusion-at-scale will not be popular because of the overhang of negative “nuclear energy” stories in the past- like Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima. In addition, there is very little awareness of fusion’s “lack of” waste as compared to fission’s.  Lastly, there is the conflation of the horrors of nuclear weapons and civilian nuclear power generation. Fusioneers and fusion marketers must collectively launch an education campaign to help allay the fears about anything “nuclear.”

Less hype-There is a fine line between the sort of hype necessary to generate investor and customer interest and the sort of hype that creates a cycle of over-promise/under-deliver that leads to a jaded view of the industry. Already, fusion investors are asking about past declarations that have been unmet.

Category creation– This is the most challenging of the marketing challenges for fusion. For people to latch on and analyze an organization, they need to place it in a category; that is how the human brain works- creating a metaphor that is generalizable to a recognized entity. Put simply, fusion marketers must collectively determine what category will resonate with most with customers, partners, the public, and investors.

As we go down the path, in an accelerated fashion, to Commercially Viable Fusion (CVF), the role of marketing is real. Too much marketing and too much false PR does not help but the right balance will help propel the industry towards its task, which is nothing less than giving the world abundant, clean energy.

Written by Paul Dunay
Paul Dunay is an award-winning B2B marketing expert with more than 20 years’ success in generating demand and creating awareness for leading technology, consumer products, financial services and professional services organizations. Paul is the global vice president of marketing for Maxymiser a leading web optimization firm, and author of four “Dummies” books: Facebook Marketing for Dummies (Wiley 2009), Social Media and the Contact Center for Dummies (Wiley Custom Publishing 2010), Facebook Advertising for Dummies (Wiley 2010) and Facebook Marketing for Dummies 2nd Edition (Wiley 2011). His unique approach to marketing has led to recognition of Paul as a BtoB Magazine Top 25 B2B Marketer of the Year for 2010 and 2009 and winner of the DemandGen Award for Utilizing Marketing Automation to Fuel Corporate Growth in 2008. He is also a finalist for the last six years in a row in the Marketing Excellence Awards competition of the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA), and is a 2010 and 2005 gold award winner in Driving Demand. Buzz Marketing for Technology, Paul’s blog, has been recognized as a Top 20 Marketing Blog for 2009 and 2008, a Top Blog to Watch for 2009 and 2008, and an Advertising Age Power 150 blog in the “Daily Ranking of Marketing Blogs.” Paul has shared his marketing thought leadership as a featured speaker for the American Marketing Association, BtoB Magazine, CMO Club, MarketingProfs, Marketing Sherpa, Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG), and ITSMA. He has appeared on Fox News, and his articles have been featured in BusinessWeek, The New York Times, BtoB Magazine, MarketingProfs and MarketingSherpa. Paul holds an Executive Certificate in Strategy and Innovation from MIT’s Sloan School of Management and a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Computer Science from Ithaca College.