Solar lighting: unleashing the brand

Solar lighting as a brand is beset by misperceptions. People still overwhelmingly believe the lights break, the batteries don’t last, the whole category is a cheap, Home Depot novelty.

Winning hearts and minds over to solar may be a big challenge. But the reward for breaking down the misperceptions will be huge.

Justin Taverna, co-founder of First Light Technologies, is determined to make First Light that breakthrough brand.

There is the opportunity to build a blue water brand in solar lighting – a brand space that isn’t claimed by other solar competitors, or conventional lights.

I’ve known Justin and his First Light co-founder Sean Bourquin a number of years now. I helped them streamline their brand message then, and I’m helping them figure out how to reach more customers now.

Justin and I sat down a short while ago to talk about the evolution of the solar lighting brand, the a-ha moments he’s had, and the brand space he believes First Light can stake in consumers’ minds.

Free brand audit ad

Here’s the conversation…


In our chat, we touched on a number of points of interest to every brand builder:

  • The early vision behind First Light, and the unclaimed niche the company set out to fill
  • What early adopters like Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas were looking for (spoiler alert – it wasn’t simply ‘a sustainable solution’)
  • The biggest hurdles – both real and perceived – First Light faced
  • The story behind Justin’s catch-phrase taking lights off the leash
  • Where First Light is looking for new brand champions and customers
  • The surprising cost analysis of solar vs conventional lighting
  • How Kennedy Space Centre became more than just another client
  • What it means to build community with solar lighting
  • Why there’s potential for First Light to occupy an emotional high ground, much like Apple.

brand lessons

Justin’s lessons for other brands wanting to break through were simple:

  1. You need to meet the people who are using your product, and see how it impacts them beyond simple practical utility. How do they feel, and how can you break past their rational barriers? This story provides some useful steps.
  2. A brand built on authenticity isn’t something that comes in a flash. You need to spend hours, days, years witnessing your product interacting with customers to fully appreciate the relationship. Here’s another great story on getting to know your customers.
  3. The emotional brand you build may surprise you. You need to be open to less-than-obvious connections to the zeitgeist. Here’s how to look for cultural cues that you might leverage for your brand.
  4. The best way to build a brand you believe in is to see how that brand is part of your own life – how it helps you live better personally.


If you enjoyed this podcast, you should definitely check out this one too.

It provides a useful how-to on finding the unique niche your brand should occupy, and gives some great tips on talking to stakeholders to get their perspective on your brand strengths and weaknesses. In short, it’s an invaluable guide to effective positioning. Enjoy!

If you enjoyed this podcast, please share it with your nearest 5,000 friends by hitting the social share buttons on this page. Sign up for my newsletter. And if you’d like to talk about your own brand, drop me a line at 


Add Comment