Cross-post: Clean Tech Hype Cycle

28 July 2008

As followers of H&K’s tech practice will know, Joshua Reynolds was recently promoted to Global Technology Practice Director. At the start of the month, he published the following short article on the Hype Cycle that we have produced for clean technology, largely because it didn’t already exist. Clean tech is an area that is extremely important to H&K and you can expect to see much more posted in the coming months as we demonstrate our credentials.

Given the attention that Carter and others have given to Hype Cycles in the not too distant past, it seems very appropriate to cross-post Josh’s article on ARcade.

I plan to run an afternoon/evening session for clients and friends of H&K shortly that focuses on Hype Cycles, why they are important, what you can do with them and how you can influence them. Contact me for further information.

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Clean tech is the latest boom industry. Global investments in clean energy are conservatively estimated at US$148 billion in 2007, with year-on-year growth rates of 60%. But this entrepreneurial frenzy brings with it a commensurate degree of hype. And it is hype—and how we navigate it—that determines long-term winners from losers.

Fortunately, we have a diagnostic tool that helps us predict waves of hype, separate legitimate innovation from fads, and enable us to become the voice of reason in a crowded and confused public dialogue.

Years ago, international technology research firm Gartner developed something they called the Hype Cycle. It plotted various technologies from various sectors along a market maturation curve that was divided into five sections:

  • Technology triggers were those innovations that had been invented but not yet broadly marketed—or tested.
  • Innovations at the peak of inflated expectations are those that are broadly publicized but often misunderstood as people rush to deploy them without first understanding their limitations.
  • In the trough of disillusionment, as people gradually realize that new innovations don’t live up to their over-hyped reputations, the industry goes through a period of general disappointment.
  • At the slope of enlightenment, wiser heads prevail and realize ways to achieve meaningful ROI from their investments with minor modifications in deployment.
  • And finally, a technology reaches a point where it has become so ubiquitous all the risk is gone, as is all the innovation. This is the plateau of productivity.

Originally, Gartner meant for this tool to help its clients determine levels of risk associated with buying or investing in specific technologies. And as Hill & Knowlton has discovered, this tool can be easily adapted to construct (and de-construct) marketing strategies not only for new technologies, but for other sectors, as well—including clean tech. Gartner has not yet produced an official clean tech hype cycle. But based on our own research and analysis, we have constructed a rudimentary one of our own (see illustration), which remains a work in progress.

Technology Trigger: Here we tell “next big thing” stories. Even if we don’t sell technologies in this phase, we make industry predictions about the long-term impact of new developments on mature markets. And we offer counsel on how to avoid becoming obsolete in the wake of fresh innovations. In the world of clean tech, this includes new long-life batteries and energy storage architectures for clean energy such as solar, wind and wave.

Peak of Inflated Expectations: Here we counter industry hype by running “mythbuster” campaigns that challenge commonly held misperceptions. We seed the market with the top five questions to ask your vendors, partners or senior management before investing in this area. And we offer counsel on how to mitigate risks associated with these new fads. In clean tech, commercial grade solar energy is often over -hyped. We can boost our credibility by challenging false assumptions around cost, energy storage and ease of deployment.

Trough of Disillusionment: Here we provide a counterpoint to industry skepticism. We offer counsel on how to achieve ROI from existing investments, and promulgate best practices for deployment. And we can offer expert views on “lessons learned” that position us as the wise ones in a down sector. In clean tech, people are extremely disillusioned with “greenwashing,” which involves a company trying to portray itself as environmentally conscious without accounting for the true environmental impact of its policies.

Slope of Enlightenment: Here we candidly address industry maturity and market consolidation and commoditization. We celebrate customer heroes who had the vision to see the long-term value in a new innovation. And we offer counsel on where the industry goes next. Energy efficient appliances, and intelligent power consumption in hardware and data centers, have long been promoted as good ideas. Now we can share best practices for others to follow.

And at the Plateau of Productivity, where you find things like energy-saving florescent light bulbs, it’s time to find something new to talk about.

In the coming months and years, clean technology will become an increasingly prevalent topic. The space will become crowded with visionaries, industrial giants, and general embellishment. The best way to stand apart in a space like that is to be the voice of reason, know where you are on the hype cycle, and speak accordingly. As we continue to learn more, this hype cycle will continue to evolve—and so will our marketing strategies.

Although Gartner currently only publishes hype cycles for technology, media & entertainment, supply chain and natural resource industries, this hype cycle methodology works just as well for other sectors, too. The clean tech hype cycle is just one example of a home-grown diagnostic tool used to bring immediately applicable insights to a burgeoning market. By putting our clients’ communications into a broader strategic context–regardless of which sector they’re in–we can enhance their thought leadership propgrams and executive profiling. But even more than that, we can anticipate the next big thing–or next big flop–and literally get them “ahead of the curve.”


 

3 Responses to “Cross-post: Clean Tech Hype Cycle”

  1. Lance Winslow

    Indeed, we too have been following the false information and hype of the "Green Tech" trends, it’s amazing. What’s even more interesting so few are able to bring themselves away from the fairytale long enough to see the obvious reality.

  2. ARcade

    Gartner analysts Jackie Fenn and Mark Raskino have written a book on the Hype Cycle , which is the series

  3. sandrar

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

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