59 million saw this video tied-in to sustainability and renewable fuels. Did you?

July 5, 2016 |

BD TS 070616 Neste smOver the past 3 months, 59 million views were recorded for a single video, co-produced by Prince Ea with Neste, with which Neste launched its Pre-Order the Future project relating to sustainability and everyday life.

Without a doubt, and by a country mile, it’s the biggest exposure The Digest has ever heard of for a renewable brand in social media. It’s not unlike the “viewing” impact from a Super Bowl or World Cup spot— and has the potential for even more engagement.

Specifically in this case, next month in Finland, a jury will choose one of the five product or service concepts to be developed into a prototype that will be launched in January 2017 — based on public voting stimulated by the video.

What in any meaningful way does this have anything to do with me?

We live in the Selfie Decade, so it’s a legitimate question. You may be tempted to overlook “marketing stuff”, or hand it over to “the marketing people”.

But first, ask yourself, what are you doing today? Are you interacting with people at any time or in any way. To discuss or advance a partnership, raise finance, advance an idea, test in the lab, communicate with policymakers or other stakeholders, engage a contractor or employee or find with supplier?

If you are doing any of these, you are carrying around your personal or corporate brand with you. The sum of things that people know or feel about you, your products, your technology and your team.

With that, let’s look at the intriguing story of 59 million views — and the backstory.

Pre-Order the Future

The project, Pre-Order the Future, focuses on product and service ideas across five topics: public spaces, entertainment, travel, learning, and mobility.

You see, earlier this year Neste and Prince Ea launched the “Pre-order the Future” project with a Prince Ea viral video, entitled EVERYBODY DIES, BUT NOT EVERYBODY LIVES. When Prince Ea posted the video on his Facebook page it received 30 million hits in under a week. After several weeks the number has grown to 50 million. There’s also 450 000 likes and nearly 90 000 comments posted about the video.

“We started a year ago to think about how we can increase the awareness of renewable raw materials,” recalled Neste’s Kaisa Hietala. “We wanted to do something with the public, not just make a campaign. There have been a couple of examples of this. When Toyota wanted to create the future car, they invited the public to come up with ideas.’

You may not have heard of Prince Ea

He’s Richard Williams, a spoken word artist from St., Louis, widely viewed on YouTube, whose videos touch on politics and sustainability. His website is here.

The five product areas

Future of Mobility. An application called The Greener will give you the opportunity to use your favorite local services both swiftly and sustainably.
Future of Learning. The Subo is a modular learning kit made from renewable materials, which gives the kids an opportunity to learn about renewable chemistry and its relation to biology and physics.
Future of Entertainment. Customizable and EEG controllable headphones with active noise cancelling.
Future of Travel. Renewable Ticket – a way to travel the world with renewable fuels.
Future of Public Space. The GreenPod, developed completely from renewable materials, is a multifunctional space, mixing home and office, private and public.

How did Neste hook up with a YouTube viral video maker?

“We met with Prince Ea at a sustainability conference,” Heitala continued. “It was amazing how much his messages were aligned with ours. We shared similar values about transforming the world, over time. And his approach, in using social media to communicate, appealed to us because we wanted to do something different. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, we did want to reach the less traditional audience.

“We expected that Prince Ea would definitely create a lot of activity when he agreed to join. 40 million times watched now, it demonstrates the power of the social media , and it has been a good learning case for us so far. The 40 million voters in YouTube are impossible to reach in other ways.”

How did it work in terms of making a video and lyrics that fit with the Neste image?

“I think the partner has to really believe in what we are doing. The wording doesn’t come from us, the lyrics are his, and it shows how well aligned we are. And it shows that campaigning is not the only way we can communicate; it can be about watching the video and listeing to the tone of the voice

What Neste came up with, working with scientists and Prince Ea, were a set of product applications where renewable raw materials can be used, in very different categories than one might expect, such as ‘learning’ or ‘traveling’. Based on the voting — which links from the Prince Ea video, Neste will put together a group of experts who will develop a prototype that will introduced by 2017.

Turning views into votes and engagement

It’s been tougher to get votes than views. So far, 10986 votes have been received for the project, and the voting has been:

Future of Mobility:  1770 votes
Future of Learning: 3261 votes
Future of Entertainment: 1824 votes
Future of Travel: 2941 votes
Future of Public Space: 2190 votes

Based on the 40 million views Neste mentioned, that’s a translation rate to an action step of 0.027%.

And we see 6,431 likes for the Neste page, and “840 people talking about this,” according to Facebook — an “engagement rate of 13 percent. Actually, that’s a pretty good engagement rating — Social Media Today says that “an acceptable engagement rate is in the range of one to two percent.

Overall, a great result for Prince Ea, and some engagement for Neste, but more at the low-end of expectations in terms of bringing people to action. Though, once engaged with Neste at least as far as a Like of the site, the engagement rate is relatively strong.

Is Prince Ea a visionary or a sell-out?

You be the judge. The artists’s latest collaboration is with the Chevy Cruze, which touts:

“Rising spoken word star Prince Ea teamed up with Chevrolet to write, record and film a new piece inspired by the all-new 2016 Cruze. For this collaboration, the writer and performer penned lyrical imagery depicting a parallel he sees between the Cruze and his own work-ethic, both as representations of what it means to hustle.”

“This tremendous work from Prince Ea is a way for us to have a meaningful conversation with an increasingly influential audience, and demonstrate that our Chevy values align with theirs,” said Paul Edwards, Chevrolet, U.S. vice president of marketing. “The new generation of consumers is cutting their own path and seizing opportunity in innovative and unique ways – we see that and we are reaching out to them in the places and with creative that they are more likely to embrace.”

Feedback beyond votes and into new ideas

After launching the Pre-order the Future project less, Neste received “hundreds of extremely innovative ideas from all around the world”. On the Pre-Order the Future website, they posted four of “the greatest and craziest ideas” submitted by the public.

1. My precious. A ring that absorbs heat from the human body
Whether you are working out at the gym or riding your bike on the highway, the ring harvests excess energy through your skin. All the energy collected may then be used to charge your electronic devices.

2. Sort it out. Automatically sorting garbage cans
Garbage cans that automatically separate different materials and recognize the person that uses it. Garbage cans are to be distributed throughout the city and connected to a website where people can see each other’s contributions. This creates a community that encourages people to help out and start using the cans themselves.

3. Plants suck. Plant walls that absorb pollution from the air.
Our skies are full of pollution and in there are some places where fresh air simply can’t be taken for granted. One idea that was submitted involves growing plants on the walls of buildings. The plants would have the ability to absorb the pollution and freshen the air with little maintenance.

4. Roll on down the highway
Kinetic energy collectors on motorways
Humans need to travel in our modern society. If we placed energy generating rollers on highways and motorways each car could create energy. Just like a hamster does on a wheel.

5. An excuse for laziness. An energy harvesting chair.
Feel like the energy harvesting ring wasn’t your thing? No worries – there’s also a way to cut down on energy use by just chilling. Modern working life requires a lot of sitting around and our bodies generate a lot of heat during the day. The heat could be harvested through our seats to power your electronics. Piece of cake!

The Feedback

Idea #4 attracted some negative feedback. One web participant wrote:

Embedding bearings in hiways to generate electricity would do nothing but inefficiently redirect carbon-based fuel. It’s not free energy, each vehicle would be supplying the power. This is actually worse than just pouring gasoline into a huge generator, at least that way it would be a more efficient conversion.

Another reader writes:

The rollers in the highway idea is fundamentally flawed, in that energy used for locomotion would be lost to driving the roller and its generator, increasing entropy. In addition, the exposed area of roller would need to be quite small to avoid abrupt surface changes causing a rough ride, giving only minimal opportunity for energy exchange; the alternating surfaces would complicate control; creation, conversion, and collection are unnecessarily complex, and there are a prohibitive number of moving parts. Better to have a compression pad/piezoelectric roadway, as the moving gravitational vector is incidental to motion and has no attritional element in vehicle drives. Solar roads are actually in beta now, too.

Neste’s engineers commented, in part:

Two reader ideas [focused on] where an everyday object was harnessed to absorb body heat to produce electricity – an energy absorbing chair and a ring. The concept has been tested in Finland with a coffee cup that takes the heat of the coffee and turns it into electricity to load your mobile phone. With that power they managed to keep a phone running for only four seconds.

2. Self-sorting garbage cans
There’s a company in Finland that specializes in supplying robotic waste separation systems. Used for example in construction sites the robots receive all the different waste through a conveyor belt and through artificial intelligence are able to sort every object into where they belong. So the technology exists but to use it in a neighborhood trash can level it would be quite costly.

3. Plant walls.
Plant walls and vertical gardens do already exist. Plants are used to help mitigate smog, produce oxygen, reduce noise and moderate room temperature. It’s not as simple as you think though – You need the right kind of plants with the right kind of hydration, optimal weather conditions and plenty of care to keep the plants alive. What’s interesting about the layer of plants on a building is that it helps the building breathe a bit like our skin. A great modern-day example of this are the Bosco Verticale residential towers in Porta Nuova, Milan.

4. Collecting kinetic energy from highways
Harnessing roads to energy production in any way is a great idea because of the volume of highways we have around the world. Energy generating rollers would definitely generate energy but they also have a couple of downsides. For a start a rolling barrel of any size would be a safety issue for drivers. A roller would also have more than one moving part and a lot of constant friction that means breaking parts and heavy maintenance.

Is it valuable to engage the public in this way in product development?

“I see it happening all the time especially in the field of services,” said Heitala. “Many times, customers are asked to give feedback, and customers and consumers are part of a development. There was a interesting case in Finland last week where the local rail company and a supermarket chain and third company invited school kids for one day to work with them to create the way they work and how should they deliver services, what kind of carriers there should be in the future. They were inviting school kids of 12 – 15 years, and you get really crazy ideas. Maybe they are not do-able today, but maybe there’s something valuable in there.

Stepping forward: GreenPod

This past week, one of the proposed products, GreenPod, took a step forward. GreenPod, made primarily out of renewable materials, is a multipurpose capsule for both work and leisure that can be set up nearly anywhere in an urban environment. GreenPod doesn’t just look cool: the pod blocks outside noises, reacts to changes in the weather, automatically charges all devices and gives visitors access to all their work files through its advanced facial recognition function. The idea behind the concept is to make public spaces more versatile environments.


“Public spaces are a great place to start the journey towards a renewable future. We are determined to create responsible choices every day,” said Osmo Kammonen, Neste’s Senior Vice President, Communications and Brand Marketing.

The prototype of the chosen product or service concept is expected to be ready by Spring 2017.

The Bottom Line

Pre-Order the Future? It’s a journey not a destination, for sure. It certainly is changing the way that people engage with renewable fuels brands, and arguably is reaching out to a new audience. Engagement is low, but the barrier is relatively high for social media — having to find and like a second Facebook page (Neste), or read, absorb and respond to solutions to complex problems.

If the engagement rates are initially low and the public ideas smack of naiveté, that may well reflect on the gulf between technology and its consumers these days. How many people can fix their car, nowadays? Who can articulate all the camera-to-viewer technologies of streamed content?

These are first steps in community building and connecting people to renewables in a new way, and certainly radical ones, and worth following.

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