Worst Commercial of 2015 (or at least Top 5)

We’ve all seen a load of bad commercials in our day, and sometimes I can count a 1/2 dozen poor commercials in a single days time. Why is that? Why is it so hard to convey a message, to NOT confuse people? Why isn’t it easy to convince people to act? I don’t get it, because to me, a guiding principal to building a commercial that people like is to be HONEST!

In 300 words or less I’m gonna show you how Microsoft fails my test, but how it confuses and lets people down in a big way. Here’s the commercial in question, then my 3 points as to what is wrong.

Here’s my Big Three Points

Numero Uno: HONESTY This is the big one, Microsoft isn’t honest with the viewers or even the most interested fans. If you love PC’s and are looking for features to get excited about what do you see here that will compel you? They show the laptop converting to a 13.5″ tablet (no one knows if they want or need it), they show you writing on the screen at the job site, (has any architect taken a digital document to construction site and wanted to write up the screen? Even so, this is a use case for 1/10 of a percent of users) they show someone making music with it (just like every other PC or Mac out there (with no clear indication of why a touch screen laptop would be better) and they show some dude riding a bike. How is this honesty? Or, apparently their audience is Cross country Bicyclers, Female Construction Manager, and Musicians who like their computers to be small and have a touch screen. Do you know anyone in your world that fits any of those descriptions?

Numero Two-no: CONFUSION As mentioned above the use cases set above not only show a kind of lack of understanding or dishonesty with who might be able to use it, but it goes one step further with the voiceover mentioning things like “be bold” (how does a laptop help you be bold?) “be a titan of business” (is that what makes a titan of business? A construction worker who has a laptop with a pen?) and finally with the statement “with the right tools there are no limits where they will be able to take you” (how does a laptop that becomes a huge tablet enable me to live a “life without limits”?)

Numero Three-no: NO SPECS I understand that the “specs war” is basically over and that most laptops have decent computing power, but not offering any real details as to what it does, what it costs, what features it really has and size and weight specs, means that commercial watchers are left with nothing to get interested about (unless you’re a travelling female construction manager that creates music on the side and rides a ratty bike across the country.)

In summation, we could say they are lying to us, we could say they just trying to motivate us to be creative but we can also say that the commercial has no clear focus, has no clear audience and while different shows no real purpose.

I appreciate when Apple shows us a new feature, then tells us WHY they did it, and HOW the world can use it. Sure the Apple Pencil is silly, but at least they gave us a couple reasons why they created it, and gave several examples of how it can be used and how it is superior to what’s out there now. Apple isn’t perfect, but a 10 minute explanation or a singular scene is far superior to the dribble Microsoft has given us with the $3500 surface pro.


A Marketing Perspective on “Slow sales Growth”of Electric Vehicles

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Bolt Concept at 2015 Detroit Auto Show (NAIAS)

There are a wide variety of reasons why EV sales aren’t progressing faster, but generally I think it comes down to demand for vehicles is lacking. My marketing background gives me a little perspective for understanding how a market can move and what motivates the buyers. Buyers, right now just aren’t motivated. Gas prices obviously plays into that but there is more to it than that.

A new product does best when it solves the problem and that buyers can clearly see what the problem is. As of right now, buyers don’t see a problem, and/or don’t see a viable solution. It’s kind of like the DVD market with the fragmentation of Blu ray, HD DVD and streamed internet content. No one saw a quality difference between them, so no product outright owns the market. HD did die off rather quickly but that wasn’t due to consumer desires or demand. It had more to to with positioning in the market. Convenience and momentary desires usually drive all entertainment products forward, with a very slow adoption to newer and changing technologies. Digital delivery is winning out, but only because the infrastructure is superior(for impulse buying). If only the infrastructure for electric cars was built out, or in some cases the perception of it was more “complete”, but right now, if you ask the common person, the thinking is, “the technology isn’t quite there yet and the charging network is severely lacking. What us EV owners know, that they don’t, is that for most of us, we can charge at home and that’s good enough.

But that’s not all, other things play into that. For one, status quo rules and that is especially true for hard goods. When folks have a long-term relationship with a single product and several decades of familiarity with a single style of product, they develop a connection and usually are unwilling to go very far outside that category upon replacement.
Let’s first delve into the demand for electric cars on the consumer  side. A couple issues quickly jump out: lack of understanding of how these vehicles would work, uncertainty of how they could use them in their daily lives, limited choices and styles, consumers unwilling to do significant research, and buyers not seeing a problem that needs solving. In a nutshell, it seems that buyers are mostly happy with the current choices they have.


Doesn't look so bad, really

Doesn’t look so bad, really

If buyers can’t understand exactly what a product is and does, 9 times out of 10 they won’t buy it. Doritos comes out with a new flavor and consumers can make a split second decision whether they want to adopt this new product. The opposite is true for electric cars. These cars are hard to understand for most, even though, many of these cars carry far fewer parts and technically should be easier to understand than regular internal combustion vehicles, known in the EV industry as “ICE vehicles.” One reason I think, is it brings up a bunch of charging-related questions, some of which are hard to answer: Do I have to plug it in every night? Do I need a special plug, or do I need special wiring? How far can I drive every day? What is it going to cost me every month? Can I go to my aunt’s house 200 miles away? Is it going to be slow or have difficulty towing a trailer? How come the trunk is half full of batteries even though my range is only 80 miles? Why do I care if it’s quiet? What kind of pollution and carbon footprint does it have? How much does my own ICE produce anyway?

It’s never going to be easy to answer all the questions all at once, so hopefully they get answered one at a time, and at some poin,t in the future, buyers will be down to one or two questions and they’ll be left with –> “can I afford it?” The early defectors have been the same folks that have adopted other leading edge technology and those are the types that get those questions answered before they walk into the showrooms and they can also be the ones that start answering those questions for all those “on the fence” or even the “haters” out there that spout nonsense about the EV market segment. Just today I read some miscellaneous ramblings by someone who actually believed that the production of battery cells produce more pollution than regular internal combustion cars do over their whole lifetime. This misinformed person completely ignores the cost of his own ICE vehicles’ production, and the cost to produce and transport the fuel he burns in his ICE vehicle every day. He is stuck on the fact that some unknown amount of pollution occurs in the production of battery cells and thinks that his ICE vehicle produces very little. Perhaps this is the hardest question, because this is an every changing stat, based on where you live, what source you use to “fuel” your vehicle and how much you use it on the daily.

Our new Volt in 2013, on our first Kona "road trip,"

Our new Volt in 2013, on our first Kona “road trip,”

People ask me all the time (here in cost-focused Hawaii) “how much it costs to drive?” Because energy is one of the most expensive products for this island population, and reducing this cost is important to most, more so than most other regions in the USA. And while cost might greatly influence and encourage more budget-oriented buyers, the investment into this technology is pretty significant. PLAINLY STATED: poorer folks could use a cheaper running car, but can’t afford the average electric car in the first place. The hottest sellers in the segment right now are the $32,000+ Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt, the $85,000 Tesla Model S and the $40,000+ Ford Fusion Energi and BMW i3. Cash strapped customers usually also lack the tax liability to take advantage of the tax credits available. So the complexity of cost to buy and fuel is a major issue as well.

There are many things to think about when looking to “go electric”, too many things for most average Americans. Most buyers don’t even know how electric cars can benefit them, and overloading them with information isn’t really going to work in converting them. I also hear from EV owners on the mainland who say “Hawaii is the perfect place to own an EV!” Because they know, gas is expensive here, they know our climate is mild (EV’s have great range in mild climates), and they know that Solar PV production would be amazing with all this continuous sun we have! The reality is far from that though, Hawaii is the most expensive state to drive an EV… because energy costs, and solar installation costs are sky high!

So even when you’d think it was simple, it’s really not.

BUYERS RESIST CHANGE (and small cars)

This is well known in the marketing world, and even more true when it comes to more expensive and more durable goods. The average car sits in the average household for seven years and when it comes to replacement, most buyers elect to go bigger (and less fuel efficient) because the FREEDOM that gives them. How many families do you know that own an SUV and a pickup truck as their two vehicles? 95% of the time, they don’t NEED a truck or SUV, but they like the freedom and flexibility it provides. Electric vehicles drastically reduce that flexibility, simply because EV’s don’t exist in these segments. But that’ not all, it’s also just way out of the norm, the whole experience is different, and adjusting to these differences simply won’t appeal to the vast majority of consumers out there. Many just want a simple car that goes from A to B reliably. Their perception is wrong, they don’t see an EV as either of those things, even though that’s exactly the truth. EV’s offer a simplified drive train and lower operating costs to boot. This is one area (operating costs) we as EV owners can make great strides in over the next five years, but on the reliability front, it’s going to take some time.

It’s been said in the auto industry that for an auto manufacturer to earn the trust as a “reliable car maker” it takes anywhere from 8-10 years to turn their reputation from bad to good. Many of the players in this market are not on the “reliable list” and that is why many consumers will continue to forego these cars and stick with what they know! Nissan has a somewhat neutral reputation and they are reaping the benefits, by having a full electric that looks and smells like an average Nissan, only 15% “cooler.” Chevrolet is another manufacturer in this country that also has a presence, but they are only 1/2 way thru their renaissance and their brand loyal customers are some of the markets most traditional. Couple that with the timing of the 2008 GM Bankruptcy, and you have a huge list of people that won’t buy the brand or even it’s best cars. It’s going to be an uphill battle for GM to convince very conservative dealers in very conservative regions to stock these cars, because their own current customer base won’t be looking or buying. This should be the headline when talking about Chevy Volt sales –> “Current Chevy Customers aren’t Switching to Chevy’s latest and greatest Car!”

The story for other car makers is similar. Ford, BMW, Mercedes and Kia are all “tip-toeing” into the market with converted models (they strip the gas engine for an electric motor, and pull that gas tank to install batteries) and selling them at a $10k premium. BMW is most bullish of the aforementioned with the i3. It was developed with a chassis that was all new, but they still gave people the option of gas/electric hybrid (i3 & i8) or full electric (i3.)


Any good marketing or business developer knows that adoption of new products in the market usually take some sort of hockey stick trajectory, in that the first couple years is slow steady growth and then a HUGE surge as the product goes “mainstream.”  In case you didn’t notice, EV’s are still in the beginning section, only converting “early adopters” right now, as the market watches and thinks about future purchases. And since cars last 10-20 years… it’s going to take some time before the old cars die and hit the junk yard, and EV’s have a chance to be a part of the conversation. It’s also a chicken and the egg scenario where you can’t sell cars if you don’t have them, and buyers can’t buy cars unless you have them to sell, and in significant quantity for ALL market segments.

Back to the “hockey stick”. Because of education, the market will continue to move slow… as folks flush out the many questions mentioned above, and buyers give these products a real chance. But we must take into consideration that much of growth is dependent on SUPPLY. If supply is constricted, then sales will be limited. If supply is constricted and demand is low, profitability will continue to be limited, and thus development money for new and different models will in turn be limited. Growth will be stagnant.. until enough time transpires for development and cash can contribute to a product that closely fits the “meat of the market.”

US, Asian and Euro models available.

US, Asian and Euro models available. The trend makes it pretty clear, Asia is falling behind and Europe is leading.

EV sales graphed ww demand thru 2025

Actual and estimated total unit sales and growth for the PEV segment.

If you look at the graphs I have included here, you’ll see that number of models has stagnated as of late, while growth continues to march upward, slowly. The trending is pretty set for the next couple years as new models will continue to “trickle” out, and then at some point after 2020, demand is less certain, but should increase as worldwide demand begins to influence the market as a whole. This is my last takeaway from the article, worldwide demand will outpace the US, and at some point, any company with a worldwide presence (significant sales) will begin to have more money to develop (and defrey) costs to new features, technology and expend to new market segments. Ford, GM, you need change your strategy, as BMW and Nissan understand, that having a worldwide presence, and not just in 1 or 2 markets is what will DRIVE the future EV leaders and in the long run, significant profit and market share.

For more information on EV sales over the last couple years, take a look at Monthly Plug In Sales Scorecard with graphs available for each car and year on the Inside EV’s website.


Driving Your Chevy Volt in L “Mode”

Since the car doesn’t have “gears” you can’t really call the selector on the center console a “gear selector” and you can’t really call the selections “gears.”

But nonetheless this one is under heavy debate. Some say D gives you better range and some say L gives better results. The answer is none of the above. The facts are this: the absolute most efficient way to go down a level road is in N (neutral), but most of us wouldn’t and can’t drive (“hyper-mile”) our cars like this… most of the time. The point I’m making is that D and L are NOT the most efficient, and that’s a fact. Another fact, since L is NOT a gear, you can drive in L (it’s a mode that is programmed into the Volt drive computer) all day long!

It’s also a fact that if you aren’t experienced in driving in L, you’re most likely driving the LEAST efficient way possible. With training you can learn when and how to use L along with D and N and become more efficient at driving your Volt. Last fact: the most efficient way to drive is with the fewest throttle and brake inputs as possible. So with that, let’s discuss what each is good at, and why you have to use all three to be the most efficient, and why you should probably use at least two to be fairly efficient with very little extra effort. First, here’s a quick tip before we get started. If your car is a 2013 or newer, you’re going to have an option on the dash in the little notifications window to watch your energy flow between the motor, the internal combustion engine (acronym: ICE) and the battery. When accelerating, energy flows from battery (or ICE) to the drive motor. When slowing down, energy flows from the drive motor TO the battery. This display is very important, and will help you understand where and HOW MUCH energy you are using and recouping.

| Driving in “D”| – This is probably the “gear” you should drive most of the time, and definitely when you are on the interstates away from traffic lights/signs and intersections requiring you to stop and go and stop. However, if you are noticing that you are using the brake pedal often due to hills or big fluctuations in speed you might be better off in L mode instead.

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Volt 1.0 Accel Pedal Graphic. Regen occurs in both D and is enhanced in L “gear.”

| Driving in “L”| – The biggest thing to understand about “L mode” is that the throttle switches to regen at the first bit of travel (the first ~10% of pressure), so when you want to slow down, you need to lift only slightly but keep a smidge of pressure on the accel pedal to keep from slowing down too fast or too much. The more you lift, the faster you slow down. Efficiency experts dictate that you keep your speed near constant, so slow down as slow and as little as possible.

| Driving in “N“| – You won’t be using this “gear” very often, even though it is the most efficient of the three. But there is a way you can work it in every now and then, especially if you are oh so close to your goal, and just need to eek out another mile or two to complete your journey all on electric. All you need to do is watch out for places along your commute where there is a slight downhill stretch, or a slight slowing of the traffic ahead. You’re going to be best using this if you are able to “glide” for 5 seconds or more. If slope is slight, you’ll notice the car won’t lose much of any speed, and may gain speed if it’s steep enough. If you are speeding up (because of slope) and want to maintain your speed, don’t use the brake pedal (no regen in neutral), however, you get a slight regen in D, that works marvelous on noticeable grades where your speed might rapidly increase if you were to try and coast down the hill in N.

In the future, I’ll do a post on hyper-miling and using all the gears available to you to hypermile your car and attain 60 miles on one charge. To learn more about regen braking (also called “Magnetic Braking), click here for a BMW Blog Article exploring the regen braking of the Tesla Model S and the BMW i3.

New Activity at Kilauea Caldera in Hawaii Volcanoes Nat’l Park

This image taken yesterday morning.

This image taken yesterday morning, showing the lava about 10′ down, about 15 hours before true breach.

Halema’uma’u crater has had an actively spewing hole within it’s walls since about 2009, and up til now, only sulfuric gases have come from within the crater. But starting April 21st the kilauea summit started inflating, a swarm of earthquakes hit, and the lava lake deep down within the hole started rising. It sat, up until last week, at an average depth of about 100′ and had never gotten any closer to the surface than 80′. But something happened under the summit, and lava has been steadily climbing as an increase in supply (possibly?) has sent a bevy of new activity inside the crater. Then just last night (April 28th, 2015) the lake breached the top of the whole and began filling Halema’ma’u crater with lava at about 2am last night. Now, today, the lava has begun to move outward several hundred feet across the floor of the crater, and might eventually fill the crater up (this would take quite a while).

Here’s some background on the crater (from wikipedia):

Halemaʻumaʻu crater is a pit crater located within the much larger summit caldera of Kīlauea in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The roughly circular crater floor is 770 metres (2,530 ft) x 900 metres (2,950 ft) and is 83 metres (270 ft) below the floor of Kīlauea caldera, located at coordinates 19°24′36″N 155°17′11″WCoordinates: 19°24′36″N 155°17′11″W. Halemaʻumaʻu in the Hawaiian mythology is home to Pele, Hawaiian Goddess of Fire and Volcanoes, according to the traditions ofHawaiian mythology.[1][2]

According to the Hawaii Volcano Observatory the crater is currently active, with lava in an open vent fluctuating from 20 to 150 meters below the crater floor. On April 24, 2015 molten lava in the vent became visible for the first time from the Jaggar Museum overlook at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory when the lava rose to an all-time high level since the current vent first erupted in 2008. [3] [4][5]. A few days later, on April 29, the lava start spilling over the rim of the Overlook crater.

Wow, this is pretty fantastic! Here is a GIF I gathered from the webcam images available from Hawai’i Volcanoes Observatory (USGS).

hawaii, island, lava, flow, lake, info

Lava time lapse 24 hours

As you can see, this is just the beginning.. and there is much more to come!  I’ll leave you with a few other shots I took last night on my trip up to the crater at 930pm.

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An explosion inside Halemaumau crater last night as seen thru the telescope


Lava photo

Lava photo

lava inside kilauea

lava inside kilauea

For more info on the eruption see the following websites:





October Lava Flow Activity for Puna, the Month in Pictures

So much has happened since last months post, but mainly, many news outlets have upped their game and are starting to cover the lava flow activity on an almost hourly basis. Which is good because that means I can step back and cover this in a different way. I would to go through the month of activity this October solely on pictures. If I had an unlimited amount of time, I’d also explain what was happening each day, and link to posts and videos along the way, but that would take me longer than a month to complete, probably more. So let’s not do that, and instead share with you some images (mostly all borrowed) of our hectic month here on the east side of the Big Island.  As with every post I do, I fully understand that some may want a link to their website where more of their photos can be found and I welcome that. Please just let me know and I will make any adjustments necessary to keep everyone happy(that includes removing any images that you request removed.)

I’ll kick it off with a few from September which demonstrate where we’ve come from.


lava pic showing the large brushfire it started. Photo by paradise Helicopters  9.23.14

lava pic showing the large brushfire it started. Photo by paradise Helicopters and Extreme Exposure 9.23.14

Continue reading

Lava Flow Status Report Week of Sep 15th 2014

Pahoa town visible in background

Pahoa town visible in background

usgs lava flow activity photo

The lava is about 2 miles from the dump above Pahoa town, and it’s about 3 miles from the highway IN Pahoa.

The June 27th Lava Flow has been marching through the forest for quite some time, but has finally crossed out of federal forest reserve lands and into the residential area known as Ka’ohe Homesteads. These ag lots are pretty big parcels of land, but even still yet, the lava flow could reek some havoc on this subdivision. Worse yet, even if it manages to miss every house or privately owned lot (as it skims the edge of the homestead lands), we know that just below it sits Pahoa town. This town serves as the central hub for all things lower Puna, and as such provides most of the food one can attain, if not from Hilo. Over the last 30 years this town has moved from barely a retail location, to a destination of sorts. You want good Mexican food, Pahoa, you want a different kind of restaurant, Pahoa.. and so it goes. Hundreds of businesses are stuck in the path of this lava flow, and the outlook is grim. Most experts say the probability of it heading straight into the middle of town as “high”, with a side order of most definitely it will cause major problems. If it swings north and somehow miraculously misses town, then it hits the ONLY highway that connects lower Puna to the rest of the island. If it swings to the south, which is highly improbable, it will still cause serious problems. The High School is down there as well as several other schools. There are several subdivisions down there, and further down is a Puna Geothermal Power Plant. Any way you slice it.. NOT GOOD. Continue reading

Kilauea Lava Flow Animation Showing the Lava Advancing on Pahoa Town, Hawaii

Put together a new animation to show the most recent progression of the lava flow over the past two weeks.

Click on the pic below to view the animation (it opens in a new window)

To view additional information, pictures and the “lava flow update” click here (or click on the tab above) to go to the “Lava Flow Media” page.

kilauea lava flow

Kilauea Lava flow animation from August 18th to Sep 12th.