SolarCity Corp Hires Former Obama Campaign Strategist

SolarCity Corp has hired President Barack Obama’s former campaign strategist Jon Carson. Mr. Carson will serve as the senior director for the company’s Ambassadors Program, leading its effort to put solar panels on every roof in the United States. SolarCity believes that tactics of a grassroots political campaign could influence consumers to shift to renewable energy.

Can Carson replicate his political success in solar?

Carson said in an interview with The Washington Post that the solar energy is a tangible thing that you can be a part of in your community. Expanding SolarCity’s business will require building a network of people, neighborhood by neighborhood. The Ambassadors Program offers customers $250 credit if they refer a friend to sign up for SolarCity.

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On Dec.4, the San Mateo-based company relaunched its MySolarCity app so that its customers can better connect with one another and promote solar energy to their friends. Carson didn’t reveal his precise strategy to get more customers, but he did cite a few interesting scenarios. How about a soccer team getting a dozen families to sign up for solar energy? The team will get referral money that they can spend on new uniforms. Or maybe, neighborhoods compete will each other to see who is adopting solar more quickly.

SolarCity chairman a major Obama donor

SolarCity believes people-to-people ties could influence the decision-making of small groups. So, it spends little on traditional advertising such as TV commercials. SolarCity’s customer base is increasing rapidly, as it recently crossed 168,00 customers. The company has captured 36% share of the U.S. residential solar market, even higher than the next 50 rivals combined.

Notably, SolarCity chairman Elon Musk has been a major Obama donor. He has donated to both political parties, but most of his $400,000 contribution since 2008 has gone to Democrats.  Carson had served as the executive director of Organizing for Action, a nonprofit activist group that pushes Barack Obama’s policy agenda. He left the group Organizing for Action in October.

SolarCity shares rallied 2.26% to $51.51 in early trading Thursday.