New Era vs Old Errors -- What corporate titans can learn from "those dang activists"

"Seriously. Do NOT make me get off this bike." If David keeps toppling Goliath—which seems inevitable these days—we’re going to have to retire the idiom.

The latest giant-slaying is going on right now between the New Era Colorado Foundation (David) and Old Errors Xcel Energy Corporation (the soon-to-be vanquished Goliath).

New Era wants Boulder to wrest control of the power grid from Xcel because they believe that the city can provide cleaner energy for less money. As you can imagine, Xcel—which stands to lose $35 million in profit that the good folks in Boulder shell out annually—disagrees.

In a fascinating video clip that rivals Kony 2012 in its rousing help-us-save-the-planet climax and (some might argue) creative presentation of the facts, New Era boasts:

“Back in 2011, our community did something no other community had ever done before: we voted to explore taking control of our power supply for the sole purpose of lowering our impact on the planet. … If we win, we trigger a national model that can be replicated across the country.”

Upworthy posted the video last week and urged people to share it. Huff Post picked up the story and—to no one’s surprise—the video went viral. Big time. (You can track the real-time financial score board here.)

It’s not shocking that a bunch of energetic kids with honorable intentions and decent video production skills could end up in the eye of a media storm, especially with the help of Upworthy, which is considered the Punkin Chunkin catapult of viral-video launches.

But it is nothing short of genius that they were able to get such a response through creative positioning.

Consider the claim, “Back in 2011, our community did something no other community had ever done before: we voted to explore taking control of our power supply for the sole purpose of lowering our impact on the planet.”

Taken at their word, you might think that Boulder is on the verge of becoming the first municipality ever to commandeer the power grid from an evil for-profit corporation. But they’d actually be the 18th city in the last decade to do this.

However, they would be the first to do so “for the sole purpose of lowering our impact on the planet,” a caveat which—and this is pure gold, Jerry—enhances their case rather than diminish it, as caveats usually do.

You might even believe, as the video states:

“Boulder is on the verge of setting an important precedent that has national significance and could threaten not just Xcel Energy but the very core of the business model—and the billions of dollars in profit that come with it—of the dirty coal energy industry.”

Well, not really. There are dozens of cities considering making the break, including Minneapolis, the city that Xcel is based in.

But the most brilliant bit of magic is found in the pitch at the end of the clip.

“The only way David beats Goliath this time is with your help. Because the only way to counter money is with PEOPLE. … They might have the war chest, but we have the ARMY. And we are here to recruit YOU. Right now, more than ever, we need YOU. Your financial support will help restore our community’s voice this election.”

Yes, we need YOU … to give us YOUR money.

Normally, I’d advise against stretching the facts to make them fit your fattened claims. But this was done so creatively and has been so successful that, as the Anchorman once said, “I’m not even mad. That’s amazing.”

Tomorrow: Xcel’s Spreadsheet of Screw-ups