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Tesla vs. Edison: A Battle to Master Energy Marketing

by | Oct 5, 2017 | Solar Leads

Tesla and Edison were both pioneers in the energy market, so why is one more popular than the other? Take a look at how Edison won with better energy marketing.


Those who work in energy marketing wonder, “If you have developed a great innovation, but do not market it well, will it make a difference?”

Knowledge is only half the battle. You must also be successful at distributing the knowledge.

A great example of this principle is the intellectual feud between energy innovators Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla.

Despite the fact that Tesla’s work gave us the electric current we use today, Edison is remembered as the father of electricity. This is because Edison was a more skilled marketer than Tesla.

Let’s explore.

Energy Marketing Beginnings: Who Were Thomas Edison And Nikola Tesla?

While most Americans know that Thomas Edison was the inventor of the lightbulb, many are unfamiliar with the name Nikola Tesla. But the truth is that Tesla’s work had a greater impact on modern electricity than Edison’s.

Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison were both inventors at the end of the 19th century. Before they were rivals, they were boss and employee; Edison hired Tesla to work for him.

Tesla And AC/DC

Tesla’s first assignment was to make devices running on direct current, which had been developed by Edison, more efficient. Direct current describes current that always runs in the same direction. For example, most batteries we use today run on direct current.

Tesla discovered a way for power grids to safely transmit higher voltage currents. An alternating current paired with a transformer was the key. Alternating current works by periodically changing the direction that current flows.

Initially, Edison dismissed Tesla’s AC current approach. Even with the alternating, Edison saw it as too risky to use such high-powered currents.

Despite Edison’s misgivings, Tesla’s AC current ultimately prevailed. AC current was chosen to power the World’s Fair in Chicago.

We have been using AC current to power all manner of devices via the outlets in our walls ever since.

Edison’s Fight Against AC Current

Even though Tesla’s current won out in the end, Edison did not go down without a fight.

Edison worked against Tesla by running a public information campaign that warned of the dangers of high-voltage AC current. He even demonstrated the current on live animals to show its risks.

Edison’s marketing campaign against AC current was not successful, but it was indicative of the approach he would take in his feud with Tesla. This approach played an important role in cementing his legacy as one of America’s greatest inventors.

Edison As The Father Of Energy Marketing

Tesla may have won the battle over AC and DC current. But Edison’s energy marketing helped him win the war of being remembered as a master inventor.

In addition to being a talented inventor, Edison was also a savvy businessman. He developed invention factories, where he would divide the invention process up among several workers. These invention factories created jobs, and helped produce even more inventions.

While Edison would come up with broad ideas, he would leave the experimentation to his apprentices. This approach allowed Edison to work on multiple projects at one time.

Having several inventors constantly working for him also helped Edison to refine his inventions. These well-made inventions allowed Edison to earn several patents. These patents then translated to royalties, which built Edison’s wealth and notoriety.

By always having several irons in the fire, he was able to maintain a stable financial situation. The money he earned from successful projects would fund future innovations.

For these reasons, Edison is remembered for developing several inventions that improved the lives of Americans.

Tesla The Tinkerer

Edison was successful at turning invention into an enterprise.

By contrast, Tesla’s process was often much more cerebral. While this helped Tesla develop good ideas, it did not help him promote or distribute these ideas.

For this reason, many of Tesla’s inventions went unfinished. At the end of his life, he had secured far fewer patents than Edison had, and had also learned far less money.

This is why, even though Tesla had many important ideas, most Americans are simply not aware of them.

Tesla was too focused on the process of inventing, and not focused enough on making his inventions usable and accessible.

Learning A Lesson From Energy Marketing

So what lessons can be learned from Edison’s and Tesla’s approach to invention? Edison showed that persistence and strategic thinking can pay off more in the long run than sheer brilliance.

At Invention Solar, we use this same principle to guide our energy marketing strategy. In order to make solar energy a long-lasting and profitable industry, we must market it effectively to the right target audiences.

Like Edison, we hope to bring together a talented team of folks who will perfect the development of solar energy.

In addition to providing better, greener, energy, this approach will also create a new sector of America’s economy. This means more good-paying domestic jobs.

When Americans see solar power as a source of economic prosperity, they will be more willing to embrace it.

Additionally, we must market solar energy as a better alternative to traditional sources of power.

By being savvy like Edison, we can ensure that solar power will become a successful invention, rather than just an interesting idea.

The Future of Energy Marketing

Learning from Edison’s and Tesla’s example, we can appreciate the importance of marketing as we embrace new energy solutions. In order to change how the world uses electricity, we must be successful at spreading the message of a better way.

With the right promotion, solar energy can become the next alternating current.

If you would like to learn more about how energy marketing can change the future of the solar movement, contact us.

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