Why Lighting Control Systems Marketing Needs to be Less Lazy

Lutron Caseta - Turn Lights off from the BeachAnyone who pays attention to the lighting control systems market will know there is a lot of activity at the moment.  New market entrants, new developments from established players and new integration opportunities.  Throw in the Internet of Things (IoT) buzzword and we can see lighting control is big news.  You’d think there was plenty there for marketers to get their teeth into so why is some lighting control systems marketing just so lazy?

Lutron are established players in the control market; Joel Spira the founder of the company invented solid-state dimming in 1959.  Lutron launched the first solid-state dimmer two years later.  Lutron Homeworks is a long established lighting control system and the latest iteration Homeworks QS marked a significant step forward.  We use it a lot for its performance, its rock-solid reliability and its range of control and dimming options.  We don’t have the Caséta wireless products here in Europe yet but they are an interesting consumer development – wireless, quick setup and available through retail outlets: Staples, Target, Amazon and the Apple Store.

HomeKit-logoYes that’s right.  Lutron’s Caséta is available though the Apple Store because it’s one of the very first pieces of Apple HomeKit hardware to be released.  Which means it will slot into Apple’s interconnected framework along with sensors, smart thermostats, shades and blinds, garage doors etc.  I think that’s a big deal.  So let’s look at the latest Lutron Caséta video and see how they are selling it.


There’s a lot going on in that one minute and it all looks pretty cool to me.  I can control my lights from anywhere, I can make sure I never need come home to a dark house.  11 seconds into the video I’m at the beach and as usual I remember I’ve left my lights on and need to turn them off.  That crisis averted, I can schedule lights going on and off with my phone.  Curled up on the sofa with a monster bowl of popcorn I can dim the lights and lower the blinds for movie night.  Then we get to HomeKit.  I can talk to my lighting system and turn lights on.  Finally I want to control my heating. Again it can be done remotely, again it can be done with a smart phone.  It’s an action packed minute of phone-controlled lighting frenzy. So what’s wrong with it?

Technically there’s nothing wrong with it and for a certain audience it’s all quite exciting.  Caséta can do all of this and you can nip down to your nearest Apple store now (if you live in the States) and get to grips with it yourself.  There’s a lot in that short video that really appeals to me but I’m a bit of a geek.  I can see the appeal and I can also see how some of the stuff in there is going to be developed to be really useful rather than just “cool”.  We have a lot of customers who aren’t really geeky or even geeky at all and marketing messages like this send them running to the hills.  Have a look at this quote from a customer inquiry we had earlier this year.

Simple is the order of the day, No pre programmable systems that allow you to change the mood setting while you’re sitting on the toilet in France, just more things to go wrong!!!!

The same enquiry listed their requirements which included LED linear lighting, LED accent lighting and that simple dimmer switches would be fine.  The problem with that combination is simple dimmer switches won’t be fine.  If you want predictable, nicely controlled dimming for a largely LED based scheme what you really need is a lighting control system.  Lighting control systems are the best way to manage LED lighting and when used with protocols like DALI they offer incredible flexibility and a very simple wiring infrastructure.   It might not be as simple to get that message across as “you can turn your lights off from the beach” but it’s far more important.   The issue is that the practicalities are too often obscured by easy to convey (but ultimately pointless) cliches.

I sympathise with the marketers.  Selling the mundane is not as much fun as selling the sizzle and particularly in this market where we’re on the brink of a pretty fundamental technology shift.  So instead of just sitting on the sidelines and carping about it let’s see if we can wind the clock forward and do a new story board for that Caséta video when some the technologies we’ve talked about have matured a bit.  Part 2 of this story will look at  what that re-imagined Caséta video could look like.

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Brazil Fan on the BeachWould the last person to leave the beach please turn the off the lights – a blog post from Summer 2014

Iain Shaw
Founder partner at Brilliant Lighting responsible for Marketing, PR and IT. When I’m not writing about lighting, design and technology I love horseracing, cricket and cooking.

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