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Blog: Smartphone app, on the racetrack for ethanol education

A small company is using out-of-the-box marketing to reach members of the public as well as spread the word about cavitation.
By Holly Jessen | April 27, 2015

What does a women’s football team, a racecar driver, a smartphone app, pumpkin carving or fortune cookies have to do with ethanol? To a company from Rome, Georgia, these are all opportunities to educate members of the general public about ethanol as well as market the ShockWave Power Reactor to the ethanol industry.

I had previously heard the name Hydro Dynamics Inc., which is the developer of a patented cavitation process intensification technology. The ShockWave Power Reactor offers ethanol producers increased ethanol and corn oil yield and, about a year ago, was installed in a cellulosic pilot plant in Italy. The company also offers a bolt-on technology to harness corn oil produced at ethanol plants for on-site biodiesel production. The technology also has applications in the chemical, petroleum and food industries.

What I didn’t previously know, however, is about the company’s unique marketing efforts. Several months ago, I received a press release from Hydro Dynamics, after an ethanol-powered race car the company sponsors was featured on a PBS station. I got curious, as reporters tend to do, and started asking questions.

Turns out, Hydro Dynamics first learned about Olmscheid Racing during a webinar Ethanol Producer Magazine put on back in the fall of 2013. When he’s not working at Christianson & Associates PLLP, helping clients in biofuels, agriculture and manufacturing, providing audit, review and consulting services, Olmscheid races in WISSOTA sanctioned, oval dirt track racing using E98 as fuel. The racing class is Midwest modified, he told me, explaining that there’s “very little stock left to these cars.” You can see pictures and learn about his other sponsors, including several ethanol plants, at his website, http://olmscheidracing.com.

Olmscheid has been racing since he was 15 years old and is now in his 15th season as a racecar driver. He told me he started using E85 in 2003, to help keep the car cool, and started using E98 in 2009 when he switched to dirt track racing. Sponsorship funds from companies like Hydro Dynamics help pay for the cost of travel plus putting the car on display at conferences, corn grower-sponsored races and other events in order to “draw attention to ethanol as not only a fuel, but a great race fuel,” he said.

Meeting and speaking to ethanol critics is something Olmscheid does at every race or event he goes to. “I had a fellow competitors’ dad tell me that I was lucky to have ethanol sponsors since that ‘crap’ ethanol can’t even be ran as a race fuel,” he told me. “He did not realize that I actually used ethanol as my fuel, he just thought it was part of the sponsor deal to have corn cobs on the car.” The amusing part of the story is that, as it turned out, Olmscheid’s crap-powered, I mean, ethanol-powered car, finished in front of the racecar driven by the ethanol critic’s son that night. “Did I change his mind, maybe not,” he said, “but we all know in the industry, the baby step was taking to at least make him think about it a second time and look at the facts.”

Doug Mancosky, vice president of Hydro Dynamics called Olmscheid an excellent ethanol advocate and told me the company is proud to be a small part of what he does. One thing that struck me about Hydro Dynamics’ sponsorship, however, is that the company isn’t getting a direct advertising link to their customers when at the racetrack, which Mancosky confirmed. “Your average Midwest race fan attending a Saturday night dirt track race is not our end customer, but if Jonathan's efforts make them more open to ethanol then we all win,” he said. “Jonathan also often displays the car at ethanol events and we promote our involvement with the car to the industry so there is some direct benefit.  In an age of SEO (search engine optimization) and Google there is also an indirect benefit.”

Then, while I was still working on finding out more about Olmscheid’s work on the race track, Hydro Dynamics sent out another press release, this time about an Android smartphone game app, which it launched to promote its ShockWave Power Reactor. This really caught my attention. I’m not much for playing games on my phone but I immediately downloaded and tested the app, called Cavitation Bubbles. It took me a while, with help, to figure it out (see above) but once I did, I did enjoy it! I even played it on an airplane on the way to an event recently. 

The company has had an amazing response to the app, Mancosky told me. Prizes have been offered to the first 25 people to get to level 150 and six people have won so far. “The diversity has been amazing,” he said. “Winners have included a young NASA engineer from Houston, a brewery equipment salesmen from Michigan and we've even had a winners from Italy and Turkey!  I personally monitor the address at which we receive the winning messages and was shocked with the international winners and that we had organically reached those markets.  ”

That’s when I decided I didn’t want to just know more about the first thing that caught my eye, the racecar driver. (Because who doesn’t want to know about a racecar driver?) I wanted to know more about Hydro Dynamics and its unique marketing plan. Mancosky told me the racecar and the smartphone app are the crown jewels of their efforts. But what they do is hardly limited to that. “Being a small company in Rome, Georgia, we're always trying to find inventive ways to capture people's attention and it's amazing how outside the box sometimes sticks,” he said.

Although this isn’t a complete list, here’s a few more of their interesting efforts to catch people’s attention. For example, the company also sponsors the Portland Shockwave, a women’s professional football team that happens to have the same name as Hydro Dynamic’s cavitation product. He also mentioned a couple fun things they’ve done at conferences, such as the time they had a pumpkin carved with the company’s logo and another event where they passed out custom fortune cookies to promote their bolt-on biodiesel technology for ethanol plants.  

So, there you have it. Hydro Dynamics sounds like a fun company that understands the importance of educating the public about the benefits of ethanol. I’m glad I had the opportunity to learn more about what they do!