Convincing Americans that “it’s worth it”

Convincing Americans that “it’s worth it”

According to Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, utilities spent $6.9 billion in 2012 on rebate programs – all designed to nudge Americans to make energy efficiency (EE) upgrades to their homes and adopt EE behaviors. From our years of marketing such programs, we’d say roughly 5 percent of that total went toward sales and marketing efforts – so $350 million.

Again, from our experience and observations, the vast majority of that $350 million has been used to convince Americans they’ll save money by being energy efficient. The problem is this: They don’t believe it.

In fact, they have such disbelief that they don’t even pay attention to the message. After all that spending, 67 percent of Americans are still unaware that utility rebate programs even exist. We could fault the lack of creativity of the message, and certainly that’s a problem in many cases. But as the authors of Influencer point out, there are two conditions required to create change (and being energy efficient is a behavior change):

  1. A belief that I can actually do the thing being asked of me
  2. A belief that it’s worth it

Our challenge in the EE world is belief #2. Our most recent Energy Pulse study revealed that “improving resale value” is a key driver for homeowners to make improvements to their homes. Energy Pulse also revealed that this would be a great message to get homeowners to make EE improvements … but today, most homeowners DON’T believe it’s true.

The real estate industry has done an excellent job of pounding into the collective consciousness that we’ll all improve resale value by upgrading the look of our kitchens and bathrooms. The industry simply has not done a good job of pounding into the collective consciousness that we’ll all improve resale value by upgrading the energy efficiency of our homes. And that is, in fact, true.

A recent California Berkeley/UCLA study of 1.6 million home transactions found that green labeling improved selling price. Controlling for all other factors, such as location, school district, crime rate, time period of sale, views and amenities, researchers found that the 4,321 homes sold with ENERGY STAR, LEED or GreenPoint rated labels commanded an average price premium of 9 percent.

Americans are not clued in to this juicy fact. Nor are they considering how the lack of EE improvements could perhaps screw up a sale. Follow our logic here: According to HanleyWood’s Housing Continuum Study, more than 70 percent of people who purchased existing homes knew they were going to do some remodeling to the home and, in fact, knew what they were going to remodel before they even closed on it. But the basics like HVAC and water heater upgrades or added insulation are NOT what new homeowners want to spend their money on. Most people don’t want to spend their initial remodeling budget on energy-efficient improvements … they want to spend it on the pretty things that make their house feel like their home.

So as we move into 2014, let’s start spending that big pile of EE marketing dollars on convincing Americans that they’ll increase the resale value of their homes AND they’ll avoid screwing up a sale. Those are two really compelling reasons to believe energy efficiency is worth it.

About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

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Suzanne Shelton

President and CEO

Suzanne is the voice and the vision of Shelton Group. Drawing on her extensive experience in energy and the environment – and 25+ years in the marketing and advertising industry – Suzanne provides high-level strategic insights for our clients and guidance for our research and creative departments. She regularly speaks at conferences around the country, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and the International Builders’ Show, and serves as a guest columnist for publications like Fast Company, Green Builder and GreenBiz.com.

Susannah Enkema

VP Research & Insights

Susannah directs our research team and plays a key role in extracting the nuggets of information that pave the way for recommended marketing strategies and creative approaches. Susannah has nearly two decades of market research and strategy experience, including her role as president of SE Consulting, where she led the services for the likes of DIY Network and the makers of GORE-TEX®.

Laila Waggoner

VP Client Engagement

Laila leads our client engagement process, overseeing activities from both a strategic and a tactical level to ensure our work generates desired results – and clients’ satisfaction. She brings 25+ years of marketing leadership experience to her client relationships, with particular expertise in the homebuilding and remodeling industries as well as member-driven organizations, such as the Vinyl Siding Institute and Plastics Pipe Institute. Before joining Shelton Group, she led strategic marketing teams for Owens Corning’s insulation business.

Matt Brass

VP Creative

Matt steers the creative department in concepting, designing and producing campaigns. He ensures sound strategy and deep insights inform everything his team develops, and works closely with the accounts department to ensure copy and designs will meet our clients’ goals. As a designer and filmmaker himself, he’s also a principal contributor to all of Shelton’s in-house photography and videography work.

Glen L. Vesser III

VP Finance and Administration

Glen manages Shelton Group’s finances and administration, ensuring our internal systems run smoothly so we can provide exceptional client service in a seamless and timely manner. Glen’s financial and administrative expertise has been shaped by decades of experience in a variety of industries, including public accounting, media distribution and health care.

Mike Beamer

VP Business Development

Mike joined our team to help provide strategic vision and foster our agency’s growth by overseeing new business leads and managing agency marketing and website content. He arrived in Knoxville steeped in energy efficiency and renewables – he previously led client service for an agency division in Boston dedicated to marketing communications strategy and branding for B2B and B2C clients in that space.