“Green” may have been the buzzword of 2008, but “efficiency” will be the buzzword of 2009. Despite lots of press coverage to the contrary, Americans are willing to buy. And they’re willing to buy green. The difference is they’re now willing to buy green products that immediately put green back in their pockets.
In our Fall 2008 Energy Pulse® study we saw that propensity to purchase every energy efficient product we tested — from programmable thermostats to solar panels — was up. On March 20 we’ll be releasing a new study called Utility Pulse. We looked specifically at the impact monthly utility bill savings messages had on willingness to purchase, as well as the impact utility rebate messages had on willingness to purchase.
Though the propensity uptick varies by product, in general, 32-46% of the population expressed a likelihood to purchase various energy efficient products upon simply hearing likely monthly utility savings information (cited from the DOE). Another 17-31% expressed likelihood to purchase once specific utility rebate offers were thrown into the mix.
Now, before you run out and change all your ads to scream “save money!” remember this: like with any purchase, there are deeper emotional drivers at play. (Though many of us would like to make marketing a logical, predictable science, consumers are emotionally driven decision-makers.) Underneath the desire to earn a good ROI is the desire to feel smart and in control in this unpredictable, out of control economy. So, yes, you must be clear that if they invest X they’ll save Y immediately…but you must also appeal to their deeper desire to be in charge of what’s happening around them. The peace of mind generated by seeing one’s monthly utility bill go down $10-20 is a huge motivator.
The one other thing to keep in mind is this: conserving energy is, in fact, the greenest thing anybody can do. A third of our greenhouse gases come from electricity generation, but according to two years of tracking in Energy Pulse, only 4% of the population knows that. So consumers are NOT buying more efficient products because they want to save polar bears. It really boils down to ROI.
For my very green friends, that’s a bitter pill to swallow. Folks who devote their lives and careers to battling climate change often feel, “if we just educate people about the impact their actions have on the environment, they’ll see what they’re doing and they’ll change their ways.” Our countless focus groups and quantitative studies tell us differently. The best way to get Mainstream Americans to change their behavior is to tell them what’s in it for them. Right now it’s ROI and feeling smart and in control. In the end, we still get to a more sustainable world. It’s just a different path.