“Protect the environment” on labels can turn off Cautious Conservatives

“Protect the environment” on labels can turn off Cautious Conservatives

A recent study shows how political beliefs can affect light bulb choices.

A group of consumers were briefed on the benefits of compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs over incandescents. When both bulbs were priced the same, shoppers across the political spectrum chose the CFLs.

But when the fluorescents cost more – $1.50 versus 50 cents for an incandescent – the conservative shoppers who reached for the CFL bulb chose the one without the eco-friendly label.

The study “Political ideology affects energy efficiency attitudes and choices” was conducted by Dena M. Grometer and Howard Kunreuther of the University of Pennsylvania and Richard Larrick of Duke University and published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences.

Their findings dovetail with our Energy Pulse™ research on Cautious Conservatives, who make up about 22 percent of Americans. In our consumer segment profile, we describe Cautious Conservatives as predominantly white, married, 55 and older, and very conservative in their political affiliations.

They are knowledgeable about energy, but conserving energy is only somewhat important in their daily purchase decisions and habits.

It’s important for energy efficiency marketers to remember that Cautious Conservatives – more than most American consumers – have the financial wherewithal to make energy-efficiency improvements.

In fact, our study shows us that they’ve completed more energy efficiency home improvement projects or behavioral changes (6.2) than average.

But they are driven to make these improvements primarily “to save money” and “to get more control over personal energy consumption and costs.”

They are not motivated by a desire to protect the environment. And – as Grometer, Kunreuther and Larrick have demonstrated – Cautious Conservatives are actually turned off by overtly green messages.

They may choose to buy and install a geothermal heat pump because it will save money over the long run and give them control over their heating bills. But they will not be drawn to a heat pump because it will reduce their carbon footprint.

Green marketers should remember the counterintuitive fact that, with appropriate messaging, this non-green group is one of the best markets for:

  • Solar power systems
  • Insulation
  • ENERGY STAR® appliances
  • Energy-efficient HVAC systems and water heaters
  • Energy-efficient windows
  • LED and CFL lighting

Just don’t tell them they’ll save the world. Tell them they’ll save on their bills.


Posted on

August 29, 2013

About the Author

Lee Ann Head

Lee Ann Head

Lee Ann started Shelton Group's research department in 2000 and paved the way for us to become the insights-grounded creative agency we are today. After 17 years leading our research team, she recently moved to New Orleans, handing down the title of Vice President of Research & Insights, but remains an integral part of that team as she continues to oversee client projects and proprietary studies.

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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.

Courtnay Hamachek

VP Operations

Courtnay oversees our day-to-day operations to keep us running smoothly and support our growth. She establishes project management systems and processes to help our teams anticipate bottlenecks, prevent process issues, and keep projects on time and on target. Courtnay has built extensive experience over 25 years in all aspects of marketing, from account services and project management to design and production.

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.