“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 is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.

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