Recession is the new “normal.”

Recession is the new “normal.”

Bernanke may have it exactly right.  He declared yesterday that the recession looks to be over..and we’re seeing a gradual migration in the consumer mindset as well.  Or at least a slow embracing of the recession as “The Way It Is.”

Case in point:  In our 2008 Energy Pulse study, which was fielded in the middle of sudden $4.00 gasoline and gut wrenching headlines about the financial meltdown, all answers revolved around concern for the economy.  For the first time in four years “save money” was at the top of the list of reasons why one should conserve energy, and energy efficient home improvements beat out aesthetic improvements as a top priority for a majority of Americans.

This year’s study (which publishes in late October) shows that Americans are sill concerned about the economy, but we’re learning to adapt and deal with The Way Things Are.  “To save money” is still at the top of the list of reasons to conserve, but refinishing one’s kitchen or bathroom and replacing carpet/adding hardwood or tile are back in their number one and number two spots in the home improvement world, with EE improvements falling into the #3 and #4 slots.  The obvious conclusion is that since we’ve all figured out we can’t sell our homes, we’re going to do what we can to love the ones we have a little bit more.

Another couple of interesting findings:  “Preserving the quality of life for future generations” sneaked up the list a bit as a reason to conserve and “protecting our environment and saving natural resources” took a nose dive (from 24% choosing it last year to 17% choosing it this year.)  This reflects what we’ve seen in our Eco Pulse and Green Living Pulse studies:  consumers are growing increasingly concerned about what’s in the products they buy and, consequently, what they’re putting “in them, on them and around them.”  So the idea of buying a green or energy efficient product as an assurance of keeping one’s family safe and healthy is gaining acceptance and is proving to be a much stronger driver than the altruistic notion of saving the planet.

This is all good news for everyone.  Given that consumers are still concerned about the economy, increasingly concerned about the health of their families and sending signals that they’ll begin improving the homes they can’t sell, makers of both energy efficient products and green home improvement products should win, provided they’re smart about their messaging.  Whether the recession is over or not.

About the Author

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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