Simple but not easy

Simple but not easy

While world leaders were converging in New York last week to debate climate change, I crisscrossed the country to attend three different conferences (thereby adding more carbon to the aforementioned UN debate, I realize). Specifically, I attended the EEBA conference, the Utility Efficiency Exchange and Sustainable Brands New Metrics. At all of these events, I met folks and heard presentations from the private sector’s front lines of energy and environment – all working to create programs and products that will, ultimately, lower our collective environmental footprint.

My role, as usual, was to give the American consumer perspective and answer the question, “How do we market this energy-conserving and/or more sustainable product/program/home to people most effectively?”

The answer is simple but not easy: do it for them.

Perhaps depressingly, all of our Pulse studies this year point to that inescapable message: Americans want corporations, organizations and even governments to make sustainability ordinary and energy efficiency The Way We Do Things Around Here. They want you to simply build all new homes so that they’re more comfortable and efficient (and beautiful and better quality), fill those homes with smart devices that make energy efficiency automatic, manufacture products in a way that’s not in any way harmful to people or the planet and just generally be the good guys.

And they don’t really want to pay more for it.

Yes, I heard presentations (and gave examples from Shelton Group’s latest work with clients) that laid out successes in getting Americans to recall the right messages, adopt new behaviors and engage with better products and programs. But it all still feels like baby steps … like we’re still plucking from the low-hanging fruit and not creating wholesale culture change. Maybe that’s enough – maybe a lot of people making baby steps actually adds up to wholesale change. But I’m afraid not.

We can debate the merits of Leonardo DiCaprio speaking at the UN Climate Summit later … but I think his sentiment is right that, OK, we can keep encouraging individual actions (like changing light bulbs or buying hybrid cars), but we won’t get to the kind of wholesale change that’s likely needed if industries and governments don’t act boldly.

It’s always obvious at Sustainable Brands events that there are many companies making those kinds of bold moves (and some companies that are actually only dipping their toes in the water). And for folks of a politically conservative nature, that may be enough … let the free market handle it. But so much of what needs to change – like building codes, utility revenue models, infrastructure issues – does require governmental/legislative involvement. There’s just no escaping that.

So … my message after a week of conferences, a little too much news and plenty of time with our latest Energy Pulse report is this: we all need to do whatever it takes to do the right things and be the good guys, and make sustainability and energy efficiency the default. If you’re waiting for the market to demand it (and pay more for it), it might never happen. But when you make this whole thing easier for Americans, they will reward you with their loyalty.

Skills

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Posted on

October 1, 2014

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.