With the caveat that predictions, by nature, are based on the context of the moment, here are six consumer ideas to be aware of as you plan your 2010 marketing, all based on the assumption that the economy doesn’t improve drastically:
1) “Waste not/want not” messaging will gain strength in 2010. We heard this idea in focus groups prior to fielding our Energy Pulse survey this year, so we tested it in the survey. While “save money” messaging still tests well, we were surprised to see that 12% of the population said “don’t waste” was the strongest message to get them to conserve. We’ll probe on this more in 2010 and expect to see it gain strength as an effective motivator.
2) We’ll see an increase in the number of people who haven’t seen the energy savings they expected from EE home improvements. In our 2009 Utility Pulse study, a third of the people who claimed to have made energy efficient home improvements said they had not seen the utility savings they expected. That’s no surprise since most utilities and EE home improvement manufacturers and service providers tend to speak in blanket “save money” messaging, without any specifics. Unfortunately, the human brain doesn’t like generalities. The number most consumers make up in their minds they’ll save from EE improvements is half. Totally unrealistic. But without some expectation management on the part of marketers, they’ll continue to think that and continue to be disappointed, which means it will get harder and harder to motivate them down the road.
3) We’ll continue to see a decline in participation in EE “gateway drugs.” The theory in energy efficiency circles has long been that if we can just get consumers hooked on the simple, easy things, like changing out light bulbs with CFL’s, learning to turn stuff off and installing programmable thermostats, we’d get them on the efficiency train for the long haul. Not so much. Our 2009 Energy Pulse study revealed a sharp declining trend on propensity to install CFL’s and a significant drop in propensity to make simple behavior changes. This is, again, likely the result of poor expectation management. Consumers have done some of the activities we asked them to do and they didn’t see a savings (due to weather, added plug load in other areas of the home or a utility rate increase) and now they’re not motivated to keep trying. This is a big concern and a trend we’ll be working to reverse in our work for clients in 2010.
4) Without a major weather event in the US in 2010, belief in global warming will continue to decline. We Americans are such a “see it to believe it” lot. It’s inherently hard for us to continue to believe in anything for very long without tangible proof. And while our studies in 2009 consistently showed that about 60% of the population believes global warming is happening and caused by man, other studies have shown a decline in belief. Not that we wish for a terrible weather event, but we’re afraid that may be what it takes to cement the concept, especially in light of Climategate.
5) Comfort and convenience will continue to be the major drivers for most green or EE purchases. In this economy, we’re looking for comfort, and we’re looking for something, anything, to be easy. So if you’re marketing a green product, play to these strengths and make sure your distribution and merchandising strategies do as well.
6) The number of people who say they’ll punish companies who greenwash will increase. In our 2009 Eco Pulse study we saw a nine point jump in the number of people who said they’d both stop buying a product AND lobby friends and family to do the same if they were told something was green that turned out not to be. This is about the Box of Impossibility that consumers find themselves in: they don’t trust manufacturer motives for going green, but they don’t know who to trust to determine which products actually are green and which aren’t. So they turn to manufacturer claims on packaging and advertising. Thus, they’re trusting people they don’t particularly trust — and they’re ready to pounce if that trust is violated.
There you have it. We’ll look back at the end of 2010 and see if we were right. And, as always, we’ll keep you posted with what our studies reveal as we move through the new year.