Utility Pulse and the economic stimulus package

Utility Pulse and the economic stimulus package

I’ve been previewing findings from our soon-to-be released Utility Pulse study for the last several weeks in my blog posts.  It actually officially releases tomorrow, and I wanted to highlight a few of the findings and tie those back to my recent laments about the stimulus package not containing any actual funding for consumer education about conservation and efficiency.

  • Just under half of the population will, in fact, spend money in this economy.  They’ll spend it on energy efficient home products IF they clearly understand the immediate savings they’ll see on their utility bill.  Utility rebates that offset the cost of buying more efficient products (as opposed to just standard products) get even more consumers likely to make the investment.  The message that works is “Invest X to save Y immediately.”
  • Note that this is a slippery slope.  A third of the people who claim they’ve taken some energy efficient measures in their home say they did not see the savings they expected.  We actually did a follow-up survey with the 113 people in our original survey who told us this and discovered that many people just buy products and expect to see a bill reduction (they aren’t changing their behaviors) and that a savings message may set an unrealistic expectation if utility programs are launched at the same time as a rate increase.
  • We continue to see that Americans have such misinterpretations, misunderstandings and confusion around their energy consumption.  Well over half say they are not using more energy in their homes today than they were five years ago…but as a nation we increased our electricity consumption 10% over that same five year period.  Further, 72% indicate they think their home is efficient…yet 71% said they’re living in a home that’s more than 20 years old…which would indicate they’re likely living in a home that’s INefficient.

So how do you market efficiency to people who want to hear a savings message, but aren’t likely to change their behaviors to create savings and, at the end of the day, think their homes are efficient to start with so why bother?  This is the exact challenge Shelton Group specializes in and, bottom line, it requires education.  It’s not enough to sell products; we’ve got to think of it like a weight loss program.  Help people really understand the problem within their own homes and see the long-standing behaviors that don’t make sense today.  And it has to be done in a way that doesn’t cajole, denigrate or condescend to the audience.

This education requires a campaign a la the anti-littering, tearful Indian of my youth, or the Crispen + Porter anti-smoking Truth campaign.  It’s a major paradigm shift that will require some major advertising and communications dollars.  My hope is that somehow these dollars can be carved out of the billions set aside for energy efficiency in the stimulus package.  They’ve not currently been allocated.  It will be up to those of you reading this post to lobby for it and continue to lead the educational charge in your own marketing efforts.  Together, we can create the behavioral shift and create a long-lasting energy diet.

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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