Driving into work this morning I heard three radio commercials in a row that used “save money” as the key benefit. One was for car insurance, which makes sense and seems natural, and one was for tanning — as in look like you’ve had a vacation on the beach even though you haven’t. Interesting. The third was really surprising for me, though. Campbell’s Soup, rather than touting the comfort and satisfaction of a hot bowl of soup, was touting how cheap it is to make and eat the stuff.
We’re in for a lot more “save money” messaging as the economy continues its downward spiral. And therein lies a problem, at least from the energy efficiency side of things. Both our Energy Pulse® and Utility Pulse studies reveal that “save money” is the best message to get people to conserve energy. But our Utility Pulse study also reveals that about a third of the people who’ve undertaken some sort of energy efficient activity have not seen the savings they expected.
We were intrigued by this, so we recontacted those folks and asked what savings they expected to see and why they think they didn’t see them. For the most part, they expected a 10-20% savings on their utility bills, and most think the reason they didn’t see the savings they expected is because the utility increased their rates. (One guy even went so far as to say, “The whole idea of saving some money is a bunch of crap. I am cynical about this. Nothing I do will make my bill less — they are going to get their money.”)
Now, in some cases, it’s true that utilities have raised their rates (and that they’re going to keep raising them to cover their costs. Investor owned utilities are for profit businesses, after all.) In other cases, people could actually be using more energy now that they’ve bought an efficient product (the “Snackwell’s Effect” I’ve blogged about before.).
The bottom line, though, is that most expect to be able to buy something and have that magically lower their bill…but without doing things (changing behaviors) they’re likely not going to see much of a savings. Further, with rising utility costs — which will go even higher if carbon legislation passes — the best most consumers should expect with minor EE investments is to better manage their utility costs. So messaging about “saving money” on one’s utility bill sets a bit of a false expectation in some cases. The better message is about “managing” one’s bill.
So if you’re marketing an energy efficient product or service, keep this in mind. Or go join the Campbell’s team…their message is a lot simpler to get across.