Stop selling the drill.

Stop selling the drill.

We’ve just released our Utility Pulse study showing the continued decline in consumer participation in energy efficiency. In fact, we’re so concerned about this downward trend, we’re hosting an entire webinar on it next Thursday. Yesterday I was interviewed about this topic and the interviewer said, “I haven’t heard or read much published about this downward trend, is this new?”

The answer is, “No.”

For the last three years, we’ve seen a decline in interest and intention to purchase in every single energy-efficient product category we test. Self-reporting of completed EE improvements is down as well (the graph above is one of three from Utility Pulse demonstrating what we’re seeing). In our digging for actual sales figures of energy-efficient products, we see a similar story, though not as drastic. Bottom line: Every data point we have says the energy efficiency business is down.

Yesterday in the interview I was asked, “What do we do about it?” The answer is two-fold, and it’s a big part of what I’ll be talking about in our webinar:

1. You have to help them see they have a problem. Eighty percent of Americans don’t think they use more energy today than they did five years ago, and roughly half think their homes are already energy efficient. Forgive the analogy, but you can’t get an alcoholic to an AA meeting if he doesn’t think he has a problem. We’re simply not going to get Americans to buy energy-efficient products and change their behaviors if they can’t see that there’s a problem.

2. We have to show them a new, empowered reality. You might ask, “How can they not see they have a problem?” Well, there is a reality that in some parts of the country, the winter was mild and low natural gas prices are actually driving rates down … so there may not be an actual bill increase problem right now. But also, most consumers feel totally helpless and hopeless when it comes to their utility bills. Over and over and over, we’ve heard Americans say, “It doesn’t matter what I do, the utility’s just going to keep jacking up their rates and charging me whatever they want. So why bother?” Programs like Opower help create a new reality by changing the game. Instead of comparing a consumer’s usage to their past performance or some misremembered number they have in their minds, they compare them to an outside force and create competition, which can catapult some people out of that helpless, victim place.

Bottom line: We have to stop marketing the drill and start marketing the hole. When we wake people up to a problem, offer them ways they can actually solve it and wrap all of that in benefits they actually care about, we’ll see the industry get back on track.

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®.

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.

Courtnay Hamachek

VP Operations

Courtnay oversees our day-to-day operations to keep us running smoothly and support our growth. She establishes project management systems and processes to help our teams anticipate bottlenecks, prevent process issues, and keep projects on time and on target. Courtnay has built extensive experience over 25 years in all aspects of marketing, from account services and project management to design and production.