Yes, I realize my headline is infuriating for those of you, particularly in the DC area, who lived without power for several days recently (and may still be doing so). But I’m not talking about weather-related outages; I’m talking about all the apocalyptic outages that were supposed to occur from the strain on the grid after prolonged 100+ degree days. The region-wide outages that were doomed to occur if Public Utility Commissions didn’t grant their utility companies rate increases to improve infrastructure and build new power plants. (Full disclosure: Shelton Group has several utility clients.)
I’m exaggerating for effect, of course, but my point is this: For years utility companies HAVE used the gloom and doom card with PUCs –and with their customers – to justify rate increases. And in the wake of two very hot summers where we DIDN’T experience a catastrophic failure and a mass inability to keep air conditioners humming nationwide, I’m worried utility companies may be looking a little like Chicken Little.
So note to those utility companies: Put the gloom and doom “what if” messaging strategy on ice. And a note to the rest of you to do the same. Over and over in our research we’ve tested gloom and doom messaging – all the things client scientists say could happen if we don’t change our ways – and it never tests well. Conversely, we’ve tested a few humorous approaches to engaging consumers and it works MUCH better. Just like your momma always said, “You kill more flies with honey…” And not only do you not kill any flies with doomsday scenarios, the picture you paint might not actually happen. Which, in the end, is great for all of us … but it makes it hard for your end consumers to believe the next message you feed them.