You can’t get anybody into a 12-step program if they don’t think they have a problem.

You can’t get anybody into a 12-step program if they don’t think they have a problem.

This post is for everyone marketing energy-efficient products, programs and services.

Our 2012 Energy Pulse™ survey, which just published a few weeks ago, revealed an increase in almost every consumer misperception we track, along with a decrease in interest in almost every energy-efficient product and activity we test. A whopping 80% of Americans think they’re not using more energy than they were five years ago – which means they see no reason to make energy efficiency improvements to their homes or change their behaviors to use less energy. Yet 64% say their utility bills have gone up over the last two years. If they’re not using more energy but their bills are going up, who’s to blame for that?

They’re not blaming themselves.

Utilities are now at the top of that list and “consumer demand” is in 5th place, behind the U.S. government, Big Oil and unrest in the Middle East. Bottom line:  Americans think utilities are just gouging them and their escalating bills are simply not their fault. And if they don’t think it’s their fault, why would they take action to solve the problem?

We’ve long advised our clients that they must “perform an energy intervention” in order to increase interest, engagement and, ultimately, commitment to energy-efficient products and behaviors.  We must all work to wake Americans up to the fact that they have an efficiency problem first, then we can talk to them about solutions.

So how do you do that? Well, compelling creative campaigns are a good start, followed by ongoing nudges, cues and data.  Imagine if you could tell a dashboard on your wall what you’d like your utility bill to be every month and then your home was automatically programmed to operate in that way. Every time you turned up the thermostat you’d get a message on your smartphone telling you you’ve just changed your trajectory and you’re now on track to pay $125 for that month instead of the designated $100. Instantly, the responsibility – the blame – would be in your lap.  You’d be making the choice to be warmer or colder in your home knowing full well the impact to your bill.

Without the ability to see the impact of their actions, most Americans will never take full responsibility for their energy consumption, period. So let’s start waking them up to their efficiency problems, then let’s use technology to keep them engaged in “responsible” behaviors. That’s how we’ll get them in the 12-step energy efficiency program and, hopefully, keep them there.

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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