What if your home took care of you instead of the other way around?

by Oct 10, 2019

Shelton Stat of the Week

72% of Americans believe their homes have a moderate to strong impact on their health. (Energy Pulse 2019).

The Trouble with Energy Conservation

“It costs more to build a better house.”

I’ve heard my friend Gene Myers, CEO of Thrive Homes, say this several times. His point is that a higher-performing, zero-energy home costs more to build … and it’s hard to compete against conventional builders whose homes sell for less and, frankly, aren’t built to take care of the homeowners as well.

That seems crazy, right? If you had the opportunity to buy a home that was designed and built to be more comfortable, healthier and less expensive to operate, wouldn’t you pay a little more for it? The challenge for high-performance builders – and really for any manufacturer of a better, greener product – is in the messaging and marketing.

The best advice I can give is this: minimize the jargon and put health benefits front and center.

In our Pulse™ studies we’ve been tracking health as a driver for buying greener products for years. Last year, we tested health messages for “in me” products (like food), “on me” products (like skin care) and “around me” products (like building materials) against a variety of other messages and found the health message was the winner across the board.

Clearly, protecting your health (and your family’s health) is a better reason to pay a little more for a house than saving a few bucks on your energy bill.

Further, in our 2019 Energy Pulse® survey (which hasn’t been released yet) we’ve identified a segment of the population we’re calling Healthy Home Believers. They make up 25% of the American population and:

  • 90% believe an energy-efficient home is a healthier home.
  • 92% believe it’s important to upgrade their ventilation systems – and 87% believe that “upgrading my home systems to meet healthy home standards is a good investment right now.”
  • 94% would be willing to pay slightly more for a home that has higher indoor air quality.

That last stat is important because 32% of these folks are likely to build or buy a newly built home in the next two years – and they believe better health/indoor air quality can only be found in a newly built home.

We’ve seen this in other categories as well. If you look at our report from earlier this year about period products, concerns about both health (chemical content) and the environment (waste, specifically) are driving young women to use reusable feminine products vs. disposable ones. Much like we’re afraid of climate change, we’re afraid about what’s in the products we buy, the air we breathe and the water we drink. And, by the way, 43% of Americans believe they would see an improvement in their health if they upgraded their homes’ water systems.

Now, about jargon: even these savvy, Healthy Home Believers feel unconfident in their ability to explain terms like “high-performance home.” They’re more confident than the rest of the population, but they still need context – in other words, don’t just throw around the term and ground it in a benefit (as in, “a high-performing home is a home designed to be healthier.”)

The takeaway: use health as a position and a message. And to the degree that you can, tie to technology. Sixty-one percent of Americans believe that smart technology makes their lives easier, and 58% say it’s important that smart technology makes their home a healthy living space. We’re transitioning away from the mindset that our homes are something we have to take care of to one where our homes take care of us. And that’s a benefit people will pay more for.

Americans Say ‘Enough’ to Plastic

American consumers care about the problem of plastic waste more than ever – even more than climate change, our 2019 research reveals. We polled 1,000 Americans on environmental issues, and “plastics in the ocean” ranked as their top concern. Now is the time for brands to tell their plastic waste story, and to step up and give consumers what they want: alternatives to single-use plastic – perhaps some circular options.

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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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