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Determining which sustainability programs and initiatives give the biggest brand lift

Client: Consumers Energy

The majority of Americans value sustainability – and more and more of them value brands committed to sustainable efforts. For a utility company, how does this play out? Can sustainability make a positive brand impact for them? That’s what Consumers Energy needed to know.

Consumers Energy brought us on board to figure out how their company could best package and leverage their demand response, energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, along with their environmental initiatives, to build the Consumers Energy brand.

Client Challenges

Consumers Energy is taking tangible measures to help customers and their own operations be more environmentally friendly … but they didn’t know if their customers really cared.

Add to that the complexity of multiple program implementers and communicators … how should they all be talking about sustainability? And which programs and initiatives give them the most brand lift when customers know about those programs/initiatives?

As part of their environmental initiatives Consumers Energy has partnered with Michigan Nature Association by supporting the Protecting Habitat Today for People and Wildlife Tomorrow project that will protect, restore and enhance 575 acres of critical habitat for rare, threatened and endangered plants and animals in eight Michigan counties.

Shelton Solution

We used a combination of qualitative methods and statistical analytic models to figure out the value of sustainability for the Consumers Energy brand. And what was the value we found? For Consumers Energy, it really can provide significant brand lift among both residential and business customers – when the right mix of programs and initiatives are communicated in the right way.

Specifically, our research baselined consumer perceptions of Consumers Energy’s sustainability, identified which programs/initiatives resonate best with various key customer segments, and revealed how to group and communicate these offerings to achieve the greatest brand lift.

This example output from the TURF (Total Unduplicated Reach and Frequency) analysis shows that creating awareness of a combination of the first four programs would give this company a brand lift with 89% of its audience.

Consumers Energy has partnered with Conservation Resource Alliance by supporting The Wild Roots project which aims to plant 100,000 native Michigan trees over five years. The planting effort will fortify forested watersheds in northern Michigan, will reduce water runoff by nearly 8 million gallons and provide seed stocks for the next generation of forest. Consumers Energy volunteers also participated in the effort’s first tree planting in Traverse City.

Next Steps:

We presented our findings to all of the utility’s agencies and implementers, sharing the insights that will direct our next phase of work: crafting specific messaging and strategy that will get everyone talking about Consumers Energy’s sustainability efforts in the same way.

Moving forward, we’ll continue to share our strategic marketing and messaging recommendations to the utility’s many agencies and implementers by developing creative briefs to guide them. These briefs identify target audiences, their care-abouts, and the best messages to inspire participation and positive brand perception, along with other relevant insights.

Critical Elements:

Strategic research to create …
  • Predictive model for how programs/initiatives affect brand lift
  • Messaging hierarchy
  • Hypothesis for customer adoption by key segments to guide marketing strategy
  • Creative briefs to guide messaging