Conservation Think Tank: News, Ideas and Solutions for Energy and Water Company Thought Leaders

Can Climate Change Be A Marketing Tool?

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Climate change may still seem like a hot-button topic in today’s political environment, but a new survey claims that concern for the environment is now a mainstream attitude for a majority of Americans.

The Shelton Group’s 2016 Energy Pulse Special Report found that nearly two-thirds of all Americans believe that climate change is real—and that it’s primarily caused by humans.

Furthermore, 67 percent think that individual energy conservation efforts can help prevent more climate change. And 90 percent of all respondents believe the average person should be taking concrete steps to reduce his or her environmental impact.

“Up until now, we’ve cautioned utilities, builders and manufacturers of energy-efficient products to tread lightly around environmental messaging when it comes to home efficiency, given the sharp red-blue divide in our country and the potential for alienating those who don’t believe in – or understand, or care about – a connection between home energy use and global temperatures,” the report states.

But now, the Shelton Group believes it’s time to reassess the long-held belief that climate change is too polarizing to use as a mainstream energy-efficiency marketing tool.

The times they are a-changin’
Since 2005, the Shelton Group has been polling Americans about their attitudes regarding home energy use. The 2016 poll was conducted in August and involved 2,025 people from across the country.

“Majorities of every demographic group consistently selected platforms that 1) promoted renewable energy and/or 2) explicitly cited that climate change is a real problem,” the report states.

Support for environmental conservation efforts also didn’t differ by region of the country, except in the West, where survey respondents were slightly more likely to have a conservative viewpoint about climate change and the environment.

“The implication seems to be that no matter how your marketing target area shakes out demographically, environment-focused messaging can play to a receptive crowd,” the report states.

So how do you use climate change as a marketing tool? Start by focusing on education.

Energy education begins at home
In response to the question, “What do you think is the number one manmade cause of global warming or climate change?” survey respondents listed 10 reasons. Home energy use was in sixth place.

In fact, 47 percent of all respondents said their homes are already efficient, even though the majority live in non-updated homes that are at least 20 years old, and/or have two or more refrigerators. Another 32 percent have HVAC systems that are at least 15 years old.

The report states that the key to bridging that knowledge gap is to inspire consumers to do what they already want to do—protect the environment.

“It’s time for energy efficiency messaging to get bigger. More emotional. More connected to what makes people feel proud of themselves,” the report authors wrote. “What would happen if we took practical, unsexy stuff like insulation, old fridges and SEER ratings and connected those things to feeling heroic and empowered – to feeling like a champion for an endangered planet?”

Rather than nagging or guilt-based messaging like “your old, inefficient HVAC system is belching carbon dioxide into the air,” storytelling, humor, affirmation and encouragement may work better with environmentally conscious consumers, the report concludes.

Download our Energy Efficiency Packet to further educate your customers on the importance of energy efficiency at home.

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