How to Talk Culture to Move the Behavior of Energy Consumers
November 19, 2019
Written by Ozzie Godinez, CEO/Co-Founder
Consumers tend not to interact with their utility company as deeply as they might other services that come into the home, such as their Internet or wireless providers. That’s because, unlike those providers that people rely on for work and play, utilities are often taken for granted and provide a single service: Electricity powering lights and electronics, for example.
Utility companies have the power to change that relationship. Through messaging that shows consumers how they can play a vital role in their energy consumption, utility companies and their marketing agencies can generate goodwill, strengthen end user trust, and ultimately accelerate energy efficiency adoption. All of these things will create a more dynamic relationship with consumers and get them interested in learning more about how they can engage with their energy consumption on a deeper level.
To do so requires audience segmentation that taps into cultural values, themes, or beliefs that consumers may hold dear. Take trust: Traditionally, consumers may simply be wary of data provided by utility companies that shows them usage patterns and how they can reduce their behavior. Part of this mistrust may have to do with headlines that portray utilities and other corporations in a negative light.
Gaining Back Trust Utility companies can gain trust through storytelling that authenticates the numbers but brings them to life in compelling ways. They can break down the numbers to show savings as it relates to an average family — Maybe the savings can equal a night out every quarter, or can equal a new television for the family room.
Trust can also emerge if utility companies break down comparisons between neighborhoods to show that they understand their coverage area in granular detail; the more one neighborhood does in reducing consumption, the more the utility company can offer coupons to a local movie theater in that area, for example.
A Sense of Control Market research indicates consumers want to feel like they have control over the most precious of surroundings: Their home. Smart technology is a step in that direction. The greatest selling point of smart thermostats that are controlled by apps is that consumers can control every nuance of where they live wherever they are.
Messaging that emphasizes the cultural aspect of why that control matters. It could point to other areas of life where consumers have less control — Federal interest rates, inclement weather, property taxes, etc. — and show how smart technology is one of the few areas where they do have control over how much they spend. The messaging can also emphasize the importance of the home as a sanctuary where consumers have a right to moderate according to their own wishes.
Personalization We live in a personalized world: From streaming home video to the array of mobile apps on our phones, consumers have more choice for content than they ever have before. The curated culture that consumers engage with today can translate to energy use.
For obvious reasons, how a home is heated or cooled or lit inside and out is a personal choice depending on lifestyle, mood, and more. Messaging should therefore focus on the options for personalizing these controls as a way that gives users greater ownership of their living environment.
After all, these are messages that consumers should be used to as they are conditioned to curating other areas of their lives. Messaging can focus on how certain controls reflect certain personality types or seasons of the year.
Either way, the more utilities with the help of their marketing agencies can show consumers how simple things like lighting and temperature reflects on them will help give them a greater sense of the creative possibilities of the utilities in their home.
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