Monthly Archives: February 2010

Wind’s PR Problem

One of the most highly debated and readily available alternative resources has a PR problem.

  • It’s not clean coal. (Is that an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp?  For another time…)
  • It’s not nuclear.  (Although there is plenty to debate about  re: safety, cost, etc)
  • It’s not solar.  Heck, everyone WANTS more sun and its easy to understand the use/value.

Yes, its our unseen but highly present element the wind.

There is not shortage of investment or perceived benefit, and worldwide capacity keeps climbing despite the recession.  Yet despite the increase capacity and environmental benefits, wind has a significant PR problem.  The core issues are outlined very well by Marc Gunter in a recent post detailing his interview with National Grid’s Tom King.  In summary, costs outweigh perceived benefit.  And that end benefit has to do with regulators and customers.

Regulators are pushing various states like Pennsylvania to reduce energy consumption and demand.  The cost for alternative energy is higher than existing sources, so making up the costs will likely be in the form of increased end consumer costs.

End consumers are going to be none too pleased about increased energy costs in a recession, likely one of National Grid’s reasons for not signing with Cape Wind as of yet.

The missing ingredient is empowerment of consumers to understand their role in conserving energy.  If increased fees came with a consumer-driven reduction in overall usage, the cost could end up being negligible.  And consumers would feel better since they were 1) in control and 2) helping on their terms.

In order to move any significant projects forward, the wind industry needs to join with electric and smart grid providers to get the word out on consumer empowerment.

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Mr. Brooks, Mr. Jackson and the Sustainable Purchase Climate

Yesterday on the  Charlie Rose show, NYT columnist David Brooks spent an hour discussing where the country stands today.  The conversation focused largely on the nation’s emotional state, and how that is driving reactions to Obama administration policies.  You can see the piece here.

I won’t do a complete dive into the wide range of topics covered, however a few key things stood out to me.

* There is a feeling in large parts of the country that the administration is trying to do too much.

* Brooks senses this feeling is compounded by a thirst for Jacksonian government – aka Andrew Jackson’s approach to government.  At a very high level, this approach means putting decisions in the hands of the people, and at its core is driven by a deep distrust in the government’s ability to be effective.  A symptom of this feeling is the rise in the Tea Party movement.

* Brooks also feels that we are on par or ahead in most technology sectors with the world, save wind in Europe and possibly steel (as pointed out  by Rose.)

If Brooks is right, there is a significant need for sustainable marketers to tailor their approach.  There won’t be lack of innovation or choice.  Success  is going to come down to how you communicate the value prop to your prospective customers.  In this climate, marketers must:

* Balance the message mix.  Find the right inflection point between  “right thing to do/moral obligation” side (appealing more naturally to the coasts), and the “empowerment/cost savings” side (for the larger majority of the US.)

* Remember that adoption comes with customer identification.  People are chiefly motivated in this climate by a) cost and b) the feeling of “that makes sense for me.”  Green marketers mustn’t fall in love with their technology or its long-term benefits.

* Instead, hone in on the individual impact, ease of use and immediate short-term financial benefits to attract customers beyond the base.

People are in a “prove it to me ” mindset, be it with politics or purchases.  Marketers, take notice.

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The Individual and Sustainability

Inspired by sports legend Peter Gammons and his Boston Globe Diamond Notes column from the heyday of the Boston Red Sox, this is the first in a regular ongoing series of posts.  These posts will catalog quick impressions on how the individual consumer impact and influence on brand marketing and larger sustainable projects.

* Sears – Caught a new commercial from Sears this weekend during my regular Sunday Meet the Press viewing.  Focused on the RAD program responsible appliance disposal within EPA standards.  Sears uses the generation gap and “hip” language in the piece.  Interesting service, but not sure when “rad” was still part of the lexicon of youth.

* The consumer’s role in energy consumption is becoming higher profile.  Check out this short piece from the BBJ.  It’s you and I that will be more in control vs. the utilities, and they have a large enough financial interest to start really listening.

* High speed rails – Post-State of the Union President Obama was in Tampa talking about his plan.  I’ve seen an uptick in the coverage on these trains, like this piece from this month’s Wired.  I’m getting flashbacks to Singles and the lunch meeting between Campbell Scott and Tom Skerritt – “if we give them good coffee…”  Individual consumer choice will drive success or failure of these systems.  Having experienced European rail systems, I’m all for this as long as its affordable.

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