Green Energy Talk: Oops! The Gap Is Showing!

Companies marketing green products and, in particular, promoting their green energy initiatives are using words like “energy conservation” and “green energy,” but what effect has this had on consumers? Do they care? Do they even understand what these terms mean?

EcoAlign, a strategic marketing agency focused on energy and the environment, decided to find out. In September, it conducted 1,000 interviews, comparing against a similar survey conducted in September 2007. The sample was balanced to match the U.S. population by age, gender, region and ethnicity.

The results? Green Align found that consumers generally have positive associations with the terms “energy efficiency,” “energy conservation” and “clean energy,” but their understanding of what these terms mean has remained the same or decreased since 2007.

They also have low or negative understanding about technical terms such as “demand response” (resulting in the recommendation that such terminology not be used in external marketing communications) and showed a lot of confusion about green pricing terminology such as “peak pricing,” “green pricing,” and “fuel supply pricing.”

Moreover, consumers remain confused about the definitions of basic terms. They cannot articulate the difference between energy conservation, energy efficiency and smart energy. Less than one third chose the correct definition for those terms from among a selection of definitions (multiple choices).

Who Benefits? You’d Be Surprised

The EcoAlign survey also found that, in spite a massive industry efforts at consumer education, respondents appeared to make a distinct separation between the cultural, societal, and environmental benefits of conservation.

For example, when asked “who will benefit most from smart energy and smart meter investments?”, respondents answered as follows:

  • Environment 31%
  • Utilities 17%
  • Residential consumers 13%
  • Government 12%
  • Technology companies and vendors 11%
  • Society 10%
  • Business consumers 5%

Only 31% of respondents think the environment benefits from smart energy and smart meter investments? Either we’re not communicating clearly or the consumer isn’t listening!

When asked who would benefit least from smart energy and smart meter investments, respondents answered as follows:

  • Government 29%
  • Residential consumers 16%
  • Utilities 1%
  • Society 10%
  • Environment 10%
  • Technology companies and vendors 9%
  • Business consumers 8%

Hmmm . . . Guess all that government stimulus money was just altruism!

Clearly, we have a lot of work to do on basic education on green issues, including energy.

For a free copy of the survey, click here.

Like this post? See all my “Greening Print Marketing” posts.

Written by Heidi Tolliver-Walker

Heidi Tolliver-Walker has been a commercial and digital printing industry analyst, feature writer, columnist, editor, and author for nearly 20 years. She is known for her meticulous research and no-nonsense perspective. In addition to having written thousands of industry articles for top industry publications, she and Richard Romano have been the face of the well-respected industry research firm The Industry Measure (TrendWatch Graphic Arts) for many years. In her more than 13-year tenure with the firm, she has written countless reports on digital printing, 1:1 (personalized) printing, Web-to-print, personalized URLs, and other hot industry applications. She is also a long-time contributing editor and columnist for Printing News, for which she writes two monthly columns, including "Personal Effects," which features monthly analysis of 1:1 (personalized) printing case studies. She is also the author of three titles for the National Association of Printing Leadership: Designer's Printing Companion, Ink & Color: A Printer's Guide, and Diversifying Via Value-Added Services. As a small, niche publisher (Strong Tower Publishing), she is active in utilizing these technologies in her own business, as well.


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  1. Thanks for the review. I totally agree that “…we have a lot of work to do on basic education on green issues, including energy.” The kind of research being done by our client EcoAlign will help move us toward more effective communications with consumers that will lead to greater buy-in.

    For more, check out the interview with EcoAlign CEO Jamie Wimberly on

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