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What Do Consumers Really think of Energy Star?

A new EcoPinion report was released this week on consumer perceptions of the “Energy Star” brand for energy efficiency.
The report contends that Energy Star is one of the few credible brands in the energy efficiency space, so there is a lot riding on its continued success and relevance, not the least of which are the  nation’s short-term goals around energy efficiency and climate change.

The survey confirms that consumers have high awareness and good acceptance of the Energy Star label. However, the analysis shows that there are steps that need to be taken to maintain the viability and improve the brand. In other words, the marketers in us want to see a more segmented approach to positioning and messaging. One key recommendation, for example, is to utilize a tiered, e.g., a gold label, approach to labeling higher levels of energy efficiency.

Why should we care?  Despite the fact that there are some very real questions about Energy Star’s testing procedures and standards (today’s announcement that the EPA and DOE are going to strengthen Energy Star’s standards are good news on this front), the report argues that:

…maintaining a strong Energy Star brand is critical to the collective
success of the market and society to improve energy efficiency levels. And
given the current stalemate over climate change discussions, it may be the
only realistic alternative to achieve large-scale emission reductions in the
short-term. The focus shouldn’t solely be short term though. The question
should be: How will Energy Star evolve three, four or five years from now?
It is the flagship brand and barometer for the whole energy-efficiency space.

I have to agree that a proliferation of Energy Star rated products, despite flaws in the system, represent a viable way for small actions (improved energy efficiency) multiplied by large numbers (all the various products that will strive to achieve the ratings) to have a significant impact.

A tiered approach, like the one detailed in the report, certainly would help with some of the criticisms of lax standards. It might also help to improve perception among a key emerging consumer group in which (according to the report) there exists a big gap (over 15 points) in perceptions of the ratings’ importance.  It seems that younger Americans (18-34), when compared to older Americans (55+), do not view the Energy Star label as being “extremely important.”  That alone could derail the potential impact of the label to improve energy efficiency levels.

Jennifer Kaplan is adjunct faculty in Marketing at Marymount University, author of the new book, Greening Your Small Business and a Senior Adviser to DEFG/EcoAlign.

Written by Jennifer Kaplan

Jennifer Kaplan writes regularly about sustainable food and wine, the intersection of food and marketing and food politics for and is the author of Greening Your Small Business (November 2009, Penguin Group (USA)). She was been named one of The 16 Women You Must Follow on Twitter for Green Business. She has four kids, a dog, a hamster and an MBA - find her on .


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