Category Archives: energy

Occupy St Paul’s (sorry, London)

Went and spent a couple of hours down there last week – never been to a protest before.   It’s a really interesting, well-organised space with the tents and the people who stay in them (not always overnight or so it seems!) and then loads of people milling about – be it tourists or workers on a break.  I ended up having a long conversation with a chap who believed the fundamental issue was Fractional Reserve Lending (something I know a little about from the course and from the remarkable film in this earlier post) as well as a Swedish couple, one of whom had done some work with the IMF.  So, there are high-calibre people are hanging out down there.

As someone from a communications background, the main thing I took from the experience was a lack of understanding of what they want.  You get no clear idea of what ‘success would look like’ (to use that phrase).  For example, one banner says ‘Capitalism IS crisis’, another says ‘This is not an anti-capitalism movement’.  Perhaps the most frequent thing you see is ‘We are the 99%’ – referring to the fact that the other 1% have all the money.  I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with that?  Now, maybe it’s too difficult to compress what the movement is into a soundbite and to do so is to deny the complexity of the situation we find ourselves in.  But, I would suggest, if they want to engage more people more fully, some sort of clarity of what they stand for/what they want etc would be of benefit.  By doing this, they might be able to garner more support as more of the population will more easily be able to understand that the issues they are protesting about.

As a footnote to this, I stopped by on a couple of days ago and the main banner has changed to ‘What Would Jesus Do?’  Which is kind of better in that they have understood that the protest has a moral edge to it and that they’re right outside St. Paul’s.  BUT, given all the press about whether they should move on and the Dean resigning over this, the ‘Jesus’ banner could easily be construed in the context of whether Jesus would let them stay and protest, rather than what would Jesus do in relation to the inequality in the banking system and economy which I would understand to be closer to the point they are trying to make.

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The Future of Marketing? – The ‘Why Don’t You?’ Approach

In the 1980’s the opening title sequence of the children’s TV show ‘Why Don’t You?’ included the line ‘Why don’t you switch off your TV set and do something less boring instead?’

If the opening titles are a form of marketing, then the producers of the programme can be seen as taking a fairly suicidal approach – to actively encourage people to use less of what they have to offer.  Yet conversely, this approach maybe able to breathe life into the marketing function today as it struggles with the seemingly opposing forces of promoting business growth and sustainability.  One example that walks this line well is the current E.ON campaign as it claims that by signing with them, you’ll use less energy and pay less money.

As Jeremy Davies, E.ON’s Brand and Communications Director says:

“We genuinely want to engage with people about the energy issues that matter to them. We wanted to give consumers a clear, simple and honest answer: helping people use less energy, means they will have lower bills and lower bills mean happier customers who want to stay with us for longer.”

So, as you’d expect, it’s still about the £, but it’s about measuring Customer Lifetime Value, with the understanding that you’ll take a hit on the Average Revenue Per Customer per year, but you’ll keep them for more years.

As a result of E.ON promoting lower consumption and reduced bills, it should steal share from the competition.  If they are successful, then the total revenue from their growing customer base will be greater than the total loss of revenue from encouraging all customers to use less.  So the company will grow.

But, the marketing is interesting because it counters that fundamental belief in advertising and marketing – encourage consumers to consume more.  And (via research I bet) they have to use a long-copy ad to explain this different approach so consumers could get their head around it.

Thinking into the future, E.ON’s ‘Use us and use less’ philosophy could easily be transferable to categories where consumers are routinely encourage to consume in excess, in the same way that Virgin enters categories with poor customer service with its cheeky customer service/consumer champion attitude.

This maybe some way off for E.ON, but if the marketing community are looking for a way to reconcile their profession with the issue of sustainability, then they could do a lot worse that look at E.ON.  Can a clothing retailer promote that its items look better with age?  Or a consumer electronics company talk about the durability and longevity of their products for a change?

The question for marketers is if E.ON can do it – Why Don’t You?

The Bigger Picture

So far, the majority of the posts have been focussed on Consumer Behaviour and thoughts on how to change it.  However, of course, Consumer Demand for goods is only one link in a longer chain related to consumption.

The video is from this site, the story of stuff and it gives a great, simple summary of the process, from Extraction to Disposal, via Production, Distribution and Consumption.  Annie Leonard knows her stuff and she dishes out the scary interesting stats as she makes it clear how central the Consumption element is.  However, she also suggests that this is perhaps the most variable area, because the drive to shop only came into being post-WW2.

Good stuff.


How oil can help Climate Change

Here’s an interesting article from the Guardian (thanks Donald). It’s entitled ‘Peak oil is the villain governments need’ and suggests that the arrival of Peak Oil and the accompanying rise in price for a barrel will quell our addiction to the black stuff ensuring we use less of it thus reducing our C02 emmissions.  Therefore Peak Oil becomes a sort of Trojan Horse for the Climate Change movement.

This is interesting because it suggests that it’s going to be good old hard cash that drives the Climate Change agenda rather than any desire to be green.  This is a bit ‘Route One’, although of course, money is always a significant variable in any decision about goods and services.  It’s also a bit depressing to think that the thing that will be the major variable to swtich behaviour will be cost, rather than some desire to do the right thing for the greater good.

However, I think that here are a number of issues with all of this and the concept of Peak Oil:

When will Peak Oil actually happen?  It’s been talked about for years and still hasn’t happened.  If they’re thinking of drilling the Arctic, then they’ll be thinking of drilling in the Antarctic and that could put Peak Oil back a few years.  And of course this will lead to an environmental disaster there, but then when has an environmental disaster ever stopped us drilling for oil? They’re still at it in the Gulf of Mexico.  Unfortunately, I think our desire for oil will always trump our concern for the environmental consequences.  Although I hope I’m proved wrong.

Peak Oil isn’t the end of oil anyway.  You’ve got all that energy inefficient oil shale and oil sands to get through first, if you can lobby and get past the Climate Change agenda.

The price of energy is vastly underpriced (in my opinion).  Say you pay £50 a month to heat your house in winter.  How much would you actually be prepared to pay to have a warm house when it’s below zero outside?  £50 a weekend?  The price of petrol and other forms of fossil fuels seem underpriced and they’re fairly inelastic so the price per barrel can go a lot higher, I reckon.  But then, the higher the price, the argument is less about what people are prepared to pay for oil, but rather the viability of making money out of other, alternative energy-generating  solutions.  But that’s a whole other thing.

Anyway, I’m sure that there are lots of other thoughts to come out of the article, but it’s a good ‘un.

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