Energy Efficiency has Become the New Conspicuous Consumption
Jeff Kussard ([email protected]) is strategic development director for Capitol.
I, like many of my colleagues in CI, now find myself becoming occasionally wistful thinking about the long, exciting run we experienced over the previous decade. It was a time when a seemingly endless supply of new housing starts inspired a breadth of advanced technologies and products that appealed to every need and a variety of budgets. When the change came, it came fast, leaving many pros scratching their heads about how best to proceed in a new and, for some, intimidating market. Here are four observations about the current state of our market and how you can position your company for success in this new era.
1 The days of conspicuous consumption are over. Let’s face it, the era of conspicuous consumption is over. While an economic recovery is on the way, none of us should expect to experience the same level of veracity, even when more consumers are gainfully employed. For an industry that relies on occasionally extravagant spending, it is time to step back and reflect upon what direction we must take in order to remain strong and profitable.
2 There is a financial incentive to consumers to being green. Even before the downturn, the trend toward greener technologies and products was in full swing, and it has only picked up velocity over the past two years. It is no surprise that consumers are looking for ways to save on energy costs, oh and maybe to help protect the environment a little bit.
While consumers are jumping in to do their part in ever increasing numbers, the fact of the matter is that they wouldn’t be doing so if there wasn’t a green incentive of the financial kind.
3 Manufacturers are giving us a green story to tell. Our vendor partners are well aware of the green trend and are responding with products that are ENERGY STAR compliant and, in many cases, RoHS compliant as well (see sidebox). While RoHS is of primary concern to manufacturers who do business in Europe, it’s also proving to be an effective selling tool here at home. I’ve spoken with many creative dealers who are quick to point out to their clients just how RoHS certification means that they are buying products that are more efficient and ecologically sound than those that are not. Combined with the ENERGY STAR story, consumers correctly believe that RoHS compliance may lead to saving a few dollars on energy bills while keeping their region free of hazardous materials.
4 Consumers will respond to a green message, if you have one. The perception of green is almost as important as being green. No, I’m not advocating that we mislead our end-users. Rather, it is up to us to tout the green side of the business across the board. From advertising to websites, we must be relentless in our approach to highlighting the green benefits of our products and services whenever and wherever the opportunity exists.
For example, I tell our dealers that their promotional materials (including web sites and social networking pages) should always feature a section on how being green is good for the environment and the wallet. Detail those products that can be positioned as such, with emphasis on how they present a more affordable option than less ecologically sound alternatives. Also, it is worthwhile to feature general standards and recycling practices for the region, with information on how your business is supporting these practices to the betterment of the community.
And it isn’t enough to just talk about the products in your catalog. Here is where a dealer can become a bona fide resource, reaching out to an existing database, placing editorial in local newspapers and web forums, and speaking at local gatherings to discuss how specific trends in electronics are helping to improve the environment while saving a few dollars at the end of the month.
It all comes down to branding. There is no question that the green mindset will be with us for the foreseeable future, and I couldn’t be happier. As consumers retreat from conspicuous consumption, the CI industry is turning to more practical concerns to remain vital.
Unfamiliar with RoHS?
RoHS refers to the Restriction of Hazardous Substances directive that was adopted by the European Union in 2003. Simply put, RoHS restricts the use of hazardous materials in the manufacture of various types of electronics and electrical equipment. While the standard is of primary concern to manufacturers who do business in Europe, it’s also proving to be an effective selling tool in North America.