Energy Efficient Home Listings

September 10, 2006

In today’s soft real estate market, home buyers increasingly are willing to wait to get what they want, at a price they are willing to pay. Moreover, as the cost of heating and cooling a home has increased significantly over the past few years, consumers are also paying increased attention to monthly energy bills associated with properties they are considering. Buyer hesitation is leaving sellers in the lurch and realtors without commissions. The current environment is ripe for a new marketing message, especially one that can turn issues that are detremental to home sales – like higher fuel prices – into an advantage.

Realtors should:

Market a home based in its energy efficiency. Energy efficiency has become a true differentiator in this market. Whenever possible, realtors should market homes based on comparable energy efficiency – focusing on monthly cost savings and reduced impact on climate change.

Encourage buyers and sellers to take advantage of FHA Energy Efficient Mortgages (EEM). These mortgages allow home owners to tack on 100% of the cost for energy efficiency improvements to an already approved mortgage (up to $4k or 5% of the value of the home, up to a maximum of $8k, whichever is greater). US Department of Energy is a good source for information on EEMs.

Buyers should consider investments that yield even modest improvements in energy efficiency, as they can result in significant reductions in monthly energy bills. Sellers should consider how these investments will reduce anticipated energy bills and improve a home’s salability.

Engage customers by providing educational content and hands-on tools. Consumers have not traditionally focused on opportunities to improve energy efficiency. Realtors should provide appropriate materials to educate both buyers and sellers.

Moreover, realtors should provide energy cost savings calculators that enable consumers to understand the impact of investments in energy efficiency. Wisconsin Public Service provides a comprehensive one.


Bottled Water Backlash

September 10, 2006

The $10B* bottled US water industry has enjoyed aggressive growth over the past decade. With over a 9% CAGR since 2000, the industry does not show many signs of slowing down (International Bottled Water Association). Today, one in two Americans drink bottled water while one in six drink it exclusively (Corporate Accountability International).

Marketers have fueled this growth by creating the perception in consumers minds that bottled water is better than tap water in three ways: it is healthier (i.e., based on purity, perceived health benefits), better tasting and more convenient.

While it may be convenient to pick up a cold bottle of water at the local convenience store (and perhaps a healthier alternative to soda), it is a misperception – fueled by marketers – that bottled water is healthier or necessarily tastes better than tap.

Bottled water is not necessarily healthier that tap: While different agencies govern tap water (Environmental Protection Agency) and bottled water (Food and Drug Administration), for the most part, similar standards have been adopted by both.

Consumers can not distinguish bottled and tap water by taste: Corporate Accountability International staged a “Tap Water Challenge”, a blind taste test in 8 US cities where consumers were asked to differentiate by taste between bottled (spring – Nestle’s Poland Spring and “purified” tap water – PepsiCo’s Aquifina or Coca-Cola’s Desani) and regular tap water. Overwhelmingly, participants could not distinguish one from another.

As such, the current brand positioning for bottle water is at odds with greens who view bottled water as detrimental to the environment (e.g., higher use of fuels to bottle and transport water) and, potentially, municipal supplies (e.g., may divert consumer interest and investment away from public water systems, unsustainable pumping of local aquifers). Brands may face negative impact if recent anti-bottled water campaigns such CAI’s “Think Outside the Bottle” resonate with even a small segment of consumers.

Marketers might want a preemptive strike:

Make product more eco-friendly and clearly label it so: Shift to eco-friendly packaging, tap local supplies to reduce transportation costs, ensure that the water comes from a sustainable source.

Donate % of profits to charity. Starbucks has it right. If you are selling a commodity to consumers at a premium price, why not ask them to help ensure that others have access to safe (public) drinking water as well? Through its Ethos brand, Starbucks plans to donate $10 million over the next five years for clean-water sources in poor countries (or about $0.05 per bottle).

*2005 forecast for producer revenue only, Beverage Marketing Corporation


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