I have a keen appreciation for the challenges of convincing people to choose clean power over traditional fossil fuel energy. Clean energy has typically been seen as the choice of “liberals” (tree huggers) versus “conservatives” (drill, baby, drill!). Those days are over, just as gone as leaded gasoline – although you might not know it based on some of the dumb rhetoric still spewing from the ideological smokestacks in Congress. It turns out that time, technology and storytelling have shifted the tides in favor of the adoption of clean power by conservatives and liberals alike.
For proof, sip some “Green Tea.” The New York Times reports that some elements of the Tea Party have joined forces with the Sierra Club to find common ground and support solar power.
This seems about as likely as Rush Limbaugh getting married to Al Gore (mental picture: photo of the happy couple kissing on the beach in Maui). What would make these two fall so desperately in love? It’s called “free market energy.” This is the successful reframing of the clean energy debate through a conservative lens. Utilities in some parts of America are trying to force solar energy users to pony up more money to help pay for the operation of the electric grid. To conservatives, this is seen as another kind of tax, perhaps the filthiest word in the English language.
Choosing solar and being more independent of the grid means freedom, the most lovable word in the English language. The icing on the Al and Rush wedding cake is that domestically produced energy translates into less imported fuel and, hence, greater American energy security.
This shift in perception will help guide more effective directions for green marketing, including:
Flag waving. Ads for American-made cars have often featured flag waving, a blatant plug to buy American that’s obviously designed to appeal to our patriotism. Even given the fact that so many solar panels are made in China, I suspect that we’ll see more of the red, white and blue associated with the freedom to choose our own energy.
Green is the new black. Clean energy will be seen as more fashionable, in the same way wearing nice Levis is fashionable. The brand says “American” (so what if they’re made in Vietnam or wherever). So I’d expect more people to proudly wear their solar and wind choice on their sleeve, regardless of which party they belong to.
Declare independence. More marketers will create overt appeals to our sense of independence and freedom. This will work even in places like New Hampshire, which isn’t exactly a bastion of environmentalism. Their state motto – “Live free or die” is something they really live by (or die by since motorcyclists aren’t required by law to wear helmets). So picture a post card direct mail piece for solar installation with the headline “Live free of your electric company.” Sign me up!
The wedding of conservative values with clean energy is great news for our country. Homeowners and businesses can save money on their electric bills; we can be free of centralized energy grids that charge extra fees; we can be more secure as a nation. And oh, by the way, it’s reducing the carbon pollution that’s causing climate change. Rush and Al, let’s have a toast and raise our cups of green tea together. May the sun always shine on your love.