Monday, January 15, 2007

Energy Tips

Just completed: a new booklet for Reliant Energy that coaches new homeowners how to save money on their electricity bills.

I participated in the project as copywriter for Active Imagination. The agency did a fine job of organizing, designing and producing the piece – especially within the context of Reliant Energy’s existing graphic standards.

What Active Imagination has created is a colorful, warm-hearted instruction booklet with dozens of energy-saving tips. Including a couple I didn’t know (or remember) myself, even after years of doing this kind of work for the “retail” part of the energy market.

I stocked up on compact fluorescent bulbs for the house because of information I discovered during the research phase. In the decade or so since I originally considered fluorescents for our home’s various reading lamps and work lights, I found out that fluorescents have become far more effective and a lot less expensive.

You’d think a company that’s in the business of selling electricity would shy away from telling people how to save it. You’d be wrong (or cynical). It’s part of Reliant Energy’s public mission to instruct its customers on ways to conserve energy.

Remember too that the user’s manual is one of our business’s basic building blocks.

Think about this concept two ways. First, every new system (including a house) has a learning curve that’s got to be climbed in order to achieve the system’s highest level of efficiency. Don’t doubt the “house as a system” approach: E-Star has been promoting it for years:

Understanding the interrelations and accommodating them requires effort from the design phase through all stages of construction. The net result is a home that performs better on many fronts: energy efficiency, comfort, durability, safety, and affordability.

Reliant Energy works closely with builders to deliver better-performing homes to the housing market. The wire-bound booklet Active Imagination has created for the company is clearly focused on helping readers climb the learning curve faster.

Second, Reliant Energy faces a competitive market – new homeowners can choose some other company to be their electricity provider. So anything that helps Reliant Energy’s prospects (say, people moving into a new home) become customers is what we’d call “a good thing.” Good for marketing and good for branding.

Eighteen months ago, I asked in this space, “When does an instruction manual or a user’s manual serve as a marketing tool? The right answer is…always.”

Thanks to Active Imagination and Reliant Energy for the chance to work on this small but attractive piece of “houseware.”

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