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AESP Energy Award Review Series: Baltimore Gas & Electric’s Fairy Tale Campaign

image credit: Baltimore Gas & Electric
Matt Chester's picture
Energy Analyst Chester Energy and Policy

Official Energy Central Community Manager of Generation and Energy Management Networks. Matt is an energy analyst in Orlando FL (by way of Washington DC) working as an independent energy...

  • Member since 2018
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  • Apr 16, 2020

In the utility business, successes and achievements by one organization can immediately be applied as lessons learned by others throughout the sector. Because utilities are striving for the same goal and aren’t competing over customers, the industry is uniquely positioned for information sharing in that way. That’s why the 2020 AESP Energy Awards handed out earlier this year at the 30th Annual AESP Conference in Anaheim, California, are so noteworthy—they can serve as roadmaps for other utilities to replicate this important success.

AESP is a partner of Energy Central in our ‘Energy Efficiency Community’, so we, in particular, want to shed light on these award winners, which is why I recently sat in on the webinars AESP  held to celebrate these award winners and give them a platform to discuss their projects. To help further spread that message, I’ve been sharing summary writeups of what was learned for any of the members of this group who were unable to attend those webinars, and the next one up on the list is Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) and their award of ‘Outstanding Achievement in Residential Marketing’ in recognition of their fairy tale campaign.

Sharing about this creative campaign on the webinar was Matt Buecker of BGE’s marketing department. What made this particular marketing campaign so eye-catching and effective was how it embraced the storytelling approach and utilized a unique collection of animated characters to educate and promote customers on how to save energy and money. After six months, the resultant TV spots received 25 million impressions and participation has skyrocketed as a result. BGE’s Smart Energy Savers Program has since assisted residential customers to utilize $570 million in energy-efficient product rebates, over 300,000 home energy audits/check-ups, and over 33 million instant discounts on ENERGY STAR certified LEDs.

The real innovation of this campaign started way earlier, though, in the ideation part of the process, embracing non-traditional approaches. This process included the use of ‘campaign mood rooms’ that were set up for in-person demonstrations of potential campaigns, each with a different color scheme and feel. Matt described how the marketing teams were able to walk through and experience each potential campaign as opposed to the traditional method of sitting in a creative brief with standard posters and printouts. The next step in their campaign development included concept theater, so they again eschewed normal slide decks or posters and instead embraced storytelling methods: guitar playing, spoken word performances, etc. The team watched these performances as key images from potential campaigns were projected onto the screens, providing a fully immersive experience.  

These creative approaches really shook up the process, got the creative juices flowing, and the results spoke for themselves. Through this process, and following up with focus groups, they settled on a motif for their campaign settled around fairy tales and fairy tale characters. Each character was created for a specific purpose and program (e.g., one set of characters for home energy audits, one for efficient product rebates, etc.).  This charming campaign then graced televisions, billboards, and physical mail across Maryland to reach customers where they were with a very holistic campaign. The results were outstanding, with a 312% increase in program participation, a 120% increase in website traffic, and a 113% increase in the number of new users on the site.

Beyond the non-traditional approach that passed with flying colors, Matt shared a few other lessons learned from this successful (and now award-winning) campaign. First, he noted that they had to be agile on feedback they got from focus groups and follow up testing. Then he noted that you can’t be afraid to take chances when it comes to creativity, but make sure to have the data to back it up. By embracing creative alternative development methods,  your organization can also freshen up marketing and, like the customers of BGE, live energy efficiently ever after!

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Linda Stevens's picture
Linda Stevens on Apr 20, 2020

This is great! I remember the ads with Betty White years ago in California. I still think of her when I decide to hold off running my dishwasher until nighttime! 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Apr 20, 2020

Thanks for sending me down this rabbit hole, Linda! Here's a great spot from that series of ads:

Alan King's picture
Alan King on Apr 20, 2020

Reading engagement like this from our industry is something so few get to see. With no shortage of bad press, examples like this are great to read. Across the world there are teams at utilities involved in helping their customers and being recognized for it with an award helps crystalize their efforts more broadly. 

Thanks for posting Matt, a good read with some strong numbers behind it.

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