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How to Make Energy Education Fun for Customers

image credit: Questline
Brian Lindamood's picture
Vice President, Marketing & Content Strategy Questline Inc.

Brian Lindamood is Vice President of Marketing and Content Strategy at Questline, a content marketing agency dedicated to the energy utility industry. He leads the team that delivers engaging...

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  • Oct 14, 2021
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As utility marketers, we're often asked to share rather esoteric messages with residential customers: energy efficiency, electric or gas safety, storm prep, rate plan and payment options.

As important as these topics are, it can be a challenge to get customers to pay attention. The fact is, this stuff can be boring to some people. (Present company excluded, of course.)

But it doesn't have to be.

We all know that it's critical to frame these messages around customers' interests and motivations. Efficiency isn't just about saving energy, for example, it's about saving money, reducing our carbon footprint and making our homes more comfortable. The technical details behind these topics may be esoteric, but their impact should be very personal to customers.

Just as important as the message, however, is the way we deliver that message. If electric safety is a snooze to some people, a text article about electric safety will put them right to sleep. But a video about electric safety? Yeah, that would be worth watching. Or an interactive video game? Now that could be fun.

It would also be memorable. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 81% of marketers agree that interactive content grabs attention more effectively than static content. Another survey found that 93% of marketers think interactive content is effective in educating customers.

Just playing around with the smart grid

When content is entertaining as well as informative, your customers are more likely to engage with it — and more likely to understand your message. A customer who is absorbed in a game, having fun while playing along, might not realize they're learning something too.

We worked with AEP Ohio to create a video game called Protect the Line that teaches customers how Distribution Automation Circuit Reconfiguration (DACR) technology is used to detect outages and restore power. This is a pretty dry topic for a residential audience. But the game is fun! Customers click on a map of a neighborhood to avoid tree limbs and squirrels and cars crashing into utility poles, trying to restore power while learning how the smart grid works.

An entertaining throwback to educational videos

It's no secret that video is the most popular type of content — among marketers and customers. In the age of nonstop streaming television, social media and smartphones, an engaging video makes your message both memorable and shareable while being adaptable across all your digital channels.

Questline partnered with the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC) to produce The Evolving World of Energy video series. Hosted by the animated character Professor Energy, the videos are a nostalgic nod to old-fashioned classroom filmstrips — a little ironic and a lot of fun.

Professor Energy guides customers through energy’s dramatic transformation from the past into the future, providing colorful insights and real-world examples about renewables, the smart grid, electric vehicles and more. The videos were featured in a variety of communications, including SECC’s industry and consumer websites, webinars, social media and email marketing, generating thousands of views on YouTube.

Help customers learn and have fun at the same time

Utilities play an important role in educating customers about new technologies, safety and energy efficiency, among many other topics. But actually capturing customers' attention can be a challenge. With interactive and video content, we can make energy topics interesting and engaging for our customers — and help them learn something while they're having fun.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 18, 2021

As important as these topics are, it can be a challenge to get customers to pay attention. The fact is, this stuff can be boring to some people. (Present company excluded, of course.)

But it doesn't have to be.

I love this-- too many customers are used to just having a once per month touch point with the utility and not thinking about anything else, but that is changing and it must change!

Mark Wilkinson's picture
Mark Wilkinson on Oct 19, 2021

We like Questline's approach to interactive content across a full range of forms to be sure that every utility customer can find a format they like best to engage.  Video continues to be tremendously popular and useful to bring customers into a topic and convey information effortlessly.  We also like their infographics and animations that make complex topics easy to understand.  The next generation of widgets and games designed for education AND entertainment look phenomenal, as well.  Having a diverse array of different types of content on similar topics ensures all customers find ways to connect with their utility.

Henry Craver's picture
Henry Craver on Oct 25, 2021

I feel like this is a loosing battle. Yes videos and games are perhaps more interesting than an email, but why would customers choose a utility's video/game over all the other options at their fingertips these days?

Brian Lindamood's picture
Brian Lindamood on Oct 26, 2021

That's a great question Henry. Utilities are not in the entertainment business and shouldn't see themselves as competing with Fortnite for customers' attention.

However, utilities are in the communication business (even if we don't think of it that way). We have important messages to share with customers. So the question is, how do we best share those messages? How do we reach customers who love Fortnite but who also need to learn about electric safety or energy efficiency? Those messages can be entertaining while also educating customers who are accustomed to engaging digital experiences. 

Mark Wilkinson's picture
Mark Wilkinson on Oct 27, 2021

I think of gamification and interactive widgets more as a new delivery modal than a game, per se.  Consider the mortgage industry or credit card industry using calculators to help consumers understand the impact of interest rate on the amounts repaid.  Yes, you could get the same information from actuarial tables, but most users, certainly younger generations, won't process that information, so the tables have no value.

 

By delivering information about energy efficiency in an interactive widget with more engaging visuals or content, utilities can help a broad array of their customers take more interest in and control over their energy use and spending, which should help at least some portion of the customer base achieve a savings or energy efficiency goal.  I won't soon give up my PS5 for one of Questline's games, but I did learn some interesting information from their infographics, animations, and new widgets.  

Mark Wilkinson's picture
Mark Wilkinson on Oct 27, 2021

Can't think of a better group than Questline or a better evangelist for this topic than Brian.  Customers have become tone deaf to traditional educational material, and upcoming generations expect a higher level of interactivity in their learning modals.  Embedding vibrant content and interactive digital applications into the energy efficiency journey makes sense, and enlivens the customer's engagement with that valuable content.  Great article.

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