Jacquie Ottman's
Green Marketing Blog

How We Used “Framing” to Sell the Wind

This is a guest blog post written by Cathy L. Hartman & Edwin R. Stafford.

Introducing “Framing”
By aligning marketing strategies with the core values of your audience, you can successfully craft a message that resonates with a targeted public, and increase your campaign’s chances for success. This is called “framing” and it’s well illustrated in the following two case studies.

Case Study:  Utah & ‘The Winds of Opportunity’
In 2003, we collaborated with the Utah Wind Working Group to campaign for wind energy opportunities. At that time, renewable energy was a concept that many Utahns considered a threat to their way of life. The majority of Utah relied on cheap coal for electricity, and policymakers were reluctant to alter the status quo. Also, their economy was structured around heavy industrial growth and activities such as hunting and fishing, all seemingly in conflict with the idea of environmental protection.

In implementing two different statewide initiatives, we found that support for our initiatives greatly hinged on the way in which each campaign message was marketed.

Aligned with Family Values
Our first campaign was successful largely because our proposal aligned with Utah’s traditional values of hard work, family, and children. Together with the Utah Wind Working Group, we proposed building wind farms as a way to increase funding for schools.

At the time, Utah was ranked last in the country for statewide public school funding because, while Utahns valued education, its citizens were unwilling to pay the necessary general tax increase. Building wind farms, however, would increase property taxes, 75% of which is directed towards the schools. This initiative resonated loudly with the public, given that children and education were considered a top priority. By appealing to the values of the target audience, we successfully garnered enough support for the State legislature to pass its first energy tax incentive in 2004.

Missing the Mark
In a 2003 attack-on-all-fronts effort to promote wind energy and raise awareness of Utah’s water crisis, we launched a campaign that highlighted the seemingly clear water-energy nexus: invest in wind energy, save water. This time, our approach was much less targeted and in turn, much less effective. Instead of the same support that came from our “wind power funds schools” initiative, the campaign was met with heavy disapproval. The Payson utility plant even mounted on the defensive, angry that the campaign placed the spotlight on already tense conflicts over water rights.

Take Home Messages

We learned a few very important lessons from these two campaigns. The first:  win hearts, not minds. Our ‘fund schools’ campaign was so successful because it touched on something that Utahns deeply cared about-their children. It also allowed for wind energy opportunities without raising taxes, which appealed to the ‘self-reliant’ streak among the public and state legislators. Consequently, wind power seemed like the smarter, more valuable choice. The key ways in making personal connections, instead of more theoretical ones, as we did in the ‘Wind Energy Saves Water’ campaign.

Secondly, we learned how critical it is to consider both intended as well as unintended audiences. In both campaigns, we failed to recognize how our message would impact groups outside of the policy-makers and the public. In turn, our message was not well received by employees and utility executives. On the other hand, we were pleasantly surprised to find allies among school administrators in our ‘fund schools’ initiative,  a group that was not initially considered a stakeholder when developing our campaign strategy.

Edwin R. Stafford, Ph.D.,  and Cathy L. Hartman are professors of marketing at the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business of Utah State University.

They collaborated with Jacquie Ottman on the very respected article, “Avoiding Green Marketing Myopia” which appeared in the journal, Environment,  2006.


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