Hub proposes new national marketing campaign for zero carbon homes

Friday, February 5, 2010

New proposals announced today by the Zero Carbon Hub and Energy Saving Trust call for a new marketing strategy for zero carbon homes. The new strategy will address concerns that zero carbon homes appear experimental and unappealing to the majority of homebuyers.

Among ten recommendations in the “Marketing Tomorrow’s New Homes” report are proposals to:

  • develop a national new homes marketing campaign to stimulate customer demand for low and zero carbon homes and move them from the ‘exemplar’ to the ‘mainstream’
  • create the bigger picture for new sustainable homes - a concept and proposition that consumers understand and value
  • ensure consistent marketing messages based on real-life benefits are used by developers and government
  • ensure zero carbon homes are not ’marginalised as green’ by marketing them as special items so that sustainable features are simply integrated across the developers portfolio
  • create an environment of constant innovation rather than radical changes, encouraging a drip-feed of green features across the entire housing stock so that high performing homes become the ‘new normal’

According to the report, homebuyers don’t currently understand the zero carbon proposition, they are wary of the political or publicity motivations behind the promotion of green developments, and are unwilling to pay for sustainable features which they consider as expensive and unproven in the broader housing market.

This lack of consumer buy-in is contributing to an image of zero carbon homes as experimental and futuristic, which discourages consumers, reduces demand and hinders market growth.

The report recommends that to overcome this disconnect between buyers personal motivations and the industry’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions from our homes, a new approach is required.

The report calls for a national pan-industry marketing plan for new homes that feeds into a wider programme of raising the energy performance of the entire housing stock.

By encouraging a rolling programme of innovation and the integration of sustainable features across all housing, this continuous drip-feed approach is more likely to engage and motivate consumers leading to a tipping point when high energy performance homes are viewed as the norm.

The report also recommends a change of language in how the industry communicates low and zero carbon homes. Consumers are switched off by zero carbon homes but switched on by homes that are built to better performance standards and are therefore cheaper to run.

Announcing the proposals, Neil Jefferson Chief Executive of the Hub said:

“It is vital that we create a positive public perception of new high performing homes of the future. This is a huge challenge that requires industry leadership and resource to achieve.

“A bad marketing plan or one created in haste may turn-off homebuyers and delay the urgency of these initiatives. But 2016 is on the near horizon, and a planned and professionally executed marketing programme is critical for stimulating a market for housebuilders so that they continue to have the confidence to invest in zero carbon homes.

“Government is putting the customer at the heart of its communication programme and industry has made great headway in challenging current perceptions, we need to harness this momentum and move forward to create a national campaign.”

Philip Sellwood, Chief Executive of the Energy Saving Trust said:

“Our experiences with consumers have shown us that people often think of zero carbon homes as odd, space-age things, more out of a futuristic film or a children’s television programme than relevant to their lifestyle, so clearly the concept has not been communicated as effectively as possible up to now.

“The reality is this perception has to change if we want to hit our targets to reduce the carbon emissions of our housing stock. People want their home to be warm, cheap to run, and made of the best materials – things a zero carbon home provides.

“Making buyers and developers consider zero carbon the norm in new building won’t be easy but it is crucial. Making the call to action less about a ‘cause’, something that is not a prime motivation to either build or buy, and more about quality and comfort, is an approach that buyers find compelling.”

Responding to the report, David Pretty CBE, Chairman New Homes Marketing Board said:

“This is a very important first step in understanding how we market the significant benefits resulting from the work the industry has put in to developing reduced carbon homes. The NHMB is fully committed to working with the industry to ensure that the very real benefits of today’s new homes are fully understood by potential customers.”

Responding to the report, Imtiaz Farookhi, Chief Executive of NHBC said:

“Consumers lie at the heart of building a market for our future homes. This report clearly shows that we must listen to consumers and bridge the disconnect between their perceptions and the need for housebuilders to reduce carbon emissions from our homes.

NHBC welcomes the recommendations and will continue to support the work of the Hub in bringing together all the parties who play a critical role in delivering this vision. To this end NHBC has committed to extend the current funding support, which ends in 2011, for a further two years until 2013.”

The Hub and Energy Saving Trust in partnership with industry stakeholders including CLG, Homes and Community Agency, HBF, Crest Nicholson, Berkeley Homes, NHBC and the New Homes Marketing Board will now be working to achieve broad industry support for the national campaign.

The report is available to read in full on the Zero Carbon Hub website


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Notes to Editors:

The report sets out ten principal recommendations for inclusion in marketing plans for low and zero carbon homes:

1. Clarification of vision. Consumers need to see the big picture. They need a clear concept and proposition, which they can understand and value.

2. Targeting consumers and their influencers. While primarily, marketing must target the consumer, it is essential that the influencers and facilitators supporting consumers, particularly finance providers are targeted with the right material.

3. Position new homes as part of a joined-up homes policy. With the right comparators, new homes have the opportunity to be the better choice – not a choice that is more risky than the existing homes market.

4. Integrate sustainable homes across a development. Don’t segregate low and zero carbon homes on a development which risks creating a perception that these properties are somehow different to the mainstream.

5. Create constant innovation as opposed to radical changes. Consumers appear to respond favourably to a series of small incremental changes but not to the prospect of radical change.

6. Contribute to a more saleable product. The product must be an economically sound option for consumers and supply chain partnerships will need to be developed to ensure that low and zero carbon homes are a best value proposition.

7. Simplify financing. Consumers are distrustful of complicated costing structures. Simple and accessible finance is critical for low and zero carbon homes.

8. Amplify homes marketing and not just home sales. New housing is marketed through individual developers, but also nationally, through a sustained consumer marketing programme.

9. Identify the ideal consumer-facing delivery channel. A specific delivery channel (and body) will be central to the amplification of marketing. This will provide additional, unbiased and relevant information.

10. Providing messages that resonate with consumers. Consumers respond to realistic examples. The focus should be on marketing such examples rather than flagship exemplar projects, which are seen as the future and unavailable.

The Zero Carbon Hub Consumer Engagement Workstream

The report was led by Margaret Egan from marketing consultancy Sinclair Barnes Ltd, Matt Robinson from Energy Saving Trust and Helen Saunders from Crest Nicholson PLC. The Zero Carbon Hub and Energy Saving Trust would like to take this opportunity to thank those who contributed to the programme:

Simonne Baker – Sponge Sustainability Network

Avinder Bhinder – Communities and Local Government

Gemma Bird – Homes and Communities Agency

Sarah Bullock – NextGen

Luke Chitty – Upstream Sustainability Services

Mat Colmer – Energy Saving Trust

Sarah Crawford – Berkeley Homes PLC

Mark Davies – NHBC

Mark Davis – Communities and Local Government

Nigel Farren – Homes Matter

Judith Gubbay – National Magazine Company

Tracy Gordon – Homes and Communities Agency

Ray Jones – Chartered Institute of Marketing

Zoe Leader – WWF-UK

Jayne Lomas – Homes and Communities Agency

Jon McGowan – Energy Saving Trust

Rob Pannell – Zero Carbon Hub

Caroline Regan – Energy Saving Trust

Laura Simons – Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors

John Slaughter – Home Builders Federation

Briony Turner – Homes and Communities Agency

Clive Turner – Zero Carbon Hub

Steve Turner – New Homes Marketing Board

David Watson – Communities and Local Government

David Weatherhall - Energy Saving Trust