Emotional appeals for efficiency investments

Efficiency investment behaviours are usually more rationally based than habitual behaviours, because they involve more information processing. However, we know that most purchasing behaviours are not purely rational. Rational arguments are needed to justify the purchase, but the true motivation is rarely based purely on calculation.  

Emotional appeals can be positive or negative:

  • Negative arguments include potential future costs and problems if investments aren’t made, or the climate change impacts, or impacts on energy security of wasteful homes and organisations.
  • Positive arguments include improving the comfort of your living/working conditions, saving money, enhancing the value of your property, becoming more competent, pride in taking care of your property, or the interest and ‘fun’ of using new technologies.
What you need to do: 
  • Keep it positive: Because energy efficiency investments are usually voluntary – and are a major effort for energy users – positive appeals are likely to be safer than negative ones. People can easily avoid negative messages if they make them feel helpless.
  • Offer multiple benefits: Providing additional, visible benefits beyond energy savings can help to make efficiency investments more attractive. These can relate to e.g. safety, appearance and comfort.
When does it work?: 
Emotional appeals are useful for a wide range of target groups and types of investments, but they are more important:
  • in the residential sector, where people are concerned about comfort and the well-being of the family
  • for the fuel-rich, who are not constrained by lack of capital
  • when combined with other measures, such as financial measures to reduce or remove upfront costs
What do you need to look out for: 

►You need to be familiar with people's concerns and motivations to develop good emotional appeals.

► While it may be good advice to avoid negative appeals, sometimes the risks of not investing (in e.g. renovations) need to be made clear.

► Advertising often draws on emotions. Some advertising claims for energy efficienct products are not well substantiated. You don’t want your project to be confused with this type of message, so keep your message honest.