Why we don’t switch to alternative energy

We like to think we live in a world of alternative energy. There’s solar power and many of us drive hybrid cars that use electricity to increase gas mileage. There’s even a Hillary Clinton ad airing in my area, North Carolina, which showcases her promise to increase the number of solar panels in our country.

But you wouldn’t know that we are moving to an alternative energy world Saturday night in the South. A pipeline near Birmingham, Alabama, broke, starting a gas shortage, thus creating empty pumps, long lines and high gas prices.

What year is this? 1979?

Alternative energy
Switching to alternative energy is not easy, even during a crisis.

Many gas stations have that dreaded plastic bag over the pump handles, while increasing gas prices. We’re not in panic mode by any means, but it is still startling.

Fully switching to alternative energy will take more than concern over the environment.

It got me thinking that switching to anything is such difficult work. Most of us, including myself, talk a good game when it comes to the environment and alternative energy, but I do little about it. Oh, I have an energy efficient air conditioner, but honestly I have it because it reduces my energy costs. Not because I’m doing something for the greater world.

Think about this. Remember when the metric system was supposed to take over our highways? We were going to join the rest of the world in adopting the system. It only seemed logical.

But that effort failed.

I bring this up not to berate anyone. But to point out that getting people to switch to anything is enormously arduous.

That is the biggest reason why I do berate brands that believe the same old approach will get consumers to switch brands, even though there is little differentiation among each market’s players.

Each car ad looks and sounds the same. Each beer ad is a copy of another. Car insurance, which spends untold amounts on advertising, offers little reason to switch.

To actually prompt a change in any market you have to be different and better, and often that means being so different that you actually offer a true choice. The definition of a switching trigger is switching to something you don’t have. Otherwise, you stay put.

I don’t think we’ll be switching to the metric system anytime soon. To fully adopt alternative energy we’ll need a stronger and more emotional reason than saving the environment. When a gas shortage directly affects us, then we consider switching.

Sometimes it’s in the crisis where the greatest leap forward takes place. But there are better ways to prompt a switch.

The promise of dōTERRA essential oils

A few weeks back, I popped over to my son’s house to see my two grandkids. The visit, much like other visits to his place, was filled with little legs running back and forth, laughing and tiny voices asking silly questions of me. I love it. But, as is usually the case, the little buggers wear me out fast.

Don’t be a cynic about dōTERRA.

I took a seat in the living room in my usual spot, an antique sofa, and began to doze off (those kiddos really tucker me out). As I was drifting off, I noticed a wonderful aroma: a citrusy spice that relaxed me instantly. Turns out what I was enjoying was an essential oil called On Guard, extracted by the company dōTERRA, that was emanating from an essential oil diffuser.

I didn’t want to admit it, because I often find the essential oil craze to be a bit of a pyramid scheme, but the fragrance relaxed me tremendously.

I have become a closet dōTERRA user.

It’s true. My ego just wouldn’t let me admit that I was really curious about dōTERRA. Certainly, aromatherapy has been around for eons. What’s more, I couldn’t find any online conspiracies about the company. Seriously, what is the deal with that? That’s nearly unheard of these days.

So I snagged a couple samples from my son: a lavender, peppermint and frankincense concoction, and began rubbing them into my neck each morning. Funny thing, I now look forward to that process each day. The word on the street was that this mix would generate a general sense of calm and wellbeing. The mix made me feel relaxed, indeed. What’s more, I found my sniffer wanting to seek out the scent as much as possible.

The branding process always hinges on what we believe — in other words, our precepts. dōTERRA has work to do to address the initial precepts that many have about essential oils, like the precepts I had about them: That it is a pyramid scheme, flavor of the day, and all about making a sale.

The real story behind dōTERRA is how a tiny smell and dab of liquid can change a mindset, as it did mine. That’s real power. Right now, the company’s website is solely preaching to the choir and that has to change. Profound growth will come if and when more people like me jump onboard. Not until then.

Shock Top and Super Bowl advertising

It demonstrates the how ineffective most Super Bowl ads are that Budweiser’s Shock Top beer ad could end up being the best of the night.

Shock Top
Will Shock Top be the best the Super Bowl has to offer?

Before we get to the spot itself, there are inherent reasons why advertising during the TV event of the year rarely works out. One is that the cost of buying airtime is so high ($5 million for a 30-second spot) that I generally feel the money is best spent elsewhere.

But if you decide to do a Super Bowl ad, it should be about more than just raising awareness. And that’s the real problem. The companies financially able to afford a Super Bowl spot usually don’t have an awareness problem.

Secondly, and most importantly, ad agencies use Super Bowl spots to win awards, which is why the ads are produced strictly as entertainment. They often do very little to actually steal market share.

In fact, on Monday, when all of us (including possibly me) rate the night’s ads, we usually rate them based on their entertainment value. Not on how effective they are in increasing market share.

At least Shock Top has some meaning in its spot.

But here’s an interesting way to do it: Budweiser’s Shock Top beer ad. This is a beer brand that is not as well known as many of the other Budweiser brands, so its awareness is in need of raising. (Don’t fret. There will be plenty of Bud Lite ads aired during the game, I’m sure.) It is not, let’s say, Doritos who doesn’t have an awareness problem and whose Super Bowl ad is just a (somewhat lame) funny attempt at saying: Doritos are tasty.

No, most of us don’t know Shock Top beer. And the banter between comedian T.J. Miller and the Shock Top mascot is a personification of unfiltered talk for an unfiltered beer.

Budweiser will take that 1:25 spot and split it into 30-second spots for the Super Bowl, and I’ll admit that it’s pretty funny. (Check out Miller in the hilarious HBO comedy, Silicon Valley.)

The big three American lagers (Budweiser, Miller and Coors) have seen their market share eroded due to the rise of other offerings (wine, liquor, hard cider, etc.), especially microbrews.

Therefore, unfiltered by itself is not a switching trigger, but Shock Top has taken that product benefit and given it an emotional (and funny) meaning. It has at least followed through on its meaning, which is more than you will be able to say for most of the Super Bowl ads.

The Shock Top commercial may not be the best in class (I would have chosen another switching trigger and precept that exists in the market.) But, when watching the Super Bowl, count the number of ads you see whose message goes beyond the expected (such as that everybody, including a fetus, wants to have Doritos) and actually attempts a message.

You’ll be able to count on them with one hand.

McDonalds breakfast ups sales

Last summer, I wrote a blog about McDonalds breakfast going all day. It detailed my belief that an all-day breakfast menu was just a temporary fix for the struggling fast food chain.

McDonalds breakfast
The rise caused by McDonalds breakfast won’t fix the overall problem.

This all is important to note because McDonalds announced that sales at locations that have been open for a minimum of 13 months have jumped by 5.7%. This steep level of growth is the highest that McDonalds has seen in over four years. Moreover, shares were also nearing an all-time high at $120.

This recent McDonalds breakfast growth is grand, but it does not reflect lasting change. And it certainly does not address the problems the chain faces for long-term growth.

McDonalds breakfast growth is superficial.

 I enjoy the Egg McMuffin and hash brown combo meal as much as anyone else. That’s especially true as a late-night fix. But that’s all the McDonalds breakfast is for McDonalds right now. A temporary fix.

Stealing Share has spent spent countless hours reflecting on the issues facing the fast food industry, and specifically McDonalds. That said, we remain steadfast in our belief that the dilemmas facing the franchise remain deeply intact.

Know this: The all-day McDonalds breakfast hasn’t garnered new customers, but has only found a way to keep the old faithful coming in on a more regular basis. That’s it.

When we speak of switching triggers, we ask ourselves to define the attributes that the brand delivers and identify those attributes that are of primary importance to the target audience. By definition, you only switch for the things you don’t already have.

Therefore, I leave you, the reader, to reflect upon the following question.

In the ever less popular fast food industry, has McDonalds breakfast done anything to bring new customers through the doors?

The saga of a phantom U-Verse deal

Just yesterday, I found myself calling the AT&T customer service number. The reason for that? The day prior, I was paying the U-Verse (AT&T’s internet option) bill and noticed that AT&T was offering a deal for the 1GB GigaPower network option — for just a dollar more than I was paying for basic internet service.

This is what the link took me to. As the U-Verse link showed, that deal was plain as day. Right?

This U-Verse deal looks legit, right?

The deal seemed like a no brainer. For 36 months, I could relish in the quickest internet option AT&T has to offer. As is my style, I had to have it.

So I called customer service attempting to upgrade the U-Verse service. Forty-five minutes later, I was hanging up up on the sales rep, angry and resentful over all the time I wasted.

Clearly, AT&T was ignorant of the U-Verse deal.

I wasted the first five or so minutes of my call attempting to figure who I needed to speak with by way of a puzzling automated service. My safest best was with U-Verse “customer service.” There, a foreign voice greeted me. She knew nothing of the deal I was speaking of and, after putting me on hold twice, elected to send me over to “technical support.”

The fellow on the other end of “technical support “ knew nothing of the U-Verse deal as well. He asked a ton of questions, to which I continually replied: I just want the deal that’s on the website. After placing me on hold, he prodded me along to “sales.”

My new phone companion could barely audible — interesting, considering it was a phone company I was connected to. That and he seemed as coherent as David Crosby circa Woodstock. The sales rep asked me to explain to him the U-Verse deal I was referring to, all the while insisting there was no such thing in a half baked kind of way. To which I assured him, it was on the website, plain as day.

Time dragged on and, while I was not finding any luck with the Internet, I was offered a discounted rate on TV twice and a more expensive internet with lesser GB – to which I responded by hanging up the phone. Probably not the nicest move, but I was heated.

At this juncture, a thought raced through my hot head: “I should just cancel and go with Time Warner.”

But then, “Time Warner is more expensive than what I have with AT&T.”

So I stayed put. Interesting, huh?

Despite the problems with U-Verse call, I stayed with AT&T.

Switching triggers are important in influencing purchases but they can only be effective if barriers are reduced. With my Internet, the only emotion driving me is price. Even though I was pushed around and made angry for an hour by an inept group of customer service reps, I decided to do nothing about. The idea of cancelling services to join another just seemed worse than what I just went through.

The factors that are driving my Internet choice are primal. My basic needs overshadow any willingness to affiliate with a brand. That’s because none of them hold any deep meaning with me.

Which leads me to this. Internet providers take heed: all you need do to steal share is make your brand emotionally worthwhile to the consumer and reduce barriers, and they’ll find the reasons to switch.