Natural gas, naturally better

The 2008 Natural Gas. The Natural Choice campaign had been the first major on-air advertising and marketing initiative for natural gas since the 1990s that focused on promoting the benefits of the resource itself, rather than showcasing natural gas producers and retailers.

Indeed, the campaign’s launch could not have been more timely; a period when government and media attention on reducing carbon emissions meant Australians had either become or were increasingly aware of the potential negative impacts of climate change.

At the time, Alinta AGL Acting CEO David Clerk said “The move to substitute natural gas in place of electricity is the simplest and most efficient way to reduce greenhouse emissions from Australian homes.

“This campaign is a way to show people that we, as energy suppliers, are equally concerned about the environment we live in and can provide Australians with a way to play their part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”?

Campaign designers, Pulse Marketing Group, commissioned Roy Morgan Research (RMR) in August 2007 to identify the key drivers and barriers to natural gas use, which was done through qualitative and quantitative market research, including focus groups, telephone interviews and online surveys. Following the final surge of television advertising in September 2008, RMR conducted post-campaign research to again determine the push and pull factors of natural gas use, as well as measuring the campaign’s “˜likeability.’

The results showed that:

  • Unprompted, more than one in three individuals recalled having seen a natural gas advertisement within the last three months.
  • Prompted, 78 per cent recalled having seen the campaign’s television or print advertising.
  • 80 per cent “˜more than liked’ the advertisements.

Furthermore, consumers found that advertisements were appealing and reminded them that compared with alternative energy sources, natural gas was:

  • Less expensive
  • More environmentally friendly
  • More reliable
  • Easier to control.

The research also showed that there was potential growth from the website in regards to sourcing advice on appliances; the campaign’s website itself received 55,000 hits over a period of twelve months.

Jemena Gas Networks Manager Peter Harcus said that the 2008 campaign showed that consumers were knowledgeable about natural gas, had a residual affection for the product, and that many consumers were aware of the value, efficiency and environmental benefits of natural gas. “By reminding consumers about these benefits, and re-establishing the brand, a foundation was laid to focus on sales of natural gas appliances in 2009,”? Mr Harcus said.

Subsequent to both post-campaign research findings and the success of last year’s advertising venture, the 2009 initiative will be extended to comprise a comprehensive television, print, online, radio, events and point-of-sale campaign. The enhanced campaign will focus on building the brand’s relationship with consumers, and highlighting the lifestyle benefits of using natural gas appliances. “An integrated campaign across television, print, radio and digital media will all call upon consumers to “˜Make Your Choice’ – Natural Gas. The Natural Choice,”? Mr Harcus said.

As with last year, the campaign will centre on the household environment, focusing on specific appliances throughout the home. As well as featuring the appliances visually, the advertising will illustrate the emotional benefits and feelings that are generated as a result of using natural gas appliances.

A new component of the campaign website is the “˜Buying an Appliance’ section, which allows consumers to browse, choose and source local retailers who currently stock their natural gas appliance of choice.

Campaign marketing is targeting smaller-time consumers because, as Mr Harcus said, the importance of growth of the residential and small business market to the owners of gas networks cannot be underestimated.

“These sectors are the drivers of investment and profitability growth; they also deliver increasing consumer numbers and volumes, which provide the opportunity for greater supply efficiency. Conversely reducing consumption as a result of fuel substitution has a significant impact on the returns and in the long term the viability of the gas network investment,”? Mr Harcus said.

At this stage, the campaign is confirmed for New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. Energy suppliers behind the campaign have said, however, that other states have expressed keen interest to participate and they are currently working with remaining state governments towards taking the campaign national.

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