In July 2009, Alice Solar City (ASC) issued a solar challenge to the Alice Springs community: For 100 home or business owners to commit to installing 100 rooftop solar systems in 100 days.
Alice Springs is one of seven cities around Australia participating in the Australian Government’s Solar Cities program. At its launch, the ASC program goal was to have 225 solar systems installed in Alice Springs by 31 December 2009. Sixteen months into the program only 70 solar power systems had been installed.
Creative Territory was engaged to motivate the community to take action and commit to going solar.
Using an integrated communication plan that included traditional media, advertising, blogs and motivational tools Alice Solar City exceeded their overall program target by over 54 per cent. Just 50 days into the 100 day campaign 103 residents had ordered a solar system. By the end of the campaign 400 more residents were on a waiting list.
In addition to having a community that is passionate about the environment they live in, Alice Springs has one of the highest rates of solar radiation in Australia. As a result it was chosen to be one of seven cities around Australia participating in the Australian Government’s Solar Cities program.
Financial incentives for over 20 energy-efficient activities are available through the ASC program. One activity is the installation of solar power (See Appendix A1). In March 2008 the ASC project was launched with the goal of having 225 solar systems installed on household rooftops by December 2009. At the time of the 100 Days of Solar campaign only 70 systems had been installed over 16 months.
Funding was available until 31 December 2009 for residents and businesses to install rooftop solar power systems. The national funding program for solar systems finished in June 2009 but Alice Springs residents were lucky to still have access to incentives of up to 60 per cent off the recommended retail price through the ASC project.
Unfortunately, despite their passion for their environment, Alice Springs residents did not appear motivated to install rooftop solar technology. Alice Solar City was at risk of not achieving their target and failing to use allocated Australian Government funding.
It was time to put the pressure on the residents of Alice Springs. The slow average purchase decision time and cost of committing to a new solar system meant Creative Territory was going to need to challenge the community to act quickly.
Initial research undertaken when the ASC project commenced indicated that a high proportion of residents and businesses were interested in installing solar power if the price was right.
Focus testing conducted with Alice Springs residents one year after the project started revealed that installing a solar power system was one of the most attractive measures available through ASC.
Other research undertaken included:
- Reviewing of the number of existing customers who had registered interest in installing solar power;
- Assessing the average income of people who had installed solar to date; and
- Reviewing previous promotions and key messages used to entice residents to take up the solar offers.
The research demonstrated:
- Consumers were increasingly aware of solar technology and saw it as an investment in their future;
- Consumers were very conscious that power prices had increased markedly the previous year and were likely to again in the near future;
- The cost of installing solar was a potential barrier; and
- The average income of those households who had installed solar to date was between $50,000 to $100,000.
This information allowed us to identify our target publics and develop specific key messages for a communication plan designed to motivate residents to take action.
- Alice Springs home owners: These were the people most likely to invest in solar as an investment in the future value of their home.
- Existing Alice Solar City customers: Over 1500 residents were already undertaking energy efficient measures in their home or business by accessing the different financial incentives available. Existing customers would have a higher propensity to take their energy efficiency drive one step further to purchase a solar power system.
- Residents who already made enquiries about going solar: These people were already half way there in their decision to go solar. Alice Solar City kept records of these enquiries so we needed to keep in touch with them to give them first preference to access the funding available.
- Businesses that are high users of energy: The more energy a business uses, the higher their power bill. The cost of energy is a key incentive to increasing the uptake of solar power.
- Alice Solar City Consortium: Alice Solar City is managed by a consortium of seven high profile organisations. Internal communications was important to help spread the challenge of 100 Days of Solar.
- BP Solar: Alice Solar City’s sole dedicated solar power installer BP Solar needed to be kept abreast of the campaign so they could plan for an influx of enquiries and appointments.
- Local media: The media could be important to help get messages out, report milestones and to garner support for the community challenge.
With just six months left for Alice Springs residents to access financial incentives to install solar power it was critical to develop a time-based communication strategy to create an imperative for residents to act immediately without feeling bullied. In addition to providing motivation to act there was an opportunity to engage with the strong sense of community in Alice Springs to encourage community ownership of the program.
100 Days of Solar
Setting the challenge of ‘100 Days of Solar’ created a fun way to count down the days and keep the community motivated while uniting them behind a defined challenge.
What’s in it for me?
Residents and business owners needed to be convinced that going solar would be a great investment. Due to their status of being a Solar City, the Alice Springs community were lucky to have some of the best rooftop solar power deals in the country. They could turn their roof into a solar power station, get paid a premium for all the power they generated and offset the recent power price increases that had just come into effect.
In addition to creating an incentive for immediate action, residents and business owners needed to be convinced that going solar would be a great investment. Creative Territory developed the following key messages to drive all communication efforts:
- Alice Springs is lucky! We have some of the best rooftop solar power deals in the country.
- Alice Solar City funding for the installation of solar systems runs out on 31 December 2009. Time is running out.
- Turn your roof into a solar power station and get paid for all the excess power you generate.
Our campaign strategies were to:
- Reflect a strong sense of the Alice Springs community in all communications to encourage community ownership of the 100 Days of Solar challenge.
- Establish Alice Solar City as the authoritative voice on solar power systems.
- Educate and highlight to the audience the value and benefits of going solar.
- Ensure the target publics had access to accurate, relevant and timely information about incentive packages on offer.
- Increase recognition of the Alice Solar City brand and encourage the audience to be energy champions.
To keep the community interested for 100 days we created a ‘community countdown’. This kept residents up-to-date on project progress. The countdown also allowed us to congratulate the community on their progress to date. The number of days remaining was used in all communication, including print, radio and TV advertising.
Other campaign tools included:
- Incentives and prizes: All homes and businesses who committed to installing a solar power station during the campaign received a $100 BP Fuel Card and went into the draw to win two prizes of $1000 cash. The first $1000 was to be given away 50 days into the campaign to encourage early interest.
- Project partnerships: BP Solar, ASC’s preferred solar system supplier, conducted a complimentary mail-out to households and businesses in Alice Springs.
- Promotional collateral: An existing fact sheet on rooftop solar power systems was referred to in all communication and placed on the campaign landing page of the website. The 100 Days of Solar campaign was the feature story in a quarterly Community Update newsletter to all Alice Springs households.
- Online campaign: A new blog was set up to drive traffic to the ASC website. The blog allowed Alice Solar City to post regular comments and updates. The wider community was encouraged to contribute to the blog to build a list of 100 reasons to go solar.
- PR campaign: Regular media releases highlighted campaign milestones and profiled ‘solar heroes’ (some of those who had installed a solar system).
- Advertising: Traditional print, radio and TV advertising was used to highlight campaign messages. A 30 second TV advertisement highlighted existing ‘solar heroes’ who had already installed solar. An additional 15 second animated ‘countdown’ advertisement was scattered throughout the campaign period. Print advertising started with a full page overview of the campaign during the launch week, with countdowns and community progress reported in ads thereafter.
The 100 Days of Solar campaign reached its program target of 100 residents committed to installing a solar system within just 50 days.
As a result of this resounding success, all existing funding for the program was fully committed with 50 days of the campaign still to run. Alice Solar City responded to this challenge by announcing a waiting list for a proposed Solar System Bulk Purchase campaign due to commence in early 2010. By the end of the 100 Days of Solar Campaign over 400 people had joined this waiting list.
The 100 Days of Solar campaign exceed all of its objectives, with the primary objective of having 100 Alice Springs residents commit to installing a solar system in their home being achieved midway through the campaign.