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09/28/2009 Do You Trust Your Electric Company?


Most utilities aim for a high level of customer satisfaction and trust. Its one of the ways they can validate (they think) loyalty. Of course, gauging loyalty is hard when you don't always have a choice, which happens a lot with utilities.

I've worked with a number of utilities on energy efficiency campaigns over the years, including Green Mountain Power and Efficiency Vermont. We produced a number of fun and innovative campaigns to help people save energy and money. So I have a pretty good idea of what electric utilities are up against.

I stumbled across this banner campaign on Boston.com this weekend. I'm always on the lookout for interesting online marketing and when I saw what I thought was an efficiency campaign from National Grid, it caught my attention.

Ngrid.banner

For one, that color just jumped out of the page. So far so good. And it sounded like there was something interesting going on with this 3% thing. Actually, I assumed it was going to mimic a campaign from Burlington, the 10% challenge where non-profits challenged people and businesses to lower their electric use by 10%.

But when I clicked on the banner, both on Saturday and Sunday, here's what I saw:

Untrusted.NationalGrid

Firefox asked me to make an exception for this site. And I probably should have. But to be honest, I don't really know National Grid, except for when I judged its super MITX award entry last year from Mullen.

More to the point: It's a lot to ask someone to click on a banner and interrupt their browsing. It's too much to now ask them to trust an untrusted certificate. Where's the value transaction in this? I'm sure this was probably a simple mistake, but if you're paying money for media placement and creative, it should be a small task to make sure your conversion page works.

When you get right down to it, most people don't trust utilities. Maybe it's the Enron effect.

Boy, online banners have it tough enough without adding things like this to the customer experience. No wonder they have such a lousy reputation.

I'd like to see National Grid adapt its banner creative with an "It's safe to go in the water message." Because the people who clicked this weekend are probably never clicking again.

I wonder what the 3% challenge is?

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