The second best time is now.

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There is a Chinese proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” This comes to mind as I introduce our ebook, Energy is Human. Not only is this the time to make energy human, it’s vital that we do so.

What does it mean to “make energy human”? Aren’t all of our behavior change, engagement and marketing efforts about the human? Perhaps. But quite often, we limit our human understanding and approaches in ways that limit our ultimate outcomes. Our attraction to rewards. Our interests in short-term gains. Our fascination with gadgets. While these things are important, they tend to define—rather than inform—a much richer, bigger story of our relationship with energy. This is why we are nothing less than passionate about incorporating human insights into every aspect of our work in energy efficiency. Yes, this includes our collective captivation with behavior change programs, but it’s more than that. It’s a human lens, and a design and research discipline that, when applied, can strengthen and inform behavior change, marketing and engagement programs. As the energy industry understands and embraces human-centered principles, we open up opportunities to increase participation in efficiency programs and realize greater energy savings.

We’re making steady progress on many fronts, discovering what works and what disappoints. On one hand, technology and gadgets are here and growing; social norming is scaling and spreading; despite their poor results, incentives continue to be used; and policy and benchmarking are increasingly a catalyst. On the other hand, we have smart buildings that we occasionally discover are only as smart as the people operating them; and we have built-in resistance to being deprived of anything, creating little demand for this thing we call efficiency. Finally, energy has a high but indirect demand, low awareness and almost no top-of-mind benefits. We call it a low involvement and largely invisible category. Not a marketer’s dream, but if you’re up for it, a challenge worthy of big talent and best practices in building brand loyalty, engagement and programs fit for human “consumption.” In fact, we are seeing an increased recognition that thinking like brand strategists and human factors researchers actually takes our work in this sector to a whole new, and urgently needed, level. But it requires thinking differently than we have about our tactics and strategies, and embracing more systems thinking into our energy efficiency work.

At Brand Cool, we have a vision, and we’re inviting all our friends to join us! We see collaboration across systems and disciplines, where engineers, technologists, program implementers and evaluators, policy makers and utilities work closely with people like us: brand strategists, creatives and social scientists. Together, we believe we can expand upon our accomplishments by reshaping and reinventing the brands, the programs and the platforms that will meet our ambitious and growing goals. Our assertion at Brand Cool comes from the results we’ve achieved and the work of the most innovative social scientists and designers today.

A key ingredient is glaringly absent when we examine widely adopted practices and approaches to reducing energy consumption: humans. Somehow, we’ve engineered ourselves out of the equation. Ironic, yes. Something we can remedy? Of course. It’s the second best time to do so. Our ebook is an introductory guide for how to approach the next evolution in designing and creating a lower carbon world. We hope our book will inspire and support you, so that you can inspire and support the heads and the hearts of those who may enjoy unsustainable energy consumption, but could use some inspiration in transitioning with grace, ease and creativity. Together, we can do this.

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