Solar recruits anti-carbon tax marketer

In a case of poacher turned gamekeeper, the solar industry has recruited one of the masterminds behind the anti-carbon tax campaign to help defend the Renewable Energy Target. So what's his plan to save solar?

Back in April 2012, I wrote two articles warning that the clean energy sector was highly vulnerable to a lobbying attack that would pull the regulatory rug out from underneath it. It desperately needed to initiate a marketing campaign direct to householders to increase its political pull.

These two articles (Marketing clean energy to Kath and Kim and Marketing with the mining playbook) – argued that the clean energy industry must convince those that live in the mortgage belt of Australia that government policy to support a clean energy future is an affordable and prudent investment, not a cost of living impost. To do this they needed to adopt a campaign model similar to that employed by the mining industry’s This is our story campaign.

The board of the Australian Solar Council have grasped this reality. Not only that, they’ve gone direct to one of the masterminds behind the mining industry’s successful campaigns – Geoff Denham.

Denham was not only involved in the mining industry’s This is our story campaign but was also senior creative on campaigns against the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, the Mining Super Profits Tax and the carbon tax, no less. Talk about the poacher becoming gamekeeper.

John Grimes, chief executive of the Australian Solar Council, explained that its campaign will initially focus on the Western Australia Senate election rerun. Their ask is simple and easy to understand – vote for the parties that won’t change the Renewable Energy Target.

They’ve already started filming advertisements in Western Australia. And these will be airing from the 21st of this month. The campaign will follow quite closely the formula the mining industry employed, and which I outlined in my April 2012 articles.

1) Target the Kath and Kim, ‘John Howard battler’ demographic

The Save Solar campaign is built around influencing those in the marginal, mortgage belt seats of outer urban cities and regional centres. There is no point talking to the converted inner urban greens who don’t swing an election and are irrelevant to a Coalition government’s considerations.

The Solar Council recognise that solar systems are most prolific and popular in precisely these pivotal marginal electorates, and intends to use that to its advantage.

2) Emphasise benefits beyond just the environment, and play on self-interest

The campaign will be centred around selling two benefits from solar:

i) Solar systems are helping retirees and families counter the all-too-common energy bill shock many have experienced in the last few years.

ii) Solar is a significant employer that has created lots of jobs.

Essentially, it will say 'don’t let the government pull the support that will help make it affordable for you to follow your neighbour in escaping electricity bill shock'.

3) Use real-world examples that people can readily relate to

Advertisements will use real households, not actors. It will get these households that fit the demographic of families with mortgages and pensioners to talk about their electricity bill shock experiences. Those households that installed solar will talk about how solar has helped them to dramatically reduce their electricity bills and give them more control so that such a bill shock event won’t happen again.

Then there will be the households in mortgage belt seats who are surrounded by neighbours who have installed solar and who wish to do the same thing. These are the people who will be denied the opportunity to afford solar if the government was to change the Renewable Energy Target legislation.