There's an old saying in advertising that you have to hit a consumer at least three times with your message before it sinks in. To build brand recognition and mobilize residents to take action on energy efficiency upgrades, EnergyWorks of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, created a three-phase approach to reach consumers with unique marketing tactics using a diverse array of media outlets.

To distinguish the program from a host of competitors in Philadelphia's residential energy efficiency marketplace, EnergyWorks divided its messaging into three distinct phases in which each "pitch" built off the previous phase. First, advertisements were designed to "build buzz" and introduce the brand to the Philadelphia community. Second, EnergyWorks created a sense of urgency by advertising the need for and benefits of participation to potential customers. The third round of messages sought to demystify the process by educating consumers about specific aspects.

During phase one, the program focused its advertising efforts on radio and weather-related websites to take advantage of peoples' moods during specific weather conditions. On hot days, for example, visitors to sites where EnergyWorks advertised would be greeted by an animated banner enticing them with words such as "ice cream" and "central air." When clicked on, these banner ads linked directly to an introductory page on the EnergyWorks website. By hitting customers while they were thinking about their comfort and using provocative language, the program got their initial attention and created "buzz." During this first phase of advertising, the EnergyWorks website accrued 15,000 visits.

In the second phase of its advertising campaign, EnergyWorks introduced a call to action, creating a sense of urgency in order to compel consumers to act on their immediate needs by introducing energy efficiency's benefits. Print, online, and regional rail marketing materials emphasized seasonally appropriate themes. As winter approached, for example, ads touted "Lower utility bills; warmer cocoa breaks." This married the comfort- and cost-related benefits of energy upgrades at a time when customers were most likely to act on their need to stay warm and keep their utility bills in check.

In its third phase, EnergyWorks' advertising continued to emphasize the value and comfort of energy efficiency upgrades, but the program also introduced an educational component. Ads featured playful illustrations and simple definitions of technical terms such as "air sealing" and "insulation" in order to demystify the concepts associated with home energy efficiency improvements and address a common barrier to undertaking upgrades. This approach empowered an even greater number of customers to sign up for energy efficiency improvements in their homes.

"By giving homeowners a reason to invest their disposable income on optional energy-saving improvements, and providing the tools and resources to make those improvements accessible, we hoped to turn interest into action," says Nancy L. Hohns, the Director for Marketing, Communications, and Outreach for EnergyWorks.

EnergyWorks' phased approach seems to be working well. The program has seen traffic to its website double—and the number of completed home energy assessments quadruple—since the marketing campaigns started. As of June 2012, the program had helped homeowners complete 954 energy efficiency upgrades.

But the program's marketing efforts haven't stopped there. EnergyWorks realized that any successful marketing program must adapt to evolving customer preferences and changing markets. "Markets change, consumers change, and needs change—which is why it is so important for anyone charged with marketing residential energy efficiency to pause every now and then to assess effectiveness and tweak communications for optimum performance," Hohns advises.

EnergyWorks is continually analyzing the effectiveness of its marketing approaches and making incremental adjustments to further optimize its efforts. And those efforts continue to pay off; after launching the latest iteration of its marketing campaign in October 2012, EnergyWorks again has seen website hits spike yet again.