Author Archives: Matt Haskell

About Matt Haskell

Matt Haskell is the Social Media Marketing Manager for SourceLink. His passion for all things social, along with digital innovations and technological advancements shows up in many of his blog entries. From time to time, his obsession for pop culture also surfaces in his entries! SourceLink in an industry-leading marketing services provider focused on data-based marketing solutions using social media, customer intelligence, database build, along with modeling & analytics. Find SourceLink on Twitter (@SourceLInk) and on Facebook.

10 Trends to Define Marketing for 2014 – 10 Experts Weigh in


As we approach 2014, and all of the marketing challenges that come with it, SourceLink is rolling out our “Ten Trends to Define Marketing” series again, with a twist. This year, we sat down with ten industry experts and asked them what trends they anticipate in 2014 and the years to come. We will be rolling out these articles over the next six weeks – Here are the experts that we sat down with, and a brief synopsis of what they had to say:

1. Ginger Conlon, Editor-in-Chief, Direct Marketing News – “The Virtuous Cycle of Customer Centricity” – Oct 29

Into 2014, consumers will wield the power to dictate how they are marketing to, and marketers are tasked with creating content that is driven by consumer preference. Understanding customer behaviors and preferences will lead to sophisticated micro-marketing campaigns, and marketers will then be tasked with modeling content creation and communications strategies based on how content is being utilized.

2. Judith Hemmel, Vice President of Customer Intelligence, SourceLink –  “Moving From Creepy to Credible” – Oct 31

An overarching theme through several of the interviews is was the extreme importance of mobile marketing. Consumers now have the ultimate choice of whether to engage with a brand, cultivating an environment of permission. This phenomenon will further strengthen the move from push to pull marketing, and messaging must move from “Creepy to Credible.”

3. Skip Henk, President and CEO, Xplor International – “Sitting on the Sidelines or Taking the Leap of Faith” – Nov 5

Human behavior is the true game changer in 2014, and there is tremendous value in how customers allocate their time to take in new information.  Augmented Reality, a still-emerging technology, very well could lead to a print revival. Marketers will fall into two categories in embracing these new technologies, those taking the leap and those sitting on the sidelines waiting for more proof; which Skip sees as the “winners and the losers” in the fight for customer attention.

4. Bryan Yeager, Financial Services and Mobile Payments Analyst for eMarketer–“Social Media and Mobile Craft a Path to Purchase” – Nov 7

Mobile penetration reached a tipping point in 2013, and looking into 2014, past trends converge because of the smartphone and its ability to enhance the customer experience. Marketers using social media up until now have merely been laying the groundwork for the real opportunities for engagement and conversion. Wearable technologies bring flashy new avenues to truly connect with customers.

5. Roehl Sanchez, VP and Chief Creative Officer, BIMM Direct & Digital – “Data Drives The Creative Process, and the Modular Builder Emerges” – Nov 12

Data begins to drive creative decisions, and creative decisions facilitate the use of data. We are entering age of real time marketing, and the definition of marketing and advertising “Creative” is shifting, especially when it comes to mobile design. Marketers must familiarize themselves withmicrocampaigns and start thinking mobile first. The creative professional must start to be a “modular builder,” and embrace a shift toward strong creative rooted as much in functionality as in design.

6. Rich Brown, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, SourceLink –SOLOMO and the Evolution of Location Based Engagement” – Nov 14

Social plus location plus mobile (SOLOMO) will a gamechanger in 2014, as marketers truly perfect geofencing technologies and make actionable use out of location data using offer-based engines. Data use concerns and privacy legislation gain lots of attention in 2014, and marketing organizations rally to support the responsible use of data. Marketers start to effectively link return on investment between offline transactions and social engagement.

7. John Foley, CEO Grow Socially and CMO InterlinkOne– “The Amazing Powers of Personalization” – Nov 19

2014 will see BIG advancements in mobile technology, which will allow for in-store personalization and other amazing interactions. A surprising amount of companies are still behind the content and social engagement curve in 2013, and will evolve into more social businesses in 2014, with more content being distributed than ever. Personalization sees a surge in the depth and relevancy, paralleling advancements in marketing automation.

8. Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs – “Organizing your Company Around Content and the Emergence of Short-form Media” – Nov 21

Marketers have been making content creation a priority, but next year will see a need to allocate resources to dedicated personnel. Next year’s trend will be a wider adoption and need to understand short-form content. Social media engagement leads to emotional connection and a better brand experience. Print remains a crucial part of marketing spend, and continues to claim significant portion of marketing budget.

9. Cindy Randazzo, Vice President Strategy and Insight, SourceLink – “A World Where IT and Marketing make each other Stronger” and  “Multisource Attribution in an Omnichannel world” – Nov 26 and Dec 3

Cindy had so much to say that we will be covering her thoughts over two articles.  First, 2014 brings the realization that IT and Marketing cannot be siloed, as their strengths will make each other stronger and will account for the weaknesses in the other, as the “right and left brain” come together. Big Data becomes relevant for all industries, as it is mined for interests, and used for multiple forms of variable advertising. Consumers start to ask the question “How is it possible that you don’t know who I am?”

10. David Burstein, Fast Company contributor and author, “Fast Future: How Millennials are Shaping our World.” – “The Marketer’s Role to the Millennial” – Dec 5

Companies must make consistent strides towards social responsibility and innovation as core tenets to developing as an organization. “Millennials” (those born in the second baby boom years of 1980 to the early 2000s) have become the most messaged-to generation ever, and marketers embrace emerging technologies and develop new means to stand out. Deep customization stands as central to the communications experience between marketers and Millennials.

To read the entire series, keep checking back to the SourceLink blog here.

Filling a Want vs. a Need – The Power of Emotion-based Marketing


Did you ever stop to think why you just had to buy that smartphone, or that sporty new car, that beautiful suit, or that digital press? Long before you thought about why you needed it, you felt in your gut that you wanted it. Because no matter what you buy – be it for personal or professional reasons – your decision is triggered by some emotional need.

In fact, we invariably buy what we want, not what we need. We define our needs through rational, reflective judgment. But we define our wants almost without thinking or even putting it in words. The bottom line is that wants trump needs.

Surprisingly, the list of human emotions isn’t that long. It includes pride, greed, fear, ambition, guilt, a desire for beauty or health, the need to belong or be loved, among others.

Marketers are catching on to these emotions. So, to the list of skillsets they have traditionally brought to the profession – creativity, data crunching, market research – you can now add another: neuropsychology.

Understanding the impact of human emotions on purchase decisions has earned its own label: neuromarketing. Without diving deeply into the nitty-gritty of brain activity – the visceral or “lizard” brain, determines fight or flight reactions, the limbic brain where subconscious emotions dwell, and the neocortex, which forms rational and reflective thought are the “Big 3” in brain functionality.

When it comes to buying, however, our brain’s limbic system is where most of the action takes place. It’s where the emotional processing is taking place, something we might know better as having a gut feeling.  The limbic system actually works and reacts five times faster than the rational thoughts forming in the neocortex. We may think we use facts in our purchasing decisions, but our emotions have often already been “marketed” and the sale made.

Knowing this, however, doesn’t necessarily make marketing easier. The trick for marketers is to tap into customer emotions – without getting creepy, of course.  Whereas we have typically talked about “filling a need,” marketers would be wise to focus on “filling a want.”  To show some emotion is always a good thing. To know some emotion may be just as valuable.

Millennials, Business and Social Media


Part 2 of Millennials, “The Greatest Generation” and Direct Marketing. Time magazine recently profiled as the “Me Me Me” generation and described on the cover as “lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents.” Here are ways that these assumptions might be off base, and how marketers can reach this new generation.

Millennials are responding in adaptionary/evolutionary way to technology. A recent experiment,“One Laptop per Child,” delivered tablet computers to Ethiopian villages – with no instructions or teachers, and with preloaded programs. The results were staggering, but reflect what we already know about the technology the Millennial generation has grown accustomed to. Read an excerpt from the study:

  • Earlier this year, OLPC workers dropped off closed boxes containing the tablets, taped shut, with no instruction. “I thought the kids would play with the boxes. Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, found the on-off switch … powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village, and within five months, they had hacked Android,” Negroponte said. “Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera, and they figured out the camera, and had hacked Android.”

I cite this example not to parallel children in an Ethiopian village to the Millennials discussed in Time’s article, but moreso to point out that technology has gotten so user-friendly, that younger generations can be portrayed as lazy, where they may, in fact, be quicker problem solvers and efficient.

The use of social networks is a shining example of this phenomenon, where collaboration between teams and organizations will be an expectation of doing business for the Millennials. That being said, a collaborative approach to social media is imperative within businesses, as well as when trying to use social media as a marketing vehicle for your business. Additionally, since social media is becoming more and more of a mobile activity, marketers are charged with reaching Millennials on their smartphones and tablets. This compounded with “second-screening” and interactions through console gaming devices make the marketer’s job challenging.

A key fact to remember in all marketing campaigns is that the Millennial is born into a “social” technology world – one that is inherently multichannel, and seamlessly so. Most of all, marketers must adapt to the new generation of customers the same way they have adapted to the rapid technological changes that have occurred in their short lifetimes so far.

Millennials, “The Greatest Generation” and Direct Marketing


I am (barely) a Millennial. Born in 1980, I rest on the cusp of what Time magazine recently profiled as the “Me Me Me” generation and described on the cover as “lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents.”

Guess which magazine isn’t getting a Christmas card from me this year.

Overall, the article has received a great deal of exposure and backlash because of the attention-grabbing, slightly hyperbolic title and the overarching assumptions that Millennials crave less responsibility, still live at home and are obsessed with themselves. I’ve read many opinions on this feature that debate the statistics and accusations the article boasts, but the core of what separates the “Millennials” from prior generations is the advancement of technology during their (our) lifetimes.

AdAge makes a troubling assertion (for direct marketers, at least) that “Among other things, baby-boomer marketers need to accept the fact that Millennials have not inherited their parents’ love for the “touch” of paper.” There is some truth to this statement, but as a Millennial that checks his mailbox every day, there is also a major balancing act that every marketer must accept in marketing to Millennials – the same tricks don’t work anymore, they just work in different ways.

Millennials may not “crave” the touch of the physical printed piece, but still will interact with it given the right pairing with technology. Whether this comes in the form of augmented reality, near-field chips or smartphone-based apps and QR code scanning, ways that allow this connected generation to interact with their mail and magazines using a smartphone or tablet will be key in keeping direct mail relevant to this generation. For example, I LOVE to get coupons in the mail, but I’d like it even more if I could scan and save them to my iPhone. The ideals demonstrated by Google Glass also give insight to how this generation will consume information in the years to come. Whereas the newspaper or Yellow Pages may be less relevant to a younger generation, the information contained within will not be.

The past ten years have spawned the buzzword “multichannel”’ marketing, but Millennials are leaps and bounds ahead of the curve. They were raised on multichannel marketing. Television based off of their video games; magazines that point to websites; College acceptance letters that point to social media sites. This technology has never been new to them, so it has become an expectation in the way they do business and the way marketers HAVE to market to them. So there’s another way Millennials are here to save us, they will push companies to try harder and smarter and the best, data-driven messaging will rise to the top.

Marketers are taxed with using all of the data at their hands, especially from “Big Data” via social interactions and from employing advanced segmentation techniques in marketing to Millennials. Without these methodologies, messaging will be ignored, as it competes with the constant stream of stimuli coming from smartphones, emails, social networks, television, postal mail, video games and soon with augmented reality and wearable computing.

Desperately Seeking… A Utility Bill


As a utility consumer, I have needs. I need to be asked how I’m doing. I need to feel needed. I need to be understood. I desire warmth from more than just my HVAC unit.

I want to know where my money is going and why I owe as much as I do. Once I come to terms with the hard fact that I indeed do need to part with my hard-earned money, I want it to be as convenient and easy to decipher as possible. I want to be able to check my bill from my phone or computer and have the option to pay from my mobile phone.

I don’t want to call a customer service line, and I don’t want to navigate through a series of voice prompts. Parting with my hard earned money isn’t an intrinsically fun thing to do, so when I have an experience with my utility company, I’m already on the defensive. I need my utility company to open a communication with me, not just a one-way message. I don’t at all mind the utility company sharing a third-party deal with me, as long as it applies to me, and isn’t a hassle to read through.

What I can’t deal with is poor design that lacks graphics to clarify my statement. I’m a visual learner, so I need to see where my money is going. I want to see the crucial information front and center. If I have to call customer service, I want to easily find my account number and all other pertinent information in one place. I want an e-statement that looks like my bill. I find it helpful to see why I’m using so much energy, and I like to see if I was demonstrated better or worse habits in the prior year (or better than my neighbors!). I want to see actual meter readings and I want to know how to lower my consumption. I also don’t like getting a water bill, a sewer bill and a waste collection bill separately, when all three are paid with the same invoice!

Also, I need reminders. A printed bill in the mail is a great reminder, but for some bills, I prefer e-presentment and mobile solutions. When I use e-statements, it really helps to get a reminder in my email or a text to my phone. If there’s one thing I hate more than having to pay bills, is paying late fees. A simple reminder and an easy to use payment portal help me make late fees a thing of the past. I have some bills on autopay from my bank, some I pay monthly with my credit card and some I send a check for- so I count on my utility provider to make it easy on me with a reminder. The worst is getting hassled by customer service or risking a service interruption from a late payment when literally, “The check is in the mail!” Please track your remittance efforts as well, and save us all some time!

I understand that some providers have an outdated legacy system in place, but that is no excuse to not get with the times. Work with a provider to transform your legacy system into a more modern system, and begin a statement archival system for easy access in the future. Offer me online and offline options for my statement. Offer an electronic bill pay system.

Is that too much to ask?

Pushing the Envelope… Literally and Figuratively


Creative direct mail can have a life far beyond the first recipient. In an Internet era, people go on Facebook and Reddit and Twitter to share the direct mail piece that turned their head. Here are some recent examples that I found particularly interesting, and that go to show that a little creativity can have a lasting effect in an increasingly digital world.

1. BMW “M-print”
I found this example extremely creative, in that it gave a new twist on variable print and personalization, as the car literally made thousands of unique impressions, and likely made exponentially more “impressions,” as 470,000 people have watched (on YouTube) the process that went into this direct mail campaign. Take a look:

Great campaign, great execution, and a lasting impression.


2. Mini (success from a glitch)
I found this earlier today on Reddit on the front page of “Funny,” and it shows that even in the face of a flub, there lies an opportunity. Take a look below, and see how a little creativity and humor can turn what could have felt like a disaster into having a customer that is “In on the joke.”



Included in the mailing was, you guessed it, a chocolate rose, a roll of duct tape and a can of Spam. Wonderful execution combined with a personal touch from a company that is known for being lighthearted. Goes to show that each individual mail piece you send has the ability to impact the recipient greatly and turn some bad PR into some great PR.


3. Griffiths, Gibson and Ramsay Productions (GGRP)
Possibly my all-time favorite example of creative direct mail (being an avid record collector and fan of intuitive design). GGRP Sound Studio mailed out a “make-your-own” phonograph player with a 45 rpm record. The recipient is enticed to build this working record-player and learns more about the business in the meantime.



This mailing reinforces the ideal that direct mail is most impactful when it becomes a keepsake, something that the recipient will refer back to in the future. Creative agencies were calling the Sound Studio asking if they had additional mailpieces to share!

Several members of our blog team have shared their recent “WOW” moments with print, such as CineprintAugmented Reality and a Lexus mailing that hit all the right “channels.” What is your Direct Mail story? What mailings stood out to you? Leave your comments below.

Editor’s Note: Keep up with all of Matt’s blogs at the SourceLink blog

To Print, or not to Print? That is the Question


Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to print

The statements and bills of outrageous usage,

Or to take online against a sea of logins,shakespeare_print

And by accepting digital mailboxes? To print: to email;

Much more!

Ah, Shakespeare and his affinity for transactional documents. Well documented in his masterpieces, such as “A Midsummer Night’s Data” and “Much Ado about Printing,” Shakespeare is not the only one that noticed a shifting landscape from print-only transactional documents to online documents. Well, which one is better? To print or not to print?

As you might have guessed, the answer is not a simple one. I recently read an article in the Digital Nirvana blog describing the online shift for statements. To quote the article: “According to a massive 2011 InfoTrends study, the shift is taking place slower than anticipated. In fact, only 11% of American consumers receive their bills electronically.” Whereas, the perceived shift to electronic communications seemed prevalent (at least to me), consumers still crave printed materials, for reference purposes and for security.

Why print?

First and foremost, consumer preference leans towards the printed piece. In Epsilon’s consumer preference survey, direct mail was the channel of choice for health information, insurance information, and financial services statements. 62% of Americans enjoyed checking the mailbox daily. Print technology is simply making the printed piece even more engaging, and consumers also expressed that printed mail is easier to reference at a later date. Digital Print technology has evolved in such a way to take statements and personalize them to levels never before thought possible. Utility statements can show individualized usage charts and suggestions based on energy consumption. 401k mailing and insurance statements can pair with information databases to show full color representations of distribution and growth, as well as market trends. These personalization options will continue to shift consumer preference towards print, and any business can outsource the data storage, printing and mailing responsibilities to a qualified provider.

Why online?

According to the same Channel Preference study, Mobile device users were 40-50% more likely to prefer email and online communications, respectively, than non-users. This fact is important to note in an increasingly connected and mobile world. Not only are statements shifting to online options, but mobile apps for statements and utilities are surfacing, as well. Younger generations are being raised in an online world, and when they become billpayers and recipients of medical statements and 401k breakouts, they will expect them to be digital communications. The social media component very well might eventually pair with transactional documents in the future, and digital mailboxes will provide a level of security to appease those concerned about online threats.

So to print or not?

Both. The answer lies in determining and exercising your client preferences. Finding out whether your customer prefers electronic presentment is the first step in statement redesign and billing preference. Whereas mobile is convenient, the printed piece offers great levels of personalization, color, and is tactile. For a long time to come, the solution lies in combining the printed world and the online world into an overarching multichannel strategy. Preparing your statements for both online and printed communications will allow the customer to choose how and when they transition between mediums and will help you answer the question “To print or not to print?”

5 Amazing Ways to Integrate Video Into Your Direct Mail


Direct mail is great. It has proven effectiveness, it’s tactile and it holds a certain sentimentality that cannot be matched. Video has been the hottest technology for years, and shows no signs of slowing down. It has been said that Direct Mail could suffer as a standalone marketing medium, but when made part of a multichannel strategy (through integration with email, social media or video), it actually can become stronger than the sum if its parts. Here are some ways to integrate video with Direct Mail:

QR linking directly to video

The most basic and inexpensive way to integrate video into your direct mail is through the use of QR codes. By creating a QR code that links to a YouTube video, you can create immediate conversions across channels, as the user in transported directly to your YouTube Channel or a custom landing page on their smartphone. Even better, if you work with a marketing provider that utilizes digital print and PURL technology, you can track and collect information as each user is whisked away to the land of your business video. Host these videos on your social media platforms, and that just adds one more facet to the Multichannel experience!

Die-cut postcards to “fill in the blanks”

Modern day print machinery can do amazing things. With the use of die-cutting on a postcard, video can literally “fill in the blank” of the removed portion. Direct the recipient to a simple YouTube URL or use a QR code to redirect the recipient, and have the user place the card on top. Voila! Instant tactile interaction with the mail piece and video combination. Think of creative ways to make the die-cut recess become part of the video. Video software becomes more inexpensive every year, and a little brainstorming can lead to an inexpensive campaign really producing a high-class touch!

Integrated video/picture utilizing translucent space

I’ll admit that I grabbed this idea from our blogger, Craig Blake, and his blog “Is Print Dead? Not According to Lexus!!” Cineprint technology is the branded name for this technology, and Sports Illustrated recently blew a number of minds with this advertisement:

As you can see, the branded technology can produce amazing results, and look for many marketers to use similar technologies (or homegrown versions of this technology) to really make mail pieces pop. Imagine your utility bill coming to life when placed on your iPad. Imagine a campus tour coming to life as the seasons change in front of the Admissions building. Imagine your spending habits graphed out live directly on your bank statement. Your imagination is the limit when a printed piece pairs with video elements that bring it to life.

Video on/in printed piece

A few years ago, Pepsi Max rolled out an advertisement in Entertainment weekly that literally had a video embedded into the magazine. The user chose from a variety of prerecorded options, and was able to interact with the magazine. This technology is getting less expensive every year, and with the benefit of behavioral and demographic data, this investment could be the right way to reel in that high-end real estate client or investor. When you utilize the data about your target audience, you can know your investment isn’t for naught. People know when you’ve put a lot of money and effort into your communications, and nothing has quite the “Wow!” factor that a video in a personalized mailing.


Augmented reality

Augmented Reality is defined as: Augmented reality (AR) is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.

Direct mail will greatly benefit from AR applications in the coming years, as apps on a smartphoneare being developed at a rapid pace and at a reasonable cost to facilitate the use of printed images and AR. Several Higher Ed institutions are already using this technology to make personalized direct mail experiences, and with Google Glasses, websites will (likely) literally be able to be viewed from a mail piece. Landing pages, videos, graphics in 3D- the possibilities are literally endless, and so exciting. This technology is probably the most advanced of those discussed, but has great possibilities.

So there you have it, five ways you can integrate video into direct mail. These suggestions can be as inexpensive or as expensive as you choose. So to the naysayers: Direct Mail is not Dead, print isn’t passé: they are just in need of a multichannel spin, and what’s cooler than video?


Responsibility, Sustainability and Print


Every year, technology allows companies to make more responsible decisions about the environment, and with each passing year, awareness amongst business owners and consumers seems to be rising. The American Forest and Paper Association reported that paper recovery from 2011 was up to 66.8%, which is over twice the conservation compared to 1990. Energy usage is down, Greenhouse gases are down, and all indications show that these trends will continue. What is at the core of these significant industry shifts?

Organizations are taking steps to reduce environmental impact and can make smart decisions about the supplies they do use. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international not-for-profit organization designed to reduce environmental impact. Organizations displaying the FSC logo guarantee that the product comes from responsible sources—environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable.

Additionally, modern print equipment, especially printers with “waste-free” systems and roll-to-roll printing (that starts printing the first page as soon as the roll begins) produce amazing image quality and reduce waste. Digital printing, by nature, is significantly more waste-efficient, as the chemicals and proofing associated with offset printing are reduced.

The video above illustrates the fluid process of quality management with sophisticated digital print machinery, where the documents can also come to a complete stop and restart, without any white pages in between, mid-run without having to restart the process or check and discard proofed documents.

“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” was a mantra that was stressed to me at an early age, and responsible printers are doing just that. Printers nationwide can rejoice in the fact that a combination of environmental responsibility and advances in technology are making a difference in the preservation of our natural resources.

As an FSC-certified company, we are not only cognizant of environmental impact, but we are also investing in technology, like the Océ ColorStream® 3500, that emphasizes the importance of waste reduction and how it impacts the sustainability of our environment.

Smart Bills Lead To Even Smarter Consumers


This post provided by Evan Childs, SourceLink blog contributor. 

When it comes to electronics (the newest gadgets on the market), I definitely put myself in the laggard category for adoption. I’m usually never the first guy on my block to have the newest electronic gadgets. I’m the slow and steady guy who likes to think that I can do without many of these gadgets, as I’ve done for my entire life prior to owning one. So suffice it to say that I was a bit shocked to learn that I’m apparently one of the early adopters for a technology that helps me to understand my energy consumption and make smarter energy choices. I am the proud owner of a Nest®.

I first learned of Nest while attending a utility conference in Dallas, TX. It sounded pretty cool, but why would I need that “thing”? I’ve lived without it all these years, so my programmable thermostat is just fine (I thought to myself). Shortly after returning from that conference, my wife had mentioned that our utility bill seemed to be unnecessarily higher than the past. So we did a little investigation…

Our utility bill provides some useful charts and consumption history detail, so identifying the spike in usage was relatively easy. It was clear that the oppressive and seemingly never-ending heat wave of the summer of 2012 had taken its toll on our wallets, via our utility bill. I swear my AC ran non-stop for a week.

A quick review of our spiking electric usage confirmed that we were using more electricity than any prior month this year, and significantly more than the same period last year. So I bit the proverbial bullet and bought a Nest. If you’re not familiar with this little trinket, it’s a very intelligent thermostat to control your AC and heat. What makes this device simply amazing is the fact that it learns your behaviors. It’s a plug-and-go thermostat that literally helps you to make better energy choices. Nest (somehow) knows when you’re not home.

Nest somehow knows when I walk in the door, as it immediately kicks on my AC unit the split second I enter the house. (Still can’t figure out how it knows when I get home… a little creepy, but very awesome). Not to mention that I can control Nest from my iPad (Screenshot above) and have it prepare for my arrivals or vacations!

Utility companies are under increasing pressure from regulators to reduce grid demand for electricity, particularly in peak season (summer in the North East) when demand is at its highest. This becomes critical to many utility companies when excessive heat strikes a region. Demand must be regulated (or in some cases reduced) to avoid stressing the system and causing a blackout. Reducing the demand can happen by force (the utility has to temporarily shut down select customers for short period of time) or by a more preferred method all around – by the utility’s customers voluntarily reducing their demand by making slight adjustments to their usage behaviors.

Technology has made smarter energy consumption choices much easier than in the past. But beyond the technology that is now available, better billing statements are equally critical to this end result of smarter energy consumption and usage.

Had it not been for the usage history charts on my utility’s billing statements, I would have assumed that the rate increase for peak usage periods was the primary cause of the spike in my bill. Thus, from this consumer’s perspective, smarter bills lead to smarter consumers, which leads to smarter energy choices, which leads to a decrease on the demand for energy during peak energy consumption periods.

My wife and I now enjoy receiving our utility bill and watching as the usage charts decrease from month to month as compared to the same period last year. We especially enjoy watching our bill shrink. It has become somewhat of a game in our household. But for the record, it all started with an easy to read utility statement.

As utility companies evaluate the benefits of statement redesign, and making bills easier to read, I propose that they include reduction in demand as a likely outcome to a bill redesign. Had my bill been an old legacy-system generated bill with no usage charts or valuable consumption visuals, I never would have purchased my Nest and my usage behavior probably never would have changed either.

The technology is amazing. But just as amazing to me how important, effective and easy to understand a utility bill can be in driving customers to make smarter choices.