Propane Council Explores New and Creative Ways to Increase Propane Consumption in America
National Advertising Campaign is Discussed
December 9, 1999
The Propane Education & Research Council held its fifth and final meeting of the year (December 6 -7) in The Woodlands, Texas to act on funding requests related to its three main missions-consumer education, research and development, and safety and training.
And the Winner is: 'Exceptional' Themeline is Introduced
The Council is enthusiastic about the new themeline it has developed to help promote propane through its marketing communications program launched in June. 'Propane. Exceptional Energy' will be used on all promotional materials to communicate propane's clean-burning, efficient, good value qualities as an energy source. 'Our research shows that 'Propane. Exceptional Energy' is a winner because it does a good job of inviting consumers to learn more about the advantages of using propane,' said Council President Roy Willis. The new line and accompanying artwork will be distributed beginning in January.
Communications Experts Recommend $60 Million Advertising Campaign
In September, the Council asked its communications firm to assess the industry's long-term advertising needs. According to Porter Novelli, the propane industry should be prepared to spend as much as $60 million over a five-year period if it wants to reach consumers with a high-profile campaign on the benefits of using propane. The firm's recommendation includes a multi-media plan targeting key trade audiences and homeowners across the country. Porter Novelli gave examples of how other industries-such as plastics, beef, pork and steel-have improved their images while increasing sales of their products through aggressive, long-term consumer advertising campaigns.
'It is clear to me that if the propane industry wants a bigger share of the nation's energy market then launching a nationwide advertising campaign will have to be a part of the strategy,' said Propane Council Chairman Daryl McClendon, president, Platinum Propane, Hinsdale, Illinois. 'A nationwide advertising campaign that we can sustain over a period of time is going to require more dollars than the industry assessment is currently collecting so this idea will require a lot more discussion before it becomes a reality,' added McClendon. 'But I believe it is an idea worth pursuing and an action that needs to be taken if we want to grow our markets in the competitive energy environment.' The issue will be discussed further at the Council's next meeting March 30-31, 2000 in Atlanta.
Council Approves Short-term Advertising Initiative
As a short-term, interim step, the Council approved a $240,000 funding request with the goal of producing advertising materials in the coming year that state propane organizations and propane marketers can use in their promotional efforts at the local level. Communications materials will include print, radio and billboard advertisements as well as informational bill stuffers. The Council will be responsible for producing the advertisements and it will be up to the states and companies to place them in their local media. 'This short-term advertising program gives us an opportunity to reach a larger number of people with good reasons why they should make propane their number one energy choice,' said McClendon.
Grants and State Rebates Funded
With input from its three new advisory committees, the Council took up nearly $8 million in funding requests, rejecting many of them and sending others for further review. 'The advisory committees are doing an excellent job and the industry volunteers who serve on them are to be highly commended,' said Willis. 'They thoroughly reviewed dozens of requests, many of which they found to be low priorities or not worthy of funding.' With few exceptions, the Council accepted the advisory committees' recommendations.
'The Council again has sent a strong signal that the industry's funds are going to be invested wisely and prudently,' Willis explained. 'Applicants for Council funding have a duty to clearly and convincingly demonstrate that their proposals address a compelling industry need and will help grow the market.'
Eight state propane organizations were granted more than $300,000 to fund projects at the state level. Two state rebates were rejected for technical reasons.
The Council funded 11 grants totaling $1.5 million. The Council also gave authorization for Council staff to issue requests for proposals (RFP) for development of a comprehensive industry metric, including a quantitative market survey; a manufactured housing program; and a trade show initiative. A list of funded projects can be found on the Council's website-www.propanecouncil.org
2000 Budget is Approved
The Council gave final approval to a $10.2 million dollar budget for 2000. The budget was circulated for public comments in July and now will be sent to the Secretary of Energy.
Risk Assessment to Bring Changes
The Council met in executive session to receive a confidential report from its legal and accounting firms on steps that it could take to provide further safeguards against potential litigation, Willis said. 'We've learned a great deal in the eighteen months since we made our first grant, and we want to put what we've learned toward improving our procedures. We will be making changes in both the Council's funding procedures and contracts, and I expect to announce those changes early next year,' Willis added.
New Committee Chairmen Appointed
The Council approved the nominations of two advisory committee chairmen-Mark Alexander, CEO, Suburban Propane, Whippany, New Jersey, will chair the Council's newly formed Research and Development Advisory Committee. Tom Jaenicke, regional vice president, Thermogas, Flint, Michigan is the new chairman of the Consumer Education Advisory Committee. Council Member Bill Schaal is interim chairman of the Safety & Training Advisory Committee.
Welcome Dale Delay!
The newest member of the Propane Council is Dale Delay of PG&E NGL Marketing LP, Houston, Texas. Mr. Delay was appointed to serve on the Council by the Gas Processors Association.
The purpose of the Propane Education & Research Council (Council) is to promote the safe, efficient use of propane as a preferred energy source. A 21-member board appointed by the National Propane Gas Association and the Gas Processors Association governs the Council.
Through the Council, the propane industry has committed itself to a multi-year, multi-million dollar effort to improve consumer and employee safety, to fund research and development of new and more efficient propane equipment, and to expand public awareness of propane and its many uses and environmental advantages.
The Council is funded by an assessment or 'check-off' on each gallon of odorized propane gas. Currently, the assessment is one-tenth of one cent per gallon. The 'check-off' program collected $8.6 million dollars in 1998 to fund programs and projects.