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PERC takes peek at propane campaign concepts

Trent Walters, brand management/principal at The Richards Group, speaks at the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) meeting in Dallas. Dennis Vegas, PERC’s chief marketing officer, sits in the background.

The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) heard a detailed presentation from The Richards Group about the industry’s new consumer education campaign, officially approving the $10 million project during a Feb. 18 meeting in Dallas.

PERC scheduled the meeting specifically for council members to hear from the Dallas firm chosen to lead the industry’s first consumer-driven program in more than six years. The council had been under a federal government restriction since 2009 that prevented it from promoting propane’s general benefits to consumers. That restriction was lifted last April, and PERC has been methodically planning the formation of a new national campaign.

“As much as we need to move quickly, we need to make sure we’re doing this the right way,” says Tom Van Buren, PERC chairman, of Ferrell North America.

The three-year program will focus initially on the residential market and work to improve the public’s perceptions and awareness of propane. PERC has partnered with the Nielsen Group to gather consumer research that will help shape and measure the campaign.

PERC’s $47.6 million budget in 2016 maintains an assessment rate of four-tenths of a cent per gallon of odorized propane. The council, however, is exploring a raised assessment of five-tenths over the next two years of the campaign.

In Dallas, The Richards Group presented two concepts designed to tell propane’s story to consumers, show the character of the industry and feature the many uses of propane in and around the home.

One concept, called “Home,” is built around a man’s long drive to see his family, which is awaiting him while enjoying the comforts of a propane-fueled home. The other is based on a dog named “Blue,” whose thoughts about his days with a propane man are heard throughout the story.

The Richards Group plans to share the propane industry’s stories through a multimedia strategy that includes television, radio, newspapers and magazines, and other digital tools.

“It’s been fascinating for us,” says Corey Green, brand planning director at The Richards Group, in response to a council member’s question about the industry.

“There’s a rich history there,” he adds. “It’s rare for us to have an audience that has such a strong identity in place. We just have to tap into something that already exists.”

Council members provided feedback to the firm before the concepts are introduced next to a set of focus groups for further review that will help decide the campaign’s direction. PERC is planning to officially launch the program at the NPGA Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo on April 8-10 in Nashville, Tenn. After the launch in Nashville, PERC hopes to prep propane marketers for the rollout and a potential influx of business.

“I’m excited to get back out there and see the consumer response to our message,” says Roy Willis, president and CEO of PERC.

Also at the meeting, the council approved two additional funding requests: