PERC addresses changes, sets plans, programs for 2018

November 16, 2017 By    

In his second meeting as president and CEO of the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), Tucker Perkins urged propane retailers to consider the prospect of change in their marketing processes and he challenged councilors to bring forth a forward-thinking mentality.

“We’ve got to move and get in front of our competing fuels,” Perkins said during PERC’s November meeting in Tampa, Florida.

Perkins also addressed PERC’s obligation “to make our materials more available and to help people turn them into living, breathing documents.” Marketers should incorporate PERC materials into their selling plans, Perkins added, as a way to promote water heaters, for example.

“The priority for this organization and the industry is we have to overcommunicate,” said PERC Chairman Drew Combs of CHS Inc. “There are a lot of changes going on. We have to be conscious of that and make sure we’re working together – NPGA, PERC and the states.”

Among those changes for the council: a raised assessment rate to the maximum five-tenths of a cent per gallon of odorized propane – which took effect Oct. 1 and is expected to generate $41 million in 2018 revenue – and a shift in its homeowner advertising program.

The focus of PERC’s homeowner advertising program in 2018 will evolve from one that improves consumer perceptions of propane – done for the last two years through its national “Blue the dog” campaign – to one that promotes the adoption of propane appliances. PERC plans to launch its new homeowner campaign, estimated to cost about $5 million, at the April 2018 NPGA Propane Expo in Atlanta.

PERC ended its relationship with The Richards Group, the Dallas firm that created the industry’s first consumer-facing campaign since a six-year federal government restriction on the council’s public outreach activities ended in 2015. Going forward, the council will leverage the work of Lincoln, Nebraska-based advertising agency Swanson Russell, a familiar PERC partner.

The council says its communications strategy in 2018 will be based on an integrated program that will unify all homeowner and business-to-business outreach under a consistent brand.

“The council wants to make sure that all of the messages you’re seeing from us are very obviously from the same place, reinforcing the same message, having the same tone,” says Gregg Walker, director of communications at PERC. “That’s what we mean from this integrated campaign.”

With much of PERC’s focus at the Tampa meeting on 2018, the council approved a $41.7 million budget for the next year that will also include safety and training programs, its Partnership with States program and the ongoing development of propane-fueled products. The budget includes $30.2 million for program activities.

“The 2018 budget is designed to capitalize on opportunities to spur gallon growth by compelling homeowners and business owners either to switch to propane or to add propane equipment to a home or business that already runs on our fuel,” Perkins says.

The council also approved the following funding requests, with the primary partner in parenthesis, where applicable:

  • $2.15 million for 2018 residential and commercial market outreach to target individuals and organizations critical to the specification of propane (Swanson Russell).
  • $1.5 million for the 2018 Partnership with States program, which supports state foundations and councils by providing matching funds to specific state rebate-funded safety, training, and market development activities.
  • $1.32 million for the 2018 partnership agreement between PERC, the GPA Midstream Association and the National Propane Gas Association. PERC says the agreement helps it fulfill a statutory obligation to coordinate its activities with industry organizations.
  • $1.3 million for 2018 propane autogas market outreach to engage equipment manufacturers, dealers and distributors, as well as end users, propane marketers and other stakeholders in expanding the use of propane as the preferred fuel in fleet vehicles (Swanson Russell).
  • $1.1 million for 2018 agricultural market outreach to promote the advantages and versatility of propane and propane-powered equipment to stakeholders and to develop marketing tools that retailers and other influencers can use (Swanson Russell).
  • $930,000 for 2018 outdoor power equipment outreach and marketing to engage equipment dealers and distributors, landscape contractors and grounds managers, and propane retailers looking to grow off-season demand.
  • $500,000 for the 2017-18 Propane Mower Incentive Program to encourage the use of propane in the landscaping market.
  • $490,000 for the council’s 2018 Advisory Committee and program support, covering costs for two in-person meetings per year.
  • $440,000 for 2018 industry outreach, covering operating expenses to interact directly with industry members and state/regional associations.
  • $305,000 for the 2018 Propane Market Intelligence and Assessment Program, which provides propane market data analysis and outlook information, as well as insights for PERC program evaluation and planning (Stratas Advisors).
  • $225,872 for maintenance and support of the council’s product catalog (Swanson Russell).
  • $150,000 for a multi-year, task-based training initiative, including positioning the propane industry as a valuable career pathway and coordinating with workforce boards, technical schools and propane marketers (Bray Strategies).
  • $143,017 for updates to PERC e-learning training programs, reflecting changes to the NFPA 58 2017 edition (Dashe & Thomson).
  • $107,446 for 2018 propane autogas technician training (National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium).
  • $100,000 for a 2017 fuel sampling program to explore sulfur levels in propane and other fuel-quality trends (Southwest Research Institute).
  • $81,465 to provide maintenance and help desk support for the 2018 Certified Employee Training Program (Dashe & Thomson).
  • $71,900 for online propane autogas first responder safety training (National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium).
  • $50,000 for laboratory evaluation of the M-Trigen micro-combined cooling, heating and power system, developed for residential and small commercial applications (Gas Technology Institute).
  • $34,576 for the Maricopa County (Arizona) Propane Fire Pit Program, which encourages 1,000 homeowners to replace outdoor wood-burning fireplaces and fire pits with authorized, self-standing propane heating devices (Arizona Propane Education & Research Foundation).
  • $30,000 to develop and manage the 2018 propane industry trainer’s conference, scheduled for Jan. 16-17 in San Antonio.

Since July, PERC has approved 97 state rebate requests totaling more than $2 million, with 21 programs including requests for a total of $386,726 from the Partnership with States program.

The council will next meet Feb. 14 in Santa Barbara, California.

About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at brichesson@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3748.

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