Marketing HVAC to Millennials: An Ancestoral Perspective

By Trish Holder

Sometimes looking back is more fun than looking ahead.

Recently I've embarked on a little ancestral research and found it completely addictive. Turns out looking into one’s genealogical past is a greater timesink than Facebook.  But oh the discoveries one can make!  In a matter of a week I learned that I’m more Western European than the average Western European, my ancestors have been anchored in North Carolina, Virginia, and Kentucky since the 1700s, and my family tree’s branches occasionally got tangled with others in the forest. Apparently coal mining wasn’t the only thing going on in the hills of Kentucky way back when...   

(Separated by a hundred or so years, we can take almost anything with a grain of salt. Besides, how can you judge anyone who lived in the south and didn’t have air conditioning?)

If anything, looking back makes you appreciate what you have. As little as two generations ago there was nothing but farmers and manual laborers in my family. My ancestors fought in wars, raised a startling number of children, and on top of all that they had to make their own whiskey!

Fast forward to now and we are living in a world where 20-somethings scarcely recall a world without Wi-Fi.  And boy-oh-boy does this generation have us wringing our hands.  The HVAC industry is sweating bullets (ironically) over how to market to the enigmatic Millennial.

All of the research, and believe me there’s a lot of it, seems to boil down to one thing: Millennials care about energy efficiency more than past generations, but probably aren’t willing to pay a premium for high efficiency HVAC equipment.  It appears that most will be too strapped by their own college debt.

A Matter of Negotiation?

I’m not exactly surprised to hear about this. In fact, I feel like I’ve been reading this same research for the last eight years.

Don’t get me wrong, I value all kinds of research, but hasn’t the need to "get by" always trumped loftier goals?  I suspect my dirt poor ancestors would have loved to purchase younger, fitter mules each year so they could plow those fields a little faster and spend more quality time with their sixteen children. But more often than not it simply wasn’t within their means to do so.

It doesn't mean they weren't open for negotiation. Back in Civil War time you could buy your way out of service with a mule and a cart if they held a value of at least $300.00.  That’s how my great grandfather apparently found himself in the War at the age of fifteen. Not exactly a great trade in my opinion, but it goes to show you can persuade someone of just about anything if the perceived value is there. It’s just a matter of negotiation.

I ran across an article recently that raised an interesting point about marketing HVAC to Millennials. It was comparison between the HVAC industry and the automotive industry, and how the latter thrives with financing while the other pretty much expects a paid-in-full check upon delivery. Clearly Millennials are all about purchasing hybrid vehicles even though they cost more. Why? Because nearly all of these purchases are financed! 

Unfortunately, the same financing opportunities are not readily available for the purchase of heating and cooling equipment.

All this begs the question:  If a kid in the 1800s is willing to go to war in exchange for a mule and a cart, is it so inconceivable that a Millennial might be willing to pay a little interest for a higher efficiency HVAC unit if better financing was available?

Talk amongst yourselves….