Discovering Hydropower

CHARGE Energy Branding looks at different energy sources from the branding angle – how different sources of energy can be used by utilities to engage better with people.

Dr Fridrik Larsen, the chairman of CHARGE has been invited as a social influencer by Voith Hydro to visit hydropower plants in Portugal, Scotland and Iceland, along with three other experts in the energy field. The aim of the trip is to help people discover Hydropower and

Companies in the energy sector could use the source of their energy as a part of their branding – both figuratively when people are buying electrons but also literally when possible.

It’s not hard to look at hydropower from a branding perspective. Hydropower is often overlooked as a renewable energy source. While solar and wind have received all the glory since the turn of the century, hydro has mostly been left out of the discussion.

  • Hydropower is one of the most attractive sources of renewable energy

  • One-sixth of all energy in the world is produced by Hydropower

  • Eighty per cent of all renewable energy in the world comes from Hydro

Hydro is the original energy source of the de-carbonisation of electricity. Hydro plants were also one of the first off-the-grid power sources. The reservoir of a hydro powerplant is a giant battery which helps balance the output of the plant. So hydro was there long before the trends and has been balancing the grid for over a century.

You can follow the adventure by following the hashtag #DiscoverHydropower or follow Fridrik on Twitter, his handle is @fridriklarsen If you have any questions before or during the trip, you can either tweet at him there or send your question in a direct message.

If you want to know more about Voith Hydro – or are simply interested in photos of hydropower plants, you should click the following links:

About Voith

http://www.voith.com/corp-en/industry-solutions/hydropower.html

Pumped storage

http://voith.com/corp-en/industry-solutions/hydropower/pumped-storage-plants.html

Small hydro

http://voith.com/corp-en/industry-solutions/hydropower/small-hydro.html

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What to expect at the CHARGE Energy Branding Conference

It’s hard to find many conferences which offer inspiring keynotes from executives about branding in the energy industry, professionals giving insightful presentations on energy industry branding case studies or conferences which focus on how branding will determine the future of the industry and which companies will survive the changing times. It’s hard because CHARGE Energy Branding is the only venue in the world with a focus on branding in the energy sector. A hub of new ideas for energy where people from all over the world meet and discuss best practices.

The summer is here and CHARGE Energy Branding is just under 4 months away. We have already announced a majority of the speakers that will give invaluable insights at the Harpa Conference hall in September. We have been able to recruit visionaries, thought leaders and successful professionals from electric utilities, energy retailers, established incumbents, venture funds, non-profits, design, advertising, branding, marketing and communication.

Click the player below to hear testimonials from some of last year’s participants and have a glimpse of what was going on and what to expect from the CHARGE Energy Branding experience.

A shared language for smart energy

We focus on helping the energy industry to communicate efficiently with the tools of branding. An obstacle for the energy industry and the clean energy industry is to translate highly technical terms into a relatable language. It is a challenge for an industry focused on engineering and innovation to communicate to people outside the sector but it can also be a challenge for people within the industry to communicate with people in other sectors of the industry and for different systems to speak a common language.

“If smart integrated energy infrastructures should make sense, it is necessary to find a standard language […] used in residential installations so that different systems can seamlessly communicate together to exploit any surplus or loss of energy throughout the smart energy system between energy producers and distributors.” Benny Hansen, ABB

Smart Energy and the Smart City are not only the concern of vendors and city officials but require the participation of regular people, the end customer. The democratisation of energy with distributed generation and prosumers are only an example of how Smart Energy is much more than smart lighting and smart thermostats. The Clean Energy Industry is becoming aware of the interplay between marketing and energy in general and energy company branding in particular.

A CHARGE Energy Branding event will take place in Copenhagen on the 25th of May, focusing on how we can create a shared language to communicate smart energy. A smart language that is easily understood by stakeholders within the industry and outside of the industry. The event is one of many utilities and energy events related to the Nordic Clean Energy Week and is one of the events that take place in the Energy Experience in Nordhavn.

Speakers

Dr. Fridrik Larsen brings a theoretical angle and practical experience on how a common understanding of simple words is important and why branding energy creates value for all stakeholders.

Jane Mortensen, City & Port – Copenhagen Municipality brings the perspective of the owners/ municipality on effective communication.

“In collaboration with City, Suppliers, Technicians and Development, the Energy Lab Nordhavn demo platform has succeed in creating synergy between the diverse partners and testing new technology in new city areas”. – Jane Mortensen

Kristian Honoré from HOFOR has the perspective of the Energy Planner. He has the experience on how different energy forms play together, the challenges and how a common understanding can be important for integration.

”In the EnergyLab Nordhavn project SMART energy services and innovation is deliberately challenged by daily operations, legislation and resilience – and vice versa – to pave the way for new and realistic solutions and products”. – Kristian Honoré

Rune Kirt from KIRTxTHOMSEN brings examples of how to create a common language in complex energy tech and clean tech projects in research and development.

“Innovation circles in energy are long and costly. High technical complexity and many stakeholders/partners in early R&D often lead to a lack of shared understanding. Customized visualizations can make everyone on the same page fast, thus bridging the gap between technology and business, engineering and management, ideas and money. Aligning key stakeholders from early stage and throughout the process”. – Rune Kirt

Martin Gammeltoft from Activity Stream is experienced in working with clear and accessible communication. He will share stories on what works in communicating technical language to many different external stakeholders.

Where: Energy.Hub Nordhavn (Directions)
When: Friday, May 25th at 9:00 – 10:30

Attendance is free but registration is required through the form here.

 

 

 

Next level Energy Branding

The best brands in the energy sector work hard, deliver superior value, look outside the energy space, segment their customers, are data driven and are on a mission of changing the status quo.

By reviewing the branding case studies from the World’s Best Energy Brands we have learned a great deal about how the best energy brands in the world view themselves and how energy company branding can go to the next level. There is a common thread among the best energy brands in the world. It does not only apply to the competitive retail sector – it also applies to the regulated energy sectors both in retail, transmission of electricity, distribution of electricity and it should apply to B2B energy retail companies as well as generation companies.

There are no shortcuts towards a superior brand

People often wonder if there is a good life-hack or a shortcut to achievement. So, is there a good life-hack for creating a good brand in the energy sector? The short answer is: No – there are no shortcuts. Creating a good energy brand takes a great deal of effort. Even if you know the secret to creating the very best power brand in the world and even if you were born with the secret to energy marketing in your head – creating, implementing and running an effective brand in the energy sector is still hard work.

 

The best Energy Brands offer something else than energy

They offer an experience. They have a simple message about the benefit they offer that no one else offers. And the benefit is usually not the price or being able to deliver electricity on time. It’s usually a feeling in the mind of the consumer that they own. Apple and Nike are well-known branding and marketing reference point clichés for a reason. They own a share of the consumer’s mind – and that is what you need to own a share of the market.

They look outside the energy box

The best brands are not focused on the next door utility neighbour and try to copy their best practices. Although many brands in the global energy market are doing great things branding vice, the best brands in the world are not found in the energy space. You should look outside the box and identify who is the best in the world and learn from them and apply it to the energy sector and your market. Don’t think about which brand is the best employer brand amongst energy companies – look for the best employer brand in the world. Don’t just try to learn from the best customer service brand among utilities, look for the company that offers the best customer service period.

The best energy brands use segmentation tools

It’s almost impossible to be like by everyone. Instead, you should use the appropriate tools to segment the market. The most simple tool to use is demographics. But you can’t go in blind and decide to be the brand for single women aged 26-37 living in a certain area with this high yearly revenue. You need to know why this group is the right one for your brand and your value offering. It is often said that typical demographical groups are dead – people can’t be put into categories based on gender, age or where they live. There are multiple tools that segment that market based on more things than on demographics. Find the groups that your brand speaks to and figure out how to speak to them.

The best energy brands are customer oriented

Customer engagement is not about smart gadgets. It comes naturally when a brand speaks to the customers on a personal level and connects to them on an emotional level. The smart gadgets help but if there is nothing that connects to the customer other than a socket on the wall or some hardware, then there is no chance of communication. The best brands have created an emotional value that can be hard for competitors to compete with.

The best energy brands measure up

We have established that good branding is about knowing the customer. But good branding is about knowing yourself. What you stand for and what your brand is capable to do. But you need to know where your brand stands and where it stands in the minds of your customers. The best energy brands are constantly measuring how they are doing and benchmarking with other brands. They are not afraid to reach out proactively to customers and ask them what they think – this is not done once a year – it can be once a month or even once a week.

The best brands are on a mission

They offer superior brand value by offering something unique and different from others in the sector. That superior value stems from a specific brand mission – they are not just selling energy – they are often trying to change the world. A good example of good branding is in the green energy sector. Today, almost every supplier has started to become green. So green has become the new black in energy and it’s hard to differentiate based on the green origin of the energy alone. Superior green brands today have to dig deeper and be sustainable to the core and offer customers a buy-in towards a vision of the future.

A Sustainable Competitive Advantage

Imagine that in 30 years, sales of energy will become a small part of the value created by energy and the image created by energy production would create just as much or even more value.

Energy can become a valuable ingredient in nation branding. Nation- or place branding is a difficult task since it is about finding something that is unique for a country and millions of people can align themselves with. This brand essence is something that visitors to the country should experience and products originating from the country can use as a frame of reference in their branding.

CHARGE Energy Branding held an event recently in Reykjavik regarding Iceland as a country brand and a country of origin for brands. The subject of the event was Sustainable energy and Competitive advantage. It was the first of smaller events related to CHARGE Energy Branding. These events are meant for local business communities and energy clusters to discuss specific topics related to their operations. The next event will take place in Copenhagen on the 25th of May. The subject of the event is Creating a shared language for Smart Energy – to accelerate Green Transition. Further information and registration can be found by following this link.

The aim of the event in Reykjavik was to bring together people from different corners of the Icelandic economy to discuss energy branding and how the image of Iceland as a country of clean, renewable energy can increase the value of products and services in Iceland. Could the sustainable image of Iceland be a competitive advantage for Icelandic companies?

What is a Competitive Advantage?

Michael Porter coined the term Competitive Advantage in 1980’s. The term refers to what it is that makes goods or services superior to all other choices customers have. Porter considered there to be three determinants of Competitive Advantage, Benefit, Target Market and Competition. Success is determined by how good you are in articulating the benefit to the target market and convince them that the benefit is better than the competition.

For a company to succeed, it must create clear goals, strategies and operations to build a sustainable competitive advantage. Corporate culture and the values of employees must align with the goals.

For a nation to create a sustainable competitive advantage, it would require a push from every stakeholder and unite them under the same values and goals. To discuss the potential were representatives from the office responsible for the image of Iceland abroad, a branding expert from an advertising agency, aluminium CEO and a seafood CEO.

The event was presented and moderated by Dr. Friðrik Larsen, CEO of LarsEn Energy Branding and the Chairman of CHARGE. He opened up by saying that nation branding is a choice but by choosing not to brand, people are choosing to waste one of the most valuable naturals resources.

First to present was Inga Hlín Pálsdóttir from Visit Iceland. She talked about the strategy of building the country brand Iceland. Visit Iceland was initially focused on building the nation brand in relations to tourism but then started to include Iceland as a country-of-origin-brand in their marketing message. Energy is a large factor in the image of Iceland with 97% of foreign visitors agree that they are positive towards the use of renewables in Iceland.

Viggó Örn Jónsson, creative director of Jónsson & Le’macks looked at the possibilities of leveraging Iceland’s renewables in the nation’s image even further in the story-telling of the nation brand of Iceland. He stated that products that use terms such as Organic, Fair Trade and Sustainable have become the luxury products of the Western World. International household brands are starting to look more closely at every aspect of their value chain to make sure that every link can meet the demands of consumers today. Iceland has a unique opportunity to become a luxury brand through storytelling. “We have this magic island where everything is powered by 100% clean energy people use volcanoes to heat their homes and power their kitchens”. But the challenge is to create a simple, clear story that everyone, cross-sectors, can tell. In Viggó’s opinion, everyone is selling the same product – the image of the country.

Next up was Ragnar Guðmundsson, CEO of Norðurál which is part of Century Aluminium. Ragnar’s company proudly states that they make the World’s Greenest aluminium. Just as Viggó pointed out – big global brands are looking at every way to green their value chain. While he makes the greenest aluminium in the world – it is hard for large global brands to make such claims since there is not yet a branded gold (or aluminium) standard for green aluminium. A green stamp of origin for aluminium is being developed and Ragnar hopes that within two years, aluminium producers will be able to differentiate their product and create a competitive advantage with the source of energy as a branded ingredient.

Guðmundur Kristjánsson gave the last presentation. Guðmundur is the CEO of Brim Seafood, the largest seafood company in Iceland. Guðmundur pointed out that there are many things that other sectors could learn from the Icelandic seafood sector. And indeed, he is correct. Iceland is one of the few countries in the world with sustainable fishing stocks – due to the transferable quota system. As Guðmundur pointed out – 30 years ago the country would fish twice the amount of today. Today, however, the revenue of the fisheries is twice the amount it was 30 years ago when the quota system was implemented. Instead of throwing away by-products and just keeping the fillets, the fishing industry is utilising every part of the fish caught and is not focusing only on fish as a food product. Fishing in Iceland has become an innovative high-tech industry that is not only focusing on the core commodity.

For energy, it might be put this way: Iceland is today throwing away an image that energy production produces just like it did with various parts of the fish 30 years ago.

 

Branding Bananas and other commodities

The most basic requirement for branding is differentiation. But how is utility branding possible when the product itself can’t be differentiated? How is energy market segmentation even possible when everyone is buying the same thing? These are questions that you might use to make an argument that branding for energy companies is a waste of time – the only differentiator is the price. You can only gain new customers by offering a lower price. As the experience from the UK has shown – trying to lead a race to the bottom can lead your brand to bankruptcy.

To demonstrate that a commodity can be differentiated by a brand, it is popular to point to other industries that have gone the branding route. Branded salt is sold at a premium and there is a seemingly endless supply of telecommunication brands active globally. But the best example of a well-branded commodity that differentiates primarily on owning part of consumers hearts and minds are bananas. One brand, in particular, has become synonyms with bananas. That brand is Chiquita. When people are asked to name the first brand that they connect with bananas, its Chiquita. Not many people can tell the difference between regular yellow bananas.

As finalists for the World’s Best Energy Brands Awards have shown, it is possible to differentiate a mere commodity such as electricity.  (follow the link to get a glimpse of some great brand case studies from the energy industry).

Electricity is a basic necessity and it is price sensitive up to a point – the brands that have been the most successful in the market have found a balance between offering a competitive price structure and giving customers a reason to choose a brand that offers something more than just a basic necessity.

Sometimes the commodity itself is differentiated – well not the electrons themselves but the source where the electrons are generated. Say hello to Green Energy Marketing. Clean Energy Industry Strategic Communications is probably the most notable and has been used the longest as a differentiator on the market. But making a clean energy strategic market entry has become more challenging than before since almost everybody on the market is either 100% renewable or offering renewables as an option on the market.

Energy Decentralisation is providing more opportunities as well as challenges to energy brands. Distributed generation and prosumers has changed the energy brand spectrum. Electricity brands are becoming a more flexible concept since customers do not need to be connected to the grid and can do business with electricity brands that only supply them with the tools and equipment needed for the customers to be self-sufficient of energy.

The most important thing in creating a brand in the energy space is to find out how to be different and the most enduring way of being different from the competition is to claim a feeling. In the end – people make their choice by determining who they trust.

Gain insights and earn customer engagement

customer engagement energy utility marketing branding CHARGE Energy

Energy company branding is pretty simple at the core. The World’s Best Energy Brands have it in common to be able to identify segments in the market. The best brands offer their target groups specific offerings and give them tailor-made marketing message that gives the impression of a coherent brand-voice. Despite advances in technology – the core of marketing is still the 4P’s. But technology creates new ways to present the product, new places to sell it at and new ways to promote it. It also gives new ways to find out more about the consumer.

Learn more about energy branding and dig deep into branding case studies in the energy industry. Join us at CHARGE 2018 – the only utilities and energy conference that covers branding in the energy space!

Easy days are over

A major task of any company selling and marketing a product or a service is to really figure out what you are offering, to which potential customers and how you are different from everyone else on the market. This used to be a lot easier, a company would come up with a product and find the right segment was easy, husband, housewife, urban or rural. Then societal changes came along and these simple groups of consumers split up and new-sprung out. The teenager is more complex and people in their twenties are now of all ages.

Big Data helps

Energy utilities around the world are doing their best to know their customers which is the technical term for analyzing data and identifying patterns. Big data can, of course, provide great insights that are not easy to identify from interviews or surveys. But the downside is that energy companies often skip the part of getting to know their customers – the customers become blips on the screen that leave data points. Gathering large amounts of quantitative user data is relatively easy, it’s just a question of finding the right software and let the algorithms get to know the customers.

A good brand uses algorithms to gain better insight into the behaviour of the customer but in most cases, it is used to build upon knowledge that is founded on qualitative research that is more or less the foundations of the brand.

Don’t forget qualitative

Some might dismiss qualitative studies as anecdotal evidence or by simply pointing out that if Henry Ford would have asked people what they wanted, he would have made the horse cart faster. It is correct that you should not take focus groups or customers too literally, an active mind is needed to analyze what is said to you and form concrete principles – read between the lines and integrate truths.

Find out more

Artificial intelligence is yet to be able to do that. A good first step is asking oneself “what would I as a customer want from a provider?” and then asking the same question to people you know and see if there is something in common.

Find out more about how the Best Energy Brands identify and speak to their different segments in the report on the World’s Best Energy Brands which is available now. Including energy company case studies from around the world.

 

The journey from RWE to Innogy

Almost two years ago, the German energy giant RWE spun off a large part of its operations into the subsidiary Innogy. Innogy took over the operations of renewables and networks and the consumer-facing retail operations of RWE’s business. It marked a bold move to face the changing times ahead in energy.  Innogy was to become a DSO brand, a retail brand but more importantly a renewable energy brand. But as the name suggests, Innogy was not to become just another renewable or sustainable energy brand. The Innogy brand made a connection between sustainability and the usage of renewable to innovation.

At CHARGE 2017, Sabine Schmittwilken, the global head of brand at Innogy, spoke about how the transition from RWE to Innogy or rather how RWE wanted to start again with a clean slate and change part of its business into Innogy. As she put it so bluntly and honestly:

“We were completely ignorant of people’s needs, ignorant of global trends. At that time, RWE had invested billions in a new conventional energy park. And then all of the sudden, the German Energiewende came […] All of the sudden we needed a new future and new answers”.

Going through the process of re-discovering their purpose in a changed world – RWE found that renewables would soon become the new normal in the energy space. It was not enough to claim differentiation through clean energy when everyone could make the same claim within ten years. Clean energy market entry is not as unique as it used to be.

To discover what truly could set RWE apart in the marketplace, the company looked back at its roots to its founder Hugo Stinnes, a great innovator and entrepreneur who was considered to be crazy at the time to have the ambition to bring electric lighting to even the poorest. It was considered an impossible challenge to overcome in the early 1900s but was achieved. With the spirit of achieving what is considered impossible, the foundations of the company’s new strategy were put in place.

Sabine went further into what led to spinning what would become Innogy from RWE at CHARGE 2017 in Iceland. It is a good primer in Energy Company Branding and a gives an overview of the process in general. The full presentation can be found in the player below.

Discover more from thought leaders in the energy space at CHARGE 2018 in Reykjavik, Iceland. September 24-25. An Energy Conference in Europe but really close to America. Early Bird tickets are available until the end of June.

Does Geothermal Energy create better Footballers?

Located close to Reykjavík in the Reykjanes peninsula, HS-Orka is primarily focused on geothermal energy both in terms of creating electricity and heating. The vast amount of waste heat that is a byproduct of its generation has created a great opportunity for innovation in further utilising the geothermal resources. From a natural spa to fish farms and other high-tech start-ups, the motto of HS-Orka has been to not think inside the box “there is no box”.

At CHARGE last year, Ásgeir Margeirsson, CEO of the company talked about football and how geothermal energy has created better footballers for Iceland. In his presentation, he showed that there was a correlation between the number of geothermally heated indoor soccer halls in Iceland and the rise of the nation’s national football team up the FIFA rankings ladder.

HS-Orka has focused on progress and the company is passionate about doing better than before and being brave. “There are many ideas that fail but that is alright”. Ásgeir went on to say that there is nothing as waste, waste is simply something that they haven’t found a use for yet.  The key to finding new ways to turn waste into a useful resource, according to Ásgeir, is to have an interdisciplinary discussion between people of different backgrounds both from the power companies and innovators.

Energy brands and strategic vision

 

Retail energy strategy is about finding the right positioning and implementing it. Energy company branding is not simple for energy providers, positioning on the market requires a deep knowledge of how energy consumers behave and how the market can be disrupted. For incumbent utilities, this can be a difficult task since consumers have an already established idea of what the utility is and what it does and how it reacts. The utility company and the idea consumers have about it is changing, both with the entrance of smaller newcomers and changing technology.

The age of consumer choice in power markets

Power providers have been unbundled in most liberalised markets and the challenge for all participants in the market is to unlock customer value by creating brand value that gives the customer a reason to choose. Customers that have been indifferent towards their energy suppliers are slowly but surely responding to marketing programs and branding in the energy space. What has become the most common form of differentiation in market messages on the energy market has been a green positioning, focusing on the renewables that the energy provider can source for their customers.

Renewable Energy Strategies

Renewable energy strategies can vary, depending on the market and how customers on the market perceive renewables. In most countries, solar and wind are considered to be THE sources of renewable energy while sources such as nuclear and especially hydro are branded as sustainable or clean sources of electricity. While solar and wind are still sufficient to power regular homes, the technology is not just there in terms of scale and efficiency to give reliable power to large-scale industrial users. Many large companies are, however, demanding renewable energy to power their production or be the backbone of their services. It does not matter how green/renewable/sustainable/clean the source of the energy is. What matters is that the brand that is promoting the source of energy that it sells to its customers is also a sustainable brand. Being a sustainable brand is not about renewing the colour palette to reflect a greener colour.

Customer engagement strategy

The brands that are able to deliver results in connecting to the minds of consumers are the brands that are delivering a higher purpose. It is not just a matter of the cover – it is also about the contents inside. The truly effective energy brands are about changing the status quo. Effective brands set out to change the world. They identify gaps in the market by thinking like a consumer. Often they are founded by regular consumers that are fed up with the way things are done. From the start, these brands are equipped with a vision. Their strategic market entry is done by a narrow customer segmentation – by being focused on a niche market that they can expand further down the road.

Doing something new

The top companies for customer experience are not myopic about technology. Smart metering is an add-on to the experience but it can not the solution to everything. If a brand is not well crafted and lacks strategy and vision, the execution of the possibilities of smart metering will at best become awkward. Utility analytics and customer engagement metrics are a valuable add-on for the energy marketer and anyone interested in maintaining a brand. Smart metering enables customer engagement metrics and smart customer service but customer engagement and loyalty do not come automatically with smart meters and smart meter data. People engage with brands – not technology. Technology enables further customer engagement in energy and it can help customer segmentation. But technology and user interface must be appealing and easy for customers. To be able to make it easy for customers, companies need a good user interface and to be able to design a good user interface, energy companies need to be able to understand the end customer.

The Future of Energy

The future of energy is customer choice. Customers are already able to choose a supplier in deregulated markets but energy consumers around the world are already able to choose if they bypass the regulated monopolies altogether through microgrids, their own rooftop solar or other ways of localised small-scale production of energy. The future of energy is in the hands of the consumer and the energy companies that are able to build their value proposition according to the needs of the consumers will own the future.

 

 

 

Customer centric energy