Effective product branding is about putting the right frame around your value proposition according to Mei Shibata, CEO of Essense Partners – an award-winning strategic marketing firm based in New York.
Mei uses the case of the electric cars to show how branding boils down to framing the value proposition. Despite the many advances the electric car has over the traditional combustion engine car, Mei’s research has shown that the biggest challenge facing the electric car is perceptional and related to the image the electric car has rather than technological, such as range, speed, charging time or the overall driving experience.
Mei points out that if you are not proactively doing your branding work, someone else is doing it for you and controlling the dialogue and setting the frame of reference for consumers.
LarsEn Energy Branding and CHARGE Energy Branding Conference have released the first comprehensive report on the world’s best energy brands. The report contains case studies from 14 of the best energy brands in the world, selected by a panel of 30 experts from around the world from different sectors of energy and marketing spectrum. Details on how the best energy brands in Green Energy, energy retail, transmission and distribution are facing the challenging and changing energy landscape by putting the customer at the centre of their business strategy.
Research has shown that one of the hindering factors that are standing in the way of powerful energy brands and marketing orientation is both the lack of support and understanding of branding of management. The cases in the report show that the best energy brands don’t leave their energy marketing at the hands of their marketing departments, not only is top management involved but everyone else in the organisation. Branding involves the marketing and branding departments and top management as well as every employee – branding is an issue for marketing, management and human resources as well.
The companies in the report go beyond transactional relationships, they speak to the hearts of the consumer. While more and more organisations in the utility-sector have become more consumer-oriented, the brands featured in the report have gone beyond supplying electricity or offering smart thermostats, storage or solar panels by speaking to the minds and hearts of their customers.
The report is just over 100 pages long, rich with graphics and information about the best-in-class companies in the world – both competing in deregulated markets as well as customer-centric brands in monopoly markets. While being a required reading for any power company or a utility that puts the customer first, it looks damn good and can double as a coffee-table book at any respected energy company.
The report is released in a limited quantity and can be ordered at larsen.energy/bestbrands.
Eneco was one of the first of the established energy utilities in the world to become fully renewable and became the frontrunner in the Dutch energy industry in the production of electricity from sustainable sources. Regine Alewijnse, Brand Manager of Eneco presented the brand’s story and the challenges that are facing truly renewable companies when many companies in the energy value chain present themselves as renewable when in fact, a majority of them are renewable only as far as the marketing message goes.
To further the point, Regine explained how sustainability can become more than a hollow marketing message, by making sustainability a valuable brand asset.
Eneco’s approach has not only been to offer renewable energy and offer customers a choice but also to enable customers the possibility to monitor their energy usage and helping them to cut down usage without noticing it by offering software that monitors and detects usage.
Stephen Fitzpatrick – CEO of OVO Energy – describes the company as a big small company. As a challenger to the Big Six energy companies in the UK, the company has grown from a simple idea around the kitchen table to servicing over 700.000 customers in the retail energy market and employing around 1.000 people. Even though the company is no longer small, they still act and think like a startup.
Stephen’s presentation was not only on the future of energy but on the future of customer expectations in general and how children growing up to be the consumers of tomorrow are growing up in an on-demand world that gives them different expectations from brands than today’s consumers have. In just three years, on-demand services have revolutionised industry after industry and no one knows how fast the next three years are going to change. But by always thinking like a customer, OVO Energy anticipates being prepared to stay on top of the energy market that might have changed dramatically in an unforeseen way.
OVO Energy was the winner of the first CHARGE Awards and was crowned the World’s Best Energy Brand at the CHARGE Awards ceremony in 2016. The brand did well both in both the score of the global panel of experts but more importantly, the brand is doing an excellent job according to their customers.
Travelling half way around the world, Ari Sargent came from New Zealand to Reykjavik to give insights into one of the most exciting and unique kind of a retail energy brand in the world, Powershop.
Ari described the energy business as being:
Designed and built by engineers, bastardised by economists and muddled by marketers, the power industry continues to deliver one of the most successful consumer confusion programmes of all time.
Powershop decided to turn the power industry on its head by giving power to the people. Just as an example, while most power companies are red or blue, Powershop is glowing pink and goes a different route in their energy marketing message than the stereotypical energy utility.
Powershop needed to present itself as a disrupter in the market that did things differently from the start and was a strong contender for the 2016 CHARGE Energy Awards, being one of the final five nominees.
Bjarni Bjarnason, CEO of Reykjavik Energy points out that the traditional energy utility is underutilising a big resource by mostly picking men out of the talent pool.
Reykjavik Energy is the parent company of ON Power – the largest energy supplier in Iceland, Veitur – the largest DSO, water and sewage utility in the country and Reykjavik Fibre Network – a company that handles the fibre optics network in the capital. ON power is also the largest producer of geothermal energy in Iceland.
Following the financial crisis in Iceland, Reykjavik Energy was forced to scale back and fire 1/3 of their employees. Bjarni who was recently instated as CEO at the time had a big challenge ahead of him to restructure the company that was on the brink of serious financial problems due to the crisis. Bjarni and his team did not only take a good look at where they could cut down cost as normally is done but realised that this challenge was a great opportunity to restructure the brand and what it stands for.
The brand was to stand for the equal opportunity of genders and instead of waiting for the natural progression of women filling management positions, Reykjavik Energy used the restructuring to make a stand and in 5 years the percentage of women in management rose from 30 percent to 49 percent and the gender pay gap went from 8,4 percent to 2,1 percent at the same time.
Some might think that closing the gender gap is something that looks great during presentations but has no other effect but as Bjarni pointed out, employee satisfaction has increased during this experiment and the whole atmosphere in the company has changed for the better.
When preparing for his presentation in the track on the branding of sustainable energy, search engines turned Ayoola Brimmo to the CHARGE website. In the introduction of the presentation, he noted that this was the only place to discuss how to successfully brand sustainability.
A brand needs to take a look at the past to be able to build towards the future was the key point to take from Ayoola Brimmo’s lecture at CHARGE 2016. Ayoola works at the Nordic Innovation hub in Abu Dhabi and used the case of Dubai as an example of a city brand that has become more valuable due to a strategic brand building that focuses on the perception of luxury. Another example of a city brand that has been developed in the Emirates is Masdar City. When Dubai is the luxury city brand, Masdar takes footing as a luxury brand but goes further to differentiating itself by focusing on the sustainability of the city. Even though sustainability has become sort of a buzzword in the last decade, Masdar has yet to become a city brand with a worldwide recognition.
Energy utilities are facing a brave new world. The deregulation of markets and unbundling of utilities, privatisation and new and different ways of generating electricity on a mass scale have all shaken the reality of the energy companies.
The energy companies are also facing a new challenge; the customer. The customer has the tools of mass information and mass communication in his pocket and has more choices of interaction with brands than ever in history.
Giuseppe Caltabiano is the Vice President of Marketing Integration at Schneider Electric. He gave a presentation on how content marketing and social media are changing the way brands communicate to customers. He went over the basics of storytelling in the new media and what type of content consumers seek out.
According to Dr. Jefferson Tester of Cornell University, geothermal energy is the most underrated or unknown green energy source. Despite having the biggest output of geothermal energy in the world, most Americans don’t realise how much geothermal production goes on in the country.
It can be said that geothermal energy is a mostly untapped source of power, not only in the traditional sense of power generation but in terms of storytelling for the energy brand. The source of energy is often an underrated brand asset and geothermal has great potential to become a valuable part of powerful energy branding and marketing.
Bente Engesland, Senior VP of Corporate Communication at Statkraft from Norway, is fully aware of how fast times are changing in energy and how impactful the changing environment is for the energy space.
The traditional energy companies are faced with more disruptive changes in the next five years than in the preceding 50 years.
Bente mentioned three big factors having a lasting effect on the energy utilities:
- Population growth
- Environmental factors
- Technological factors
Although Statkraft has a strong tradition of producing green, sustainable energy, the company is facing similar challenges as every other energy producers around the world; communicating with key stakeholders and the public in an effective understandable manner.