Energy Branding Webinar series

We are pleased to announce that we will be doing a live webinar series over at Engerati to promote the conference and to introduce some of our speakers. To be able to attend the webinars, a free signup is required.

Tune in to learn in depth how branding and the resulting marketing of electricity differs from bananas, soda and telecommunications. Learn how consumer power will transform the industry, whether it is the retail side of energy, how branding can apply to the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity.

There are four webinars scheduled and a complete overview can be found here.

May 20th: Branding Electricity vs Branding Consumers Goods
May 26th: Branding Intangible Commodities – The Big Energy Question
June 1st: Defining the Next Generation Energy Brand – 21st Century DNA
June 9th: Brand power, shared values and clean energy – An American Perspective

If you can’t wait, you can listen to Dr. Larsen’s webinar on Energy Branding here.

Energy Retail needs better marketing

Bits from an interview with Dr. Fridrik Larsen that appeared first in  Intelligent Utility. The original article and the full interview can be found here.

What do energy companies/utilities typically do wrong with energy branding?
I like to name and praise those who do a good job but let those who do bad work to be anonymous. In general, they don’t view branding as a strategic philosophy that every aspect of their operation should be based upon, that branding is creating a logo on the letterhead of the bill. Others have the criteria for a great brand but don’t implement it correctly. A brand is defined by consumer perception, not the correct colors or a core-value statement on a website. Most play it safe and don’t try new approaches. There is more innovation and consumer choice in deodorants, with new niche categories popping up every year. We want consumers to have choice in energy, too; it seems strange that there is actually more consumer engagement in armpit aroma than energy.

How do energy branding and customer engagement work together?
Branding guides companies in engagement. To simplify, let’s take a look at the only way possible for customer engagement before social media and smart metering—the dreaded bill and that call to the service center. A great brand would make the bill simple and—in terms that the customer understands—branding involves gaining consumer insights. These two touch points are, by default, a negative experience, but branding can at least make it more tolerable. The possibilities of engagement today are almost endless and energy branding is essential for each engagement to create value for customers.

What advice would you give energy companies, especially electric and gas utilities, about branding? What top three things should they be focused on?
First, the customer isn’t always right. Be customer centric but don’t chase their wishes blindly. Meet their needs today and anticipate their needs tomorrow.

Second, welcome competition. It increases awareness of energy retail. If they offer the lowest price, you have the opportunity to offer the greatest value.

Third, create intangible value for your customers. Know your virtues, be proactive in reaching out, speak to them in a different way and give them any excuse to love your services. It’s easy to beat the lowest price, being loved takes hard work and dedication of years.

Branding – the future of energy

The freedom of choice in energy is more now than it has been since Edison first lid the streets and homes of the world. For most part of the 1900‘s the only regular engagement between consumers and their utility happened once a year when a person showed up to read from a meter in the basement. The point of this once a year meeting was not to meet the consumer – the utility was concerned with the meter. The direct consumer engagement the utilities were concerned with were unilateral – a letter stating how much was owed to the utility.

The utilities belong in the 1900’s – Energy Branding is the mindset of the 21st century.  Today the consumer has choice when shopping for electricity. Many of them are unaware of the choice or are afraid to choose. Being free to choose is difficult after a century of no choice between a monopoly and being left in the cold and dark. Energy branding needs special insights to heal the scars left by bad service, lack of engagement and powerlessness.

No brand is greater than its perception in the mind of the consumer. Every brand is defined by the consumer and the role it plays in consumers’ minds and hearts. Branding is a mutual benefit, it creates tangible value for the company and intangible value for the customer. The first key to understand branding is to learn to understand the consumer.

Following liberalization energy retailers started carving out niches to challenge the big utilities. The niches turned out to be two: green and cheap. It is hard to maintain leadership in both categories – almost everyone is green today and nobody wants to be the cheapest but everyone offers competitive prices.

Branding is a great way to achieve something great. To get the most out of the brand, marketing is needed to deliver a message to consumers and stakeholders. A well implemented brand needs to plan its message through different channels of traditional media and social media.
As the lights are dying out for the utilities, a new generation of energy is emerging. Innovators and entrepreneurs are coming up with new ways to generate electricity and a new generation of entrepreneurs and executives is emerging with brave new ideas and brave new brands that are willing to try new ways to appeal to consumers. The future is diversity of the source of energy, the future is a diverse group of people. The future is diversity of business models, the future belongs to energy brands.

Five bulletproof ways to lose the jetlag

No matter how short or long the distance, travelling to new places leaves you a bit disoriented. It’s important to enter our conference with a sharp and focused mind so we have gathered some bullet-proof tips to clear your mind and enjoy Reykjavik like the locals do. If you arrive the day before or few days earlier, a great way to get a feel of the small fishing village that exploded quickly into a small but spread out city.

 

The cats of the historical west-side

One of the oldest part of town is the historical west-side. With wooden houses clad with colorful corrugated iron and few old farmhouses, the residential area next to the harbor is full of domesticated cats. Most cats are allowed to wander outside as they please to much joy of the local children of all ages and tourists alike. Feel free to pet them and take a photo – it’s a proven fact that pictures of cats get more social media engagement. The Icelandic cat is becoming a celebrity on social media – official hashtag is #catsofreykjavik

Bathe in geothermal water

To take off your shoes and make fists with your toes was made immortal by Bruce Willis but we recommend a really hot shower or a long bath when you arrive at your hotel. 90% of heating in Iceland comes from geothermal water and plenty of it. For a more unique Icelandic experience there are always the outdoor communal pools.

The Burger joint

You will be hungry like a bear in the spring after a trip to the swimming pool. A must is fast food down by the harbour. After introducing the hamburger to Iceland in the 70’s, running a Hard Rock café in Reykjavik and operating the oldest and finest hotel in the city – chef Tommi went back to basics by opening up a burger joint in the downtown harbor area. With a franchise that spawns across Europe now, the Burger Joint had humble beginnings in a small triangular building. The secret of the success is simple, no bells or whistles, just the best burgers in town.

Valdís Ice cream parlor

Take a walk along the harbor to watch the ships and make a stop at the ice cream parlor Valdís. Proving that there is more to a product than the commodity, ice cream is enjoyed in Iceland all year long with lines forming outside ice cream parlors despite frost or heavy rain. This parlor is situated in the gourmet district of Reykjavik and has a new twist on the typical Icelandic ice cream parlor, offering the finest Italian style ice cream in the city

 

Aurora walk

While you are burning the ingested calories while gathering your thoughts, a nice walk is the perfect supplement after a meal. We suggest a nice walk to the lighthouse of Grótta, situated in the small Seltjarnarnes municipality west of Reykjavik. Only a half hour walk along the coastline from downtown Reykjavik – you have an excellent chance of seeing the stars and the northern lights on the clear night sky. Be careful to check the tide tables so you don’t get stranded when the tide rolls on in.

Branding energy, or consumer influence in the energy world

An interview from Think Geo Energy with Dr. Friðrik Larsen, the conference chairman. The full interview can be found here.

Could you maybe explain briefly what one can understand under branding and how it relates to the energy sector?

Branding is about understanding the world a business operates in and using that understanding to communicate with and appeal to the consumer. In a way, branding is like philosophy. You gain knowledge about the role of your company and how it can relate to consumers. Often the consumer is not set out to buy a certain product but a solution to a problem. Everyone needs energy so the question is not if someone is going to buy it but how you can appeal to people. A good brand speaks one voice to a specific audience. For an industry that has up to now sold an undifferentiated product it is crucial to speak in the correct manner to a specific group of customers to differentiate your services and become a brand.

Why do you think it is so crucial for energy firms to consider branding more seriously?

We seem to be at a certain threshold in technology, its evolving exponentially and it’s a question when something radically new will disrupt the way we think about energy. A branding-oriented company is ready to adapt from being a candle maker to making lightbulbs. Energy and especially electricity hasn’t changed a lot since Edison and we are going to see a change just around the corner. If not radical, then incremental. Energy is still the same as 20 years ago and we will see an outsider coming up with an update to the business model, you can call it the Uber of energy. At least we will see Amazon or another beloved brand make a killing in the industry.

What do you think is important for companies in the energy sector to consider if they are approaching the topic of branding?

That branding is about creating a core philosophy that all activities depend on. It should set the tone for everything from products to marketing activities and beyond. Do it properly from the get go and maintain your brand – it is easier to stay in shape than having to shape up.

I think one can assume that branding is not only about the company providing the energy itself, but also about the kind of energy provided. How important is it for companies to brand the source of energy they are selling?

People are always interested in the product they consume – when dealing with big corporations – people have lost the connection they used to have with the maker and the origin. That is one of the appeals of Apple and Steve Jobs – you got a feeling for the creator. The branding of green sources is successful not only to the perception consumers get that they are saving the planet. I think its success has a lot to do with the fact that before green, companies didn’t feel the need to advertise its source of energy. Green-branding gave the energy an origin story.

Naturally, we can talk about public perception about coal, nuclear energy and climate change concerns, but maybe focusing on renewable energy, how important is this in the branding context today?

Branding is a lot about story telling. The renewables have an interesting story to tell, they get people excited. Hydro offers you beautiful power plants, often dating to the first days of electric power. Geothermal is created from volcanic powers, which is pretty awesome when you think about it. Solar and wind connects in a different way, both are still a novelty compared to other sources but they convert electricity from natural sources people feel on their own skins. Solar is still so futuristic, it is the only large-scale generation that doesn’t use the turbine.

You are based out of Iceland and therefore experience the role of geothermal energy in the daily life of people. But in the international context, what would you see as important for the geothermal energy sector with regards to branding?

Just the stories it can tell in order to get people more excited about the source, harnessing volcanic powers but also the possibilities of co-branding geothermal with other companies that rely on it directly. The Blue Lagoon in Iceland is a pretty well-known example of a company using the exhaust after the generation of electricity. There is the possibility of a thermal value-chain, where the heat leads from one link to the other to create something. Someone could brand a process and it would be part of the branding or a cluster using the same source could be part of each participant’s branding.

If one were to rethink branding for a specific energy source, how should this be driven, by an individual company, an industry group or governments?

Individual companies in a free market setting, competing to appeal to consumers is by far the most likely to succeed. A group or a government will focus on one message while competitors are more likely to deliver a different message and fine tune it. They are also more likely to appeal to different segments, making it more appealing to more consumers.

What is the goal with the conference that you are organising?

To start a dialogue. Since it is the first conference of its kind it is important to sow the seeds, introduce branding to the energy space and introduce energy branding to marketers and c-level executives. You see it too often that energy companies spend a lot of money on marketing activities without knowing that marketing needs a solid brand behind it and the marketing industry is too often willing to accept that money without knowing how energy differs from soap or cereal.

What do you want people to take away from the conference?

How branding and a two way communication between energy and consumers is the key to the future of energy.

And maybe as a last question, if you had to choose one key thing for companies to keep in mind on branding, what would this be?

That is goes well beyond the logo and the letterhead of the electric bill, it is about understanding and anticipating the consumer’s needs and wants.

The possibilities of branded energy

The possibilities of branding within the energy sector are enormous. Not only for retail but other aspects as the origin of energy, the natural monopoly as well as using the source of energy to create brand value for other products. Here are few of the areas we will cover in September in Iceland at CHARGE – The World’s First Energy Branding Conference.

From the merchant to the aisles of the supermarket

While most brands we know today used to be mere commodities sold by the pound over the counter by the merchant – electricity is still mostly sold by the kilowatt-hour by the utility. To understand why branding is a necessary step in evolution in energy, it is important to look first at branding in the general context. Though the basics of branding are the same for electricity and bananas, there are key differences needed to approach the consumer.

Active listening

A brand is never more powerful than its ability to communicate its meaning to consumers and decipher communication from consumers. Being able to talk to the consumer has been considered easier with new mediums and social media popping up everywhere but the task to deliver a relevant message that resonates above all the clutter has become more difficult. In a similar manner it has become easier to hear multiple stakeholders voices but the task of engaging in a relevant conversation can be a tricky task for energy companies.

Commodity and monopoly branding

Creative thinking can create engagement for consumer for once considered mundane commodities such as salt and water and how services such as telecommunications became the hottest thing since sliced bread. Branding applies to the natural monopolies as well. With the rise of the prosumer, the monopolies are not only transmitting to the end consumer but receiving from them as well and this two way relationship requires two way communication as well.

Energy Marketing requires a brand

For any energy marketing effort to be fruitful, a powerful brand is needed as foundation for efficiency. A brand that has full organizational support is proven to spill over to all aspects of the operation, be it payroll, the service center or attracting the most qualified candidates for open positions. Efficiency in energy can never be fully realized without a brand mentality.

The origin effect

Soon, electricity will be known for its origins, a city or province or even a country will give a stamp of quality for the energy produced there. How can the origin of electricity create more value for consumers?

Updating the utility

While most retail industries went through radical transformations in the last century, electricity is still mostly sold and delivered today as it was when Edison lit up the world. Groceries, media, music and airlines have all been disrupted and distributed in radical new ways with advances and innovation in technology and updated business models.

The utility of the 1900’s is still the dominant business model but will soon be run over by the energy brand of the 21st century. The energy brands are not only updating the business model according to advances in technology but are connecting to the minds and hearts of the customers in ways the utilities have not been able to think of.

Welcome to the world’s first Energy Branding Conference

We welcome you to Iceland in September for CHARGE – The World’s First Energy Branding Conference.

Energy is on the threshold of change, not caused by smart technology, solar or efficiency but consumer power. The theme of the conference is how consumers are going to choose the provider that knows them best and can communicate with them at a personal level, beyond the meter reading and the electric bill.

At the core of every successful company is branding, the process of understanding the consumer better than the competitors. Marketing will always be less efficient without a coherent brand strategy guiding the way, smart technology is underutilized without deep understanding of the consumer and how the company should use it in harmony with consumer perception.

The conference has already gathered an exciting list of speakers who understand branding and marketing and who understand how electricity differs from other commodities due to consumers perception of the product and the companies that have historically provided it.

Guests will not only enjoy two days of inspiring lectures and keynotes but will be able to enjoy one of the wonders of the modern world, the Blue Lagoon thermal spa that utilizes water from a thermal plant to create a unique experience in the middle of a lava field. Afterwards, guests will attend a gala dinner where the CHARGE awards will be presented to the best energy brands in the world.

Register now – the early bird offer ends June 2nd.