Why do consumers dislike us?

A new white paper by LarsEn Energy Branding is out now. The whitepaper is titled “Why do consumers dislike us? – The effects of liberalization of energy markets on consumer’s perception towards the utilities

The abstract states that:

[…] the focus of this paper is on consumers’ attitudes towards liberalization in an attempt to evaluate its effects on the company’s marketing function. The paper draws on findings from a qualitative study that used 11 focus groups from five European countries[…]. The paper argues that the recent liberalization does have a strong effect on a sizable portion of consumers and should not be overlooked while devising a successful and segmented marketing strategy. The effects should be acknowledged and addressed before taking on traditional marketing functions such as general image building.

Furthermore, the whitepaper concludes that:

The marketing communication should be based on addressing the negatives, instead of merely focusing on the general image of brands. A marketing approach based on providing consumers with information is more likely to be efficient. An authentic and humble approach where a particular utility communicates in an honest way to consumers and shows them that the utility is working for their customers as opposed to only making money and protecting special interests. The utilities also need to show their social responsibility in action and sway their customers into seeing that the utility is able handle the responsibility of operating a company in a recently liberalized market. Furthermore, that the company will not take advantage of the fact that in most countries there are relatively few available energy companies to choose from. By taking steps of this nature the results should materialize in an increased goodwill of household energy consumers. Moving on, the utility managers can stop asking themselves “Why don’t consumers like us?”

The full whitepaper can be downloaded at the LarsEn Energy Branding website.

Iceland – Exotic & around the corner

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The most accessible exotic island on Earth!

A long list of things and places and imagery is often used to describe Iceland but what the category or the concept that describes Iceland the best would be exotic. That is great when most people think of conferences as things that occur only in cities that they have visited over and over. The downside is that most people would further describe exotic distant, remote, far away et cetera.

The fact of the matter is that Iceland is not so far away. The conference might be situated in the middle of the Atlantic but it is quite close to both Europe and North America. There are over 24 international airlines that flying to Iceland from over 70 locations. It doesn’t matter if you live in Barcelona or Anchorage – Dublin or Boston – you are only a short flight away from the conference.

Flight time to Iceland:

USA: 5 hours from the east coast and 7 hours from Seattle
UK, Ireland & Scandinavia: 2-3 hours
Rest of Europe: 3-4 hours

How to book the ticket to Iceland

There are two Icelandic airlines, Icelandair and WOW Air. Both of which fly to major cities on both sides of the Atlantic. Icelandair offers stopovers in Iceland at no additional cost for passengers travelling between N-America and Europe.

Find your flights now with the help from flight search engines such as dohop or Skyscanner.

Where to stay during the conference

A block reservation was booked at hotels near the conference hall over a year ago. That means that prices for the rooms are below the market price today but since it’s another record year for tourism in Iceland, hotel space is quickly becoming limited up in Reykjavik at the time of the conference.

 

€240 discount ends July 1st

Just a reminder, the early bird offer ends July 1st. The savvy energy marketer knows that the most efficient use of the marketing budget is first and foremost through a well founded brand and secondly with efficient spending.

Good hotels at a decent price will soon be difficult to find in Reykjavik in September. But don’t worry, we have made a block of reservations at some of the best hotels in Reykjavik. We booked them well in advance of the conference, meaning that we can promise you better prices. Make sure to take advantage of that quickly since the hotels are eager to meet the high demand for hotel rooms in September. High demand means that prices will go up.

Act quickly – register for the conference at a lower price and book your room today at the best price available.

Engerati Energy Branding Webinar S01E02

The second of the Energy Branding webinars will be tomorrow at 13:00 UTC on Engerati. The title of the webinar is Branding Intangible Commodities – The Big Energy Question and you can follow it here for free, either live or on demand.

The main issues covered are the following:

  • Branding tangible vs intangible commodities
  • Beyond retail – branding transmission and distribution
  • Cities & countries as energy brands
  • Consumer engagement towards sustainability goals

Participants in this episode are:

Alexander Richter – Founder and Principal Think GeoEnergy
Birgir Danielsson – Creative Director LarsEn Energy Branding
Sigurður Árnason – Conference Executive CHARGE – Energy Branding Conference

Watch it live or enjoy later – free but requires registration.

Opportunities in emerging energy markets

Emerging markets usually refrains to nations in rapid growth that are catching up to become developed nations. Many of those countries have opened up to the idea of a liberalized economy and are reaping the benefits. These countries have a growing middle class and are full of opportunities for savvy investors. There is though and underdeveloped consumer market much closer to home that savvy investors and innovative entrepreneurs have found opportunities to exploit.

That is the electricity market. Though it has been liberalized in most countries for some time, consumers are yet to experience the full benefit of a deregulated market. Besides New Zealand and Australia – liberalized energy markets are rather underdeveloped in terms of modern marketing activities and especially branding.

Established companies have been fighting off niche newcomers by spending enormous amounts on big campaigns and new logos to appear as fresh as the newcomers and mimicking products and ideas. But they have slowly come to realize that more effort is needed. Marketing is not considered something that you have to do to remind consumers that you exist – but rather to form deeper bonds with current customers and for relations with future customers.

Though the branding-environment is improving – a lot is still to achieve. That opens up a gap for newcomers to fill up with better engagement and stronger relationships with consumers. Branding is not about shouting at consumers that your brand loves them – branding is about the end result of listening to consumers say that they love the brand.

 

Branding the energy utility

When rebranding – utilities have to be careful in utilizing their current strengths and find ways to address their weaknesses. Branding is a far deeper process than simply changing the name and the logo on the electric bill. It’s not about stationary or trying to pop up the marketing material. Utilities that suddenly try to look “branded” are really the awkward uncle that shows up late at the party, 20 years past his bedtime.

For a very long time, electricity was generated, transmitted and distributed by the same type of company, the utility. It would be wrong to say that electricity was sold since buying electricity did not evolve a voluntary trade, there was no persuasion on part of the utilities – consumers didn’t have a choice – no one was involved in voluntary trade – the utility had to supply the customer with power as long as the bill was paid and the consumer had to buy electricity from the monopoly.

The real energy marketing did not come from the utility but from the companies selling and manufacturing electronics – Commodore 64 is more responsible for demand than any electric utility ever was. The eight bit Sid chip soundtrack of the 80’s was powered by the utilities but consumers were trying to keep up with the Commodore.

The utility had to engage begrudgingly with the consumer twice a year to read from the meter in the garage and by sending out the bill. The consumer wasn’t looking forward to interactions with the utility, if they didn’t respond to the bill by paying they would pay even more or if they did respond, they had a full day ahead of a service center Kafkaesque experience ahead of them.

Marketing the energy utility requires branding to be successful, worth the resources and create a return on investment. But the utility has to be careful and the brand must be true to the positive perception points it has in the consumers’ minds while attending to the perception of a lack of concern. It will be easier for outsiders to enter the market with a powerful brand and new thinking than it is for the old utilities but perception can be changed and that is what will be discussed in Iceland in September.

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.