The global utility in a new energy paradigm

As Ryan O’Keeffe pointed out during his presentation at the CHARGE Energy Branding Conference last September, large energy companies with a long legacy of generating and selling electricity, are not normally considered cool.

The company has and is going through a comprehensive overhaul of its image, meaning and role in the fast-changing energy environment. As Mr O’Keeffe pointed out, it was a change in strategy that was long overdue, the company’s old logo was designed when Google was still operating out of a garage in Silicon Valley.

We as a power company can and must play a key role in tackling these challenges.

Enel found itself working in a new energy paradigm and found that how it had been conducting itself for the last fifty years was not going to work in the next fifty years. During the rebranding process, there were some strengths that the brand possessed that would become valuable in the changing energy landscape. By taking a humble approach and acknowledging that a big corporation with a big corporation culture might not foster innovation that could keep up with the time. The brand turned this weakness into a strength by using its global scale and resources to foster open innovation; helping entrepreneurs that are set out to change the energy paradigm even further.

Ryan’s presentation from CHARGE – The World’s First Energy Branding conference can be seen below. Enel was one of the finalists for the 2016 CHARGE Awards as one of the world’s best energy brands. The report on the best utility brands has been published by LarsEn Energy Branding and can be found here. The 2017 CHARGE Energy Branding conference takes place in Reykjavik October 9-10 where the CHARGE Awards will be presented for the second time.

New York Energy Week

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The CHARGE Energy Branding Conference is collaborating with partners around the world that have similar objectives as the conference. From trade associations in the energy space, media and events related to the energy space, we are very grateful for having such a strong group of allies that find our message relevant.

One of our partners is the New York Energy Week – a week of events that takes place around New York City. The event is hosted by the industry for the industry. Instead of one centralized location, the events are hosted by various companies in the energy sector. These events feature speakers from organisations and institutions such as National Grid, NYISO, Con Edison, Enerknol, NYC Mayor’s Office, Rocky Mountain Institute and the State of New York.

Like CHARGE, the New York Energy Week is a cross-sector event. While the industry has had a silo-mindset, the event encourages a dialogue between various fields of the energy sector to create an understanding, inviting all energy stakeholders to come together and help drive forward the global energy economy.

Friends of CHARGE are the friends of the New York Energy week and receive 20% off early bird tickets. There is no secret handshake, only a secret code which is CHARGE20.

Empowering the energy customer

One of the major challenges utilities face is getting the consumers to trust them. Eggert Gudmundsson has an interesting background, after receiving an MBA degree he worked for several years for Philips before returning to Iceland to become the CEO of the countries biggest fishing companies and then became the CEO of Iceland’s biggest fuel and retail company. With this background in commodities, electronics and finally energy, Eggert is now heading the innovative energy enabler eTactica which has developed an EMS for SME’s. The eTactica solution enables energy companies to create tighter bonds with their customers and adds measurable value to their services.

 

Branding for legitimacy – Energinet.dk

Helle Andersen is the head of communication at Energinet.dk, the Danish TSO. Before joining Energinet, Helle worked for one of the most successful brands in terms of heritage, engaged customers, word of mouth marketing and brand recognition, not only in Denmark but in the world – LEGO.

Energinet had at the time not unveiled the company’s branding strategy meaning that Helle was not showcasing a visual identity or outreach programmes or a success story. Instead, she gave the audience in Reykjavik a rare peak into the engine room of a brand in development.

Helle raised the valid question why a TSO should even be considering branding and explained why Energinet was undergoing the company’s first corporate branding process.

Can engineers talk to people?

As Jukka Ruusunen puts it: not many people connect customer centricity to a transmission company. Jukka is the CEO of Fingrid of Finland, a transmission company that not only creates a connection between generation and distribution but also had created a connection between transmission and customer centricity.

Having an entire track dedicated to the Transmission and Distribution operators at a branding conference seemed like the odd one out for many attendees. For the organizers of the conference, it was not by a chance; people working for regulated monopolies are fully aware of the importance of their brand as a strategic asset.

The times are changing, making it more important now than ever for the transmission system operators to become more customer centric. Distributed generation is part of it but also the public who is expecting power companies to become “less arrogant” as Mr. Ruusunen put it – preferring TSO’s to talk about customers rather than loads.

This is people business – not just building transmission lines

Branding is an important tool to use externally but any brand starts at the inside of any organization. At Fingrid, the importance of understanding people is becoming more and more relevant skill and has become one of the requirements for new employees. Instead of building silos with a marketing department full of people skills in one silo and the engineers with technical skills in another silo, Fingrid’s strategy is to have employees that have people with people skills and the technical knowledge of how the system works.

Fingrid was one of the finalists nominated for the CHARGE Energy Branding Awards.

 

How to be the green brand in a 100% renewable market

Iceland is one of the few countries in the world that can boast of having all of its energy generated from 100% renewable and sustainable sources. Electricity is generated from hydro dams and geothermal plants and almost all hot water comes from geothermal sources.

Green energy has been the most popular differentiation tool for retailers in liberated markets for the last decades. For a retailer in Iceland it can be a challenge to be perceived as the green brand. Áslaug Thelma Einarsdóttir, managing director of marketing at ON Energy gave insights on how the company met the challenge of rebranding and positioning itself as the leading sustainable brand.

The Role of Branding in the Retail Energy Sector

One of the more interesting energy brands to hit the retail energy market in Germany is Shell PrivatEnergie. The company behind the brand is the UK’s largest challenger to the Big Six, First Utility. First Utility entered the market utilizing one of the largest known brands in the energy world, Shell – with over 100 years of brand recognition in the German market and around 2.000 retail outlets. The German market has over 1.400 electricity retailers and is one of the most active energy markets in the world.

Maik Neubauer, CEO of First Utility in Germany is responsible for the Shell PrivatEnergie offering and participated in the Understanding the Energy Consumer track of the conference. He went over the Shell case; which elements of the brands were transferred to the electric energy brand and how to create a credible quality energy brand that is trusted by the energy consumer.

 

Transforming from Utility to Energy Brand

Dr. Friðrik Larsen (FL), of LarsEn Energy Branding and KC Boyce (KCB) of Market Strategies International sat down for a chat on Energy Branding and marketing efforts of utilities. This is an excerpt, the article originally appeared on the Market Strategies International Blog. Both Friðrik and KC will be delivering keynote addresses at CHARGE Energy Branding Conference in Reykjavik, Iceland next September.

(KCB) In the US, we’ve identified six factors that drive consumers’ brand trust: customer focus, company reputation & advocacy, communication effectiveness, reliable quality, environmental performance and community outreach. How does this compare to what you see elsewhere in the world?

(FL) These factors are similar to my own qualitative research findings done throughout Europe, both in areas with a long history of liberalized energy markets as well as newly or soon-to-be deregulated eastern European markets. What differs between countries is what consumers expect from the utilities and consumers’ varied understanding of the underlying concepts. For example, consumers in Iceland are used to hydropower and consider nuclear to be a dirty energy source. However, Eastern European countries—that only know dirty coal (in terms of everything in the country being covered in a layer of ash)—consider nuclear to be a green source of energy.

(KCB) What can utilities do to improve their company’s reputation among consumers?

Utilities need a more brand-minded, customer-centric strategy. That can prove to be difficult, especially for bigger utilities, but it’s very important to be honest and credible in communications. For instance, oftentimes a utility tries to make connections to certain imagery in the consumers’ mind, but the consumer is given no choice to understand why that utility should be connected to that imagery.

Here‘s an example: Before rebranding in 2008, British Gas was losing 40,000 electricity customers each month. This old behemoth identified its strengths in the consumers‘ minds as well as its faults inside the organization. After a 2009 rebranding, British Gas saw lower churn rates among existing customers and was attracting new customers. The brand became more resilient towards bad PR as well. This was the result of increased customer affinity, positive perception and improved attitudes towards the brand. It is a really interesting market, and I find it fascinating to watch that energy branding ecosystem develop, with established players trying to evolve and newcomers trying new approaches to become dominant.

[…]

This is an excerpt, For the full article see the original post on the MSI blog 

Just like branding a box of soap

Some say that energy can’t be differentiated and it can’t be branded since it is just an intangible commodity. An obvious example of an intangible commodity branding is the telecoms. But in many ways branding and marketing energy is not that much different from branding other household items such as soap. It is all about creating connections in the mind of the consumer.

Electricity is an intangible product meaning that you are not selling or marketing a product that you can hold and feel in your hands like soap. But the job of the utility is to make electricity more tangible by creating connections in the mind of the consumer. Electricity can’t smell like strawberries or Alpine spring. The soap doesn’t really smell like a real fruit or Alpine spring but for a brief moment when you wash your hands you take a short trip to the Alps in the springtime or remember when you open a box of ripe berries.

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By connecting a brand with positive sensation in the mind of the consumer, the brand creates value for the customer. The same could be done with electricity just as soap. Electricity is in fact more exciting than most commodities.

Most commodities are in fact rather unsexy when they are not branded. The sweatsuit and sneakers overcome a lot of negative connections when branded. These commodities are not connected to the sweat and smell of the athlete when they have been branded as Nike.

Established utilities often have a lot of negative connections to their brands to overcome. The first step is to identify what emotions consumers connect to their brands and sort out the negative from the positive and figure out which negative emotions can be turned to positive ones. Then the brand re-building can take place.