Jim Rogers, the retired former CEO of Duke Energy was the first CEO of a major utility to address environmental issues and once named by Newsweek as one of the “50 Most Powerful People in the World”.
In his presentation at the Green Energy track at CHARGE 2016, Jim talked about the customer relationship during the transformation of the Power Industry in the United States.
Duke Energy has the reputation of being affordable, reliable and safe. No one would say that they were green, they were the highest contributors of Co2 in the United States.
You can’t brand yourself unless you walk the talk.
Duke Energy has cut down Co2 emissions by almost 30 per cent but Jim admits that although the number seems high and the amount of emissions cut is quite large, the company is still a major contributor of Co2 emissions in the United States. For the effort, the company has been on the Dow Jones sustainability index for eleven years.
Branding: it’s not what you say about yourself, but what others say about you.
In addition to cutting down emissions, the company has made some considerable investments in wind and solar as well as investing in solutions that provide customers with rooftop solar.
The key point in adapting to and investing in green technology is to be able to communicate with and educate different stakeholders. The customer expects affordability and the investor want to see that the company will see a return on their green energy investment.
As Jim put it, the company invested in where the wind blows and the sun shines as well as looking at opportunities where the regulatory environment is favourable towards green investment.
The CHARGE team is in full swing reaching out to the brands that were shortlisted by a panel of experts as the World’s Best Energy Brands. The panel consists of specialists in marketing and branding as well as energy professionals around the world. The panel has members in academia, energy companies, energy associations, energy innovation, advertising agencies and marketing consultancies.
We are reaching out to 90 brands in 6 categories of the best energy brands in the world. The categories are established brands, challenger brands, green brands, transmission brands, distribution brands and energy product brands.
The methodology derives from decades of academic research and studies in the fields of marketing and branding to determine how consumers perceive brands in general. To make the measurement more relevant to the energy space, knowledge from recent research on consumer perception of energy utilities was added to make the methodology more specific for the energy space. The methodology is also the basis for the Energy Branding Benchmarking Index (EBBI) which is used by power companies around the world to measure their energy brands.
We will reveal the finalists later this summer, each category can have up to five finalists. The finalists will be featured in the next edition of the best brands report. The report might also feature a selection of shortlisted brands that will not make it into the final selection.
The CHARGE Awards were a great success at the inaugural CHARGE Energy Branding Conference which was the world’s first conference to focus on branding in the energy space. Following the success of last year’s event- we have decided to expand the awards from three categories to six this year.
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.
Energy utilities are facing a new, different world. The deregulation and unbundling of markets, privatisation 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.
The American retail electricity market is a mixed bag when it comes to the variety of companies and markets operating in the country. A majority of the states are yet to liberalise their markets while others have mature liberalised markets and others are in different stages of liberalisation. KC Boyce is the product director at Market Strategies International. MSI has created a methodology to measure brand trust in the US electric market and KC went over the brand trust index and showed some examples of how electricity companies in the US have been able to establish more consumer trust.
Among CHARGE2017 keynote speakers is Neville Ravji, CEO of Volterra Energy in Houston, Texas. Neville has been working in the energy industry since 1997 and co-founded Tara Energy in 2002 when energy deregulation was beginning to take hold in Texas.
Neville has strived to bring energy to consumers through a bottom-up approach that involves understanding customer needs by creating macro and micro segments and then providing products that meet these needs and backing them with a fanatical focus on top-notch customer service. Under his leadership, Volterra Energy is successfully executing a multi-brand strategy aimed at various niches, with a special focus on the South Asian market. The company’s brands include Discount Power, Power Express and Volterra Energy.
The products and services offered by Volterra Energy have made them one of the fastest growing companies in the United States. “By its very nature, the product we sell has no distinguishable physical characteristics – so it is very important to be able to differentiate ourselves by creating intangible attributes that appeal to our customers. At Volterra, we have managed to do this very successfully, mainly because of a very experienced and talented team that understands the customer very well. I am looking forward to speaking to my industry peers at CHARGE and sharing our story.”
Dr. Fridrik Larsen chairman of CHARGE Energy Branding Conference said “Volterra Energy is among the few energy companies in the world that have done an outstanding job in identifying segments that they understand and can relate to. The conference is about how energy companies need to connect to the minds and hearts of consumers to be able to participate in the market today and Volterra and its brands are a great example of this.”
The CHARGE 2016 Energy Branding conference reached its high mark at the CHARGE Awards dinner at the Blue Lagoon where the world’s best energy brands were rewarded for their contribution to branding in the energy space. For the first CHARGE awards, 80 energy brands from around the world were shortlisted by an international panel of energy, marketing and branding experts. 15 energy brands in three categories were finally nominated after a thorough screening process. The categories for the world’s first energy branding awards were Best Energy Brand, Best Green Energy Brand and Best Transmission or distribution Energy Brand.
For the first two categories, the brands were chosen from a score that was a combination of customer surveys, a panel of expert and an independent analysis of their competitive environment. The Transmission and distribution category was decided solely by a verdict from the panel.
All of the nominated brands have made their move from the traditional energy utility is perceived to being perceived as brands. Although all the energy brands were nominated due to their outstanding brandingstrategy thatis reflected in great marketing programs, high aspirations, satisfied and engaged customers and inspiring case studies – there could be only one winner in each category.
Check out the video below to see highlights from the CHARGE 2016 Energy Branding Awards event and interviews with representatives from the winning brands.
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 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.