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.

Communicating a Green Energy Value Proposition

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Landsvirkjun is Iceland’s biggest power generation company, generating over 70% of electricity in the country. There has been a lot of changes in the Icelandic power market and Landsvirkjun has moved from focusing on low-cost electricity buyers market to a more balanced seller’s market, offering competitive prices.

The company offers 100% renewable power on the wholesale market, having only a few customers, meaning that their branding and image building is a bit different from other traditional power companies. It is, however, important for the largest power company in Iceland to deliver a clear message to their stakeholders (the company is owned by the Icelandic authorities) and their customers.

Landsvirkjun’s mission statement is:

Landsvirkjun’s role is to maximise the potential yield and value of the natural resources it has been entrusted with in a sustainable, responsible and efficient manner.

The role of the company has changed in the last years. Instead of focusing on growth and creating new jobs, its focus is today on more value creation than before. The energy transition and the way renewable resources have become more valuable for end consumers has enabled Landsvirkjun to focus more on the Green value proposition.

Sustainability as a brand asset

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.

 

Utilities gone social

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It is time for the utilities to shift their messaging in social media. From primarily sending messages about outages, utilities need to add an emphasis on customer relationships.

Tamara McCleary, CEO of Thulium has worked with companies such a IBM and Verizon to help them with driving brand engagement. She spoke on the importance of utilities becoming personal and drive the conversation towards a more human interaction.

The data utilities have today give them a unique opportunity to know the customer better – energy companies need to stop talking at customers but must start a conversation with them.

Marketing for electric utilities

There is a lot of misunderstanding on the nature and role of branding as well as how to define marketing. Many think that marketing is just about fun and games – something that is about advertising and events – a thing that funds can be allocated to during a boom cycle. For many, the concept of branding means something that is a more elaborate version of marketing.

LarsEn Energy Branding
The Energy Brand

Marketing is any signal a company sends out to the market. It can of course be a nice commercial or a Tweet but it is also price signals through the resources they buy and the products they sell, it is the voice that answers at the end of the line and the bills sent out. Every organisation both in regulated and deregulated markets should be aware that everything a company does is marketing in one way or another, direct or indirect – just as everyone is in customer service in one way or another.

Branding defines the How of marketing and the Why. It is a strategic tool and it should define how the customer experiences the brand. But neither branding nor marketing can define the brand. A brand can be defined at a company level but the real definition of a brand comes from the customer – it is the customer who really perceives the brand as it really is.

Marketing for the electric utility or the energy brand should not only be thought of as advertising or social media appearance. It should be thought of everything a brand or a company does and any touchpoint with both internal and external audiences and stakeholders.