Energy brands and strategic vision

 

Retail energy strategy is about finding the right positioning and implementing it. Energy company branding is not simple for energy providers, positioning on the market requires a deep knowledge of how energy consumers behave and how the market can be disrupted. For incumbent utilities, this can be a difficult task since consumers have an already established idea of what the utility is and what it does and how it reacts. The utility company and the idea consumers have about it is changing, both with the entrance of smaller newcomers and changing technology.

The age of consumer choice in power markets

Power providers have been unbundled in most liberalised markets and the challenge for all participants in the market is to unlock customer value by creating brand value that gives the customer a reason to choose. Customers that have been indifferent towards their energy suppliers are slowly but surely responding to marketing programs and branding in the energy space. What has become the most common form of differentiation in market messages on the energy market has been a green positioning, focusing on the renewables that the energy provider can source for their customers.

Renewable Energy Strategies

Renewable energy strategies can vary, depending on the market and how customers on the market perceive renewables. In most countries, solar and wind are considered to be THE sources of renewable energy while sources such as nuclear and especially hydro are branded as sustainable or clean sources of electricity. While solar and wind are still sufficient to power regular homes, the technology is not just there in terms of scale and efficiency to give reliable power to large-scale industrial users. Many large companies are, however, demanding renewable energy to power their production or be the backbone of their services. It does not matter how green/renewable/sustainable/clean the source of the energy is. What matters is that the brand that is promoting the source of energy that it sells to its customers is also a sustainable brand. Being a sustainable brand is not about renewing the colour palette to reflect a greener colour.

Customer engagement strategy

The brands that are able to deliver results in connecting to the minds of consumers are the brands that are delivering a higher purpose. It is not just a matter of the cover – it is also about the contents inside. The truly effective energy brands are about changing the status quo. Effective brands set out to change the world. They identify gaps in the market by thinking like a consumer. Often they are founded by regular consumers that are fed up with the way things are done. From the start, these brands are equipped with a vision. Their strategic market entry is done by a narrow customer segmentation – by being focused on a niche market that they can expand further down the road.

Doing something new

The top companies for customer experience are not myopic about technology. Smart metering is an add-on to the experience but it can not the solution to everything. If a brand is not well crafted and lacks strategy and vision, the execution of the possibilities of smart metering will at best become awkward. Utility analytics and customer engagement metrics are a valuable add-on for the energy marketer and anyone interested in maintaining a brand. Smart metering enables customer engagement metrics and smart customer service but customer engagement and loyalty do not come automatically with smart meters and smart meter data. People engage with brands – not technology. Technology enables further customer engagement in energy and it can help customer segmentation. But technology and user interface must be appealing and easy for customers. To be able to make it easy for customers, companies need a good user interface and to be able to design a good user interface, energy companies need to be able to understand the end customer.

The Future of Energy

The future of energy is customer choice. Customers are already able to choose a supplier in deregulated markets but energy consumers around the world are already able to choose if they bypass the regulated monopolies altogether through microgrids, their own rooftop solar or other ways of localised small-scale production of energy. The future of energy is in the hands of the consumer and the energy companies that are able to build their value proposition according to the needs of the consumers will own the future.

 

 

 

Efficient Energy Brand Communication

The Energy Brand, the heart of strategy and communication. Image credit: LarsEn Energy Branding
The Energy Brand, the heart of strategy and communication. Image credit: LarsEn Energy Branding

One of the most challenging tasks of utility companies is how to reach the ears and eyes of stakeholders and potential customers in a way that it gets noticed and remembered. Though energy efficiency has been a hot topic for energy companies, the most important task ahead is efficiency in communication – if communication goes by unnoticed, resources have been wasted.

Every company in the energy space needs to be able to communicate efficiently, it does not matter where in the chain the company operates – TSO brands, DSO Brands, Energy Generation Brands, retail brands and brands that are bundled in one or more aspects of the energy value chain, all need to be able to communicate their message in an efficient way.

Brand or be branded

Communication needs to come from a credible source – a source that the audience wants to listen to and notice in the first place – but also a source that is considered believable. The source of communication in utility marketing is always the brand. It does not matter if the utility does not consider it self to be in branding. If the utility does is not actively invested in its brand building then the brand, its image and credibility is out of the hands of the utility and the image of the utility is shaped by everyone else.

Utility marketing should start with building a brand. Communication efforts will not be taken seriously if the energy company has not effectively built a brand and has taken branding seriously. Communication processes such as the tone of voice and proactiveness can be created but to know how the processes are created, a good strategic tool is to know the brand and how the brand would behave as a person.

The cornerstone of every interaction

The big question facing many brand builders in the energy space is how to brand energy since electricity is a commodity that can not be differentiated. The answer to the question is easy: differentiate your company with a unique brand that can be heard in the noisy clutter of communication people are bombarded with every day. The hard part is to follow up on the brand building and have the energy company behave as the brand at every level at the operation and at every touchpoint. If the brand behaves in accordance with what people expect and is consistently behaving as a brand at every touchpoint, the brand becomes credible.

Don’t settle with a credible brand – aim for incredible

With a strong brand that is incredible at getting the attention of their customers in a positive way, challenges become easier. An incredible brand has consistency and is dependable. Good energy brands know how to communicate with new challenges such as distributed energy and prosumers, they know how to fit new green energy technology to their service offering, know when and how to showcase their green electricity offering and how to add value for their customers with effective ingredient branding of either their power source.

Join the discussion at CHARGE 2018. CHARGE Energy Branding is the only utilities and energy conference that has a clear focus on energy branding and how utilities at every stage in the energy stream can benefit from a strong brand that delivers consistent and efficient communication to stakeholders.

Sustainability Branding disrupting the Energy Space

Apple has become a licensed electricity retailer in the US. Photo credit: Apple Canada
Apple has become a licensed electricity retailer in the US. Photo credit: iPhone in Canada

CHARGE is not primarily a utilities & energy conference but is also meant for companies that are actively pursuing to create value for their customers with energy branding; that is creating a competitive advantage with branding and marketing energy that they use. Energy efficiency is a big part of energy branding since the most valuable and sustainable energy is the energy that is never used.

The growing number of companies participating in initiatives such as RE100 has shown that sustainable brands are a part of the mainstream, sustainable brands are not primarily a part of niche marketing preaching to the already converted. Sustainable brands have become brands that have already established themselves in the homes of the everyday consumer.

Sustainable brands are pushing for access to 100% renewable energy and are either switching their supplier to secure sustainable energy or producing energy on their own. Some of the sustainable brands that have just entered the energy space are producing energy to offset their own usage due to the fact that they can’t procure 100% renewable off the grid or are simply producing renewable energy on-site.

These invaders to the energy space have not all the sudden become interested in becoming energy companies but are acting on the demand of their customers. Consumers today are concerned about the energy used to produce the products or services they use but the utilities have not acted quick enough to meet the demand of the sustainable brands. Instead of waiting for the utilities, the sustainable brands have acted to meet the demand of the consumer today or demand that sustainable brands foresee tomorrow.

Good brands are not reacting to the situation as it is today. Good brands try to predict the future and are quicker to market than the competition. The key lesson utilities and the energy industry in whole should learn from the sustainable brands is that if you don’t shape the future of your market, someone else will and the future will be theirs.