Branding Bananas and other commodities

The most basic requirement for branding is differentiation. But how is utility branding possible when the product itself can’t be differentiated? How is energy market segmentation even possible when everyone is buying the same thing? These are questions that you might use to make an argument that branding for energy companies is a waste of time – the only differentiator is the price. You can only gain new customers by offering a lower price. As the experience from the UK has shown – trying to lead a race to the bottom can lead your brand to bankruptcy.

To demonstrate that a commodity can be differentiated by a brand, it is popular to point to other industries that have gone the branding route. Branded salt is sold at a premium and there is a seemingly endless supply of telecommunication brands active globally. But the best example of a well-branded commodity that differentiates primarily on owning part of consumers hearts and minds are bananas. One brand, in particular, has become synonyms with bananas. That brand is Chiquita. When people are asked to name the first brand that they connect with bananas, its Chiquita. Not many people can tell the difference between regular yellow bananas.

As finalists for the World’s Best Energy Brands Awards have shown, it is possible to differentiate a mere commodity such as electricity.  (follow the link to get a glimpse of some great brand case studies from the energy industry).

Electricity is a basic necessity and it is price sensitive up to a point – the brands that have been the most successful in the market have found a balance between offering a competitive price structure and giving customers a reason to choose a brand that offers something more than just a basic necessity.

Sometimes the commodity itself is differentiated – well not the electrons themselves but the source where the electrons are generated. Say hello to Green Energy Marketing. Clean Energy Industry Strategic Communications is probably the most notable and has been used the longest as a differentiator on the market. But making a clean energy strategic market entry has become more challenging than before since almost everybody on the market is either 100% renewable or offering renewables as an option on the market.

Energy Decentralisation is providing more opportunities as well as challenges to energy brands. Distributed generation and prosumers has changed the energy brand spectrum. Electricity brands are becoming a more flexible concept since customers do not need to be connected to the grid and can do business with electricity brands that only supply them with the tools and equipment needed for the customers to be self-sufficient of energy.

The most important thing in creating a brand in the energy space is to find out how to be different and the most enduring way of being different from the competition is to claim a feeling. In the end – people make their choice by determining who they trust.

Gain insights and earn customer engagement

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Energy company branding is pretty simple at the core. The World’s Best Energy Brands have it in common to be able to identify segments in the market. The best brands offer their target groups specific offerings and give them tailor-made marketing message that gives the impression of a coherent brand-voice. Despite advances in technology – the core of marketing is still the 4P’s. But technology creates new ways to present the product, new places to sell it at and new ways to promote it. It also gives new ways to find out more about the consumer.

Learn more about energy branding and dig deep into branding case studies in the energy industry. Join us at CHARGE 2018 – the only utilities and energy conference that covers branding in the energy space!

Easy days are over

A major task of any company selling and marketing a product or a service is to really figure out what you are offering, to which potential customers and how you are different from everyone else on the market. This used to be a lot easier, a company would come up with a product and find the right segment was easy, husband, housewife, urban or rural. Then societal changes came along and these simple groups of consumers split up and new-sprung out. The teenager is more complex and people in their twenties are now of all ages.

Big Data helps

Energy utilities around the world are doing their best to know their customers which is the technical term for analyzing data and identifying patterns. Big data can, of course, provide great insights that are not easy to identify from interviews or surveys. But the downside is that energy companies often skip the part of getting to know their customers – the customers become blips on the screen that leave data points. Gathering large amounts of quantitative user data is relatively easy, it’s just a question of finding the right software and let the algorithms get to know the customers.

A good brand uses algorithms to gain better insight into the behaviour of the customer but in most cases, it is used to build upon knowledge that is founded on qualitative research that is more or less the foundations of the brand.

Don’t forget qualitative

Some might dismiss qualitative studies as anecdotal evidence or by simply pointing out that if Henry Ford would have asked people what they wanted, he would have made the horse cart faster. It is correct that you should not take focus groups or customers too literally, an active mind is needed to analyze what is said to you and form concrete principles – read between the lines and integrate truths.

Find out more

Artificial intelligence is yet to be able to do that. A good first step is asking oneself “what would I as a customer want from a provider?” and then asking the same question to people you know and see if there is something in common.

Find out more about how the Best Energy Brands identify and speak to their different segments in the report on the World’s Best Energy Brands which is available now. Including energy company case studies from around the world.