Powerful Communication & Energy Engagement

A great energy brand knows how to communicate. Not only with the customer but has a clear way of internal communication, external communication with stakeholders and has a way of creating an engaging platform for the customer to interact on.

Energy companies’ engagement with their consumers via social media is no longer an option but a necessity within the utility sector. This method of communicating is expected by consumers and if you are not using it you are being left behind.
There are several compelling reasons for energy marketers for using social media:  It increases brand recognition as it makes your brand acknowledged by existing customers and encourages them to stay as loyal customers. Brand loyalty has been shown to improve when companies are active on social media channels.  Opportunities to convert increase with each entry posted on a social media platform as the brand has potential customers who have an opportunity to interact with you and conversion rates increases as the brands become more humanized by interacting on social media channels.  Inbound traffic increases since each social media entry adds another path leading back to your site.  With only limited effort, marketing cost can be decreased significantly and Search Engine rankings can be optimized.  Using social media efficiently further enriches customer experiences and improves their insights, which is important for an intangible product like electricity.

Smart technology has created an opportunity for creating a two-way relationship between consumer and company by giving the consumer a real chance of seeing energy usage in an interactive way.

Be sure to follow the Communication & Energy Engagement track were the spotlight will be on both internal and external communication and creating brand value with social media & content marketing. More info can be found at www.branding.energy

The World’s Best Energy Brands

Earlier this summer we had a panel of 30 energy experts from around the world meet and discuss which energy brands are the best in the world. The panel named 80 brands in 20 countries that they considered outstanding energy brands in terms of consumer engagement and energy marketing. After a careful screening process a shortlist was developed that was further cut down to a total of fifteen brands, five in each category. The categories are Best Energy Brand, Best Green Brand and Best Transmission or Distribution Brand.

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We will be ending the conference in September by announcing the winners in each category at a ceremonial dinner at the Blue Lagoon. Admission to the ceremony is included for conference guests. There is a limited number of tickets available and hotel rooms in Reykjavik are either fully booked or have skyrocketed in price. We have however made an exclusive reservation block for our conference guests on a lower rate than the market rate is today. Register for the conference today so you don’t miss out on a ground-breaking event at an exotic yet accessible location.

The Future of Energy Branding

Two of our speakers couldn’t wait for the conference and met in Berlin at the offices of EdenSpiekermann. They couldn’t resist and started talking shop. A portion of their chat can been seen in the video player below.

The energy industry has been liberalised in most countries now and before they were liberalised they didn’t need marketing or branding like they do today.
– Dr. Friðrik Larsen

The entire idea of branding is for me about having relevance in people’s daily lives. It is as important for energy brands just as any other sector.
– Martin Stadler

T&D needs B&I

Branding does not only apply to utilities in the competitive part of the energy market. Though the transmission and distribution grids have a monopoly on delivering energy to the end consumer, management within those companies are becoming more and more aware of the importance of creating a valuable brand rather than running an arrogant utility.

That is why T&D needs more B&I (Branding & Innovation.

The monopolies are at risk of losing bits of the base of their service; providing homes with an access to electricity. With advances in technology, more and more homeowners have the choice of never connecting to the grid. There needs to be a reason for a new home being connected to the grid. If the choice is between paying to be connected to the grid or paying a similar amount to set up an on-roof generation with free power, there is no reason to connect at all. A distributor that has a clear value proposition and a clear marketing message for the consumer has a better chance of being relevant in the mind of the consumer.

T&D’s that are suddenly faced with a growing number of prosumers need to realise their changed role and need to know how to communicate with end consumers. The prosumer is not an energy professional and technical terms need to be made understandable and clear for the regular prosumer.

There will be a track dedicated to the branding of transmission and distribution. The speakers we have gathered will each present their case on why branding is important for their operations and their presentations will be followed by a panel discussion. The companies they represent have somewhat different roles in their communities but they all play their roles through a powerful and well-crafted brands. The track will include Marko Kruithof – Director of Innovation at Stedin (Netherlands), Helle Andersen – Head of communication at Energinet (Denmark), Fintan Slye – CEO of Eirgrid (Ireland) and Jukka Ruusunen – CEO of Fingrid (Finland).

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The conference will conclude at the Blue Lagoon with a dinner and an awards ceremony. We will be awarding the best energy brand within the T&D sector to put the spotlight on brands that are an example of great branding.

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Remember to sign up for CHARGE which will take place in Iceland, September 19th-20th. You can find more info on www.branding.energy

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 

It’s challenging to be green

The marketing of electricity is now an increasingly significant issue following the liberalization of electricity markets in many parts of the world. Substantial emphasis has been placed on green electricity, but the concept is vague to many consumers. Utilities need to focus their market research on defining and understanding green electricity from a consumer perspective and using the understanding gained to improve their marketing. Much of what they are using today does not work.

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Through my own cross-national research that gathered consumer insight from five European countries, I have found that green electricity perceptions are not unanimous among consumers in different countries. However, there are several broad constructs that consumers seem to agree on. These key constructs are sustainability/corporate social responsibility, local production, visual impact and energy saving.

Though they might agree on the broad terms, the details on how they define these constructs vary. To name an example, some relate the concept of sustainability to the renewable sources that don’t emit CO2 directly. Others are concerned with pollution that has an immediate effect on their near-environment, while a group of consumers raise concerns regarding the long-term monetary sustainability of energy production. By digging deeper to understand what affects consumers’ definition of sustainability, other constructs emerge, such as skepticism towards energy companies and their perceived shady marketing practices, higher energy prices, and the fact that the majority of consumers don’t think it matters who provides their electricity, since it all looks the same.

The job of utilities who want to have a green positioning for their brands is to change these perceptions in an honest way. Find ways to be credible as a green energy provider and use marketing in a credible manner.

A good starting point in understanding how to create a powerful brand will be at CHARGE – The World’s First Energy Branding Conference in Iceland in September 2016. The aim of the conference is to create a dialogue that leaves guests with a better insight into branding for energy companies, as well as the importance of branding energy in other sectors. We ought not to forget that energy is an input for everyone.

Speakers will include Jim Rogers, former CEO of Duke Energy (U.S.), Stephen Fitzpatrick, CEO of OVO Energy (UK), and Sabine Schmittwillke, Head of Group Brand Communications RWE (Germany). Opposing viewpoints will also be examined, for example, by Agneta Rising, Director General of the World Nuclear Association and members of the International Hydro Association. Iceland is just around the corner – less then five hours from North America and two to three hours from Europe. Registration is at http://www.branding.energy.

 

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This article was first published in the Leaders in Energy blog. The original post can be found here.

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.

World Branding Forum interview

Dr. Friðrik Larsen, the chairman of CHARGE recently did an interview with World Branding Forum, talking about the conference, branding & marketing electricity, utilities and how they can be prepared for increased demand for consumer engagement.

 I quickly realised that one on one conversations wouldn’t be efficient, it would be better to pool all the knowledge on the subject into one place and get everyone there to learn and listen.

The full interview can be found here.

Iceland: EURO2016 most valuable brand

Wanting to win the European cup describes a small mentality. The UEFA tournament is of course the silly season for the real thing – the World Cup in two years. Sour grapes aside, it is last chance to jump the Team Iceland bandwagon before it comes to a halt – let’s see how we can look at the Icelandic football team in terms of brands and branding. This year’s fan favorite team has some things in common with successful brands.

„When you are only No. 2, you try harder. Or else“

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It’s often harder to be the best, you are on top and the only way from there is down. Being the underdog means that you have everything to win, competing against Iceland has meant that you are at best defeating… Iceland. Avis recognized that it was a strength by being number 2 and used it as a part of their positioning. It’s often easier to compete when you can gain a position rather than defending it.

Customer engagement

A great brand does not have customers – it has fans. A sports team has fans but they are quick to turn against their teams if they disappoint.  The Icelandic team makes the effort to engage with their fans. Before every match, the coach meets with the fan club to go over the starting 11 (before it’s official) and how the team will approach the game. After each match, the players give applause to the fans and cheers with them. By doing that, the team recognizes the importance of their fans.

Brand identity

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A brand can choose its identity and it can even assume a country of origin or decide to be without one. The country of origin part is difficult when a national sports team is the brand in question. Brands can often refer to their heritage. For the Icelandic team, there is of course no direct brand heritage in relations to football. For a brand without a heritage, there is always the option of finding indirect connections for a brand heritage. The Icelandic team gets associated with their presumed Viking warrior heritage. That association is perfect for a contact sport; fearless warriors that keep on fighting against all odds; it is OK to win the battle but the real champions and best warriors are chosen by Odin to die in battle and ascent to Valhalla to fight among legends. The team appeared to be a band of berserker brothers fighting for honor, tattooed, bearded and long hair.

Good results require years and decades of hard work

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This point is not branding specific but important for any brand. Being successful requires hard work. Forget the legend of warm and cozy indoor soccer halls with artificial grass that are supposed to be integral for the development of Icelandic football players. Most players in the team could train on 3rd class artificial grass once a week during the winter. The only indoor facilities they could train on were meant for handball or horses. They would run outside in rain, frost and (always) against the wind. They would develop their sliding tackles skills on gravel fields made from crushed lava. Success does not come easy and sometimes success is the result of years of plucking sand and small pebbles from a bleeding ulcer after a great tackle.