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.
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.
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.
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“
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.
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.
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
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.
Our conference chairman Dr. Fridrik Larsen dropped by at the offices of Edenspiekermann in Berlin and sat down with our keynote speaker Martin Stadler to discuss the conference and energy branding.
We have partnered up with people who share our vision of how energy will be driven by consumers and that the turbine that will generate consumer power is branding. One of our fellow visionaries is Martin Stadler of Edenspiekermann. Martin will be speaking in Reykjavik in September and Edenspiekermann is a strategic partner of the conference.
Martin wrote an excellent article titled The Future of Branded Energy. Martin goes over why it’s urgent for energy companies to update their marketing efforts and how they should engage in branding.
Energy company communication can often feels like the marketing of the ’90s—the 1890s. But several factors are driving fundamental changes. While the privatization of energy companies happened 10 to 20 years ago, the energy industry seems to be a late bloomer when it comes to branding. Evolving customer expectations and the realities of contemporary communication within the market are also moving things forward.
The full article can be found in the Edenspikermann online magazine here.
A new white paper by LarsEn Energy Branding is out now. The whitepaper is titled “Why do consumers dislike us? – The effects of liberalization of energy markets on consumer’s perception towards the utilities”
The abstract states that:
[…] the focus of this paper is on consumers’ attitudes towards liberalization in an attempt to evaluate its effects on the company’s marketing function. The paper draws on findings from a qualitative study that used 11 focus groups from five European countries[…]. The paper argues that the recent liberalization does have a strong effect on a sizable portion of consumers and should not be overlooked while devising a successful and segmented marketing strategy. The effects should be acknowledged and addressed before taking on traditional marketing functions such as general image building.
Furthermore, the whitepaper concludes that:
The marketing communication should be based on addressing the negatives, instead of merely focusing on the general image of brands. A marketing approach based on providing consumers with information is more likely to be efficient. An authentic and humble approach where a particular utility communicates in an honest way to consumers and shows them that the utility is working for their customers as opposed to only making money and protecting special interests. The utilities also need to show their social responsibility in action and sway their customers into seeing that the utility is able handle the responsibility of operating a company in a recently liberalized market. Furthermore, that the company will not take advantage of the fact that in most countries there are relatively few available energy companies to choose from. By taking steps of this nature the results should materialize in an increased goodwill of household energy consumers. Moving on, the utility managers can stop asking themselves “Why don’t consumers like us?”
The full whitepaper can be downloaded at the LarsEn Energy Branding website.
The most accessible exotic island on Earth!
A long list of things and places and imagery is often used to describe Iceland but what the category or the concept that describes Iceland the best would be exotic. That is great when most people think of conferences as things that occur only in cities that they have visited over and over. The downside is that most people would further describe exotic distant, remote, far away et cetera.
The fact of the matter is that Iceland is not so far away. The conference might be situated in the middle of the Atlantic but it is quite close to both Europe and North America. There are over 24 international airlines that flying to Iceland from over 70 locations. It doesn’t matter if you live in Barcelona or Anchorage – Dublin or Boston – you are only a short flight away from the conference.
Flight time to Iceland:
USA: 5 hours from the east coast and 7 hours from Seattle
UK, Ireland & Scandinavia: 2-3 hours
Rest of Europe: 3-4 hours
How to book the ticket to Iceland
There are two Icelandic airlines, Icelandair and WOW Air. Both of which fly to major cities on both sides of the Atlantic. Icelandair offers stopovers in Iceland at no additional cost for passengers travelling between N-America and Europe.
Find your flights now with the help from flight search engines such as dohop or Skyscanner.
Where to stay during the conference
A block reservation was booked at hotels near the conference hall over a year ago. That means that prices for the rooms are below the market price today but since it’s another record year for tourism in Iceland, hotel space is quickly becoming limited up in Reykjavik at the time of the conference.
Just a reminder, the early bird offer ends July 1st. The savvy energy marketer knows that the most efficient use of the marketing budget is first and foremost through a well founded brand and secondly with efficient spending.
Good hotels at a decent price will soon be difficult to find in Reykjavik in September. But don’t worry, we have made a block of reservations at some of the best hotels in Reykjavik. We booked them well in advance of the conference, meaning that we can promise you better prices. Make sure to take advantage of that quickly since the hotels are eager to meet the high demand for hotel rooms in September. High demand means that prices will go up.
Act quickly – register for the conference at a lower price and book your room today at the best price available.
The second of the Energy Branding webinars will be tomorrow at 13:00 UTC on Engerati. The title of the webinar is Branding Intangible Commodities – The Big Energy Question and you can follow it here for free, either live or on demand.
The main issues covered are the following:
- Branding tangible vs intangible commodities
- Beyond retail – branding transmission and distribution
- Cities & countries as energy brands
- Consumer engagement towards sustainability goals
Participants in this episode are:
Alexander Richter – Founder and Principal Think GeoEnergy
Birgir Danielsson – Creative Director LarsEn Energy Branding
Sigurður Árnason – Conference Executive CHARGE – Energy Branding Conference
Watch it live or enjoy later – free but requires registration.
Emerging markets usually refrains to nations in rapid growth that are catching up to become developed nations. Many of those countries have opened up to the idea of a liberalized economy and are reaping the benefits. These countries have a growing middle class and are full of opportunities for savvy investors. There is though and underdeveloped consumer market much closer to home that savvy investors and innovative entrepreneurs have found opportunities to exploit.
That is the electricity market. Though it has been liberalized in most countries for some time, consumers are yet to experience the full benefit of a deregulated market. Besides New Zealand and Australia – liberalized energy markets are rather underdeveloped in terms of modern marketing activities and especially branding.
Established companies have been fighting off niche newcomers by spending enormous amounts on big campaigns and new logos to appear as fresh as the newcomers and mimicking products and ideas. But they have slowly come to realize that more effort is needed. Marketing is not considered something that you have to do to remind consumers that you exist – but rather to form deeper bonds with current customers and for relations with future customers.
Though the branding-environment is improving – a lot is still to achieve. That opens up a gap for newcomers to fill up with better engagement and stronger relationships with consumers. Branding is not about shouting at consumers that your brand loves them – branding is about the end result of listening to consumers say that they love the brand.