Tag Archives: branding

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.

a3fabd43012ef5aee2382dcdcc15eb68068ae65a

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.

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“

16_image_3

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

CmdjdsQWEAAh6Po

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

Fylkisvöllur, og Árbæjarlaug, Árbæjarhverfi, Reykjavik Fylkir sport grounds, Arbaer swimmingpool, Reykjavik

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.

Engerati Energy Branding Webinar S01E02

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.

Energy Retail needs better marketing

Bits from an interview with Dr. Fridrik Larsen that appeared first in  Intelligent Utility. The original article and the full interview can be found here.

What do energy companies/utilities typically do wrong with energy branding?
I like to name and praise those who do a good job but let those who do bad work to be anonymous. In general, they don’t view branding as a strategic philosophy that every aspect of their operation should be based upon, that branding is creating a logo on the letterhead of the bill. Others have the criteria for a great brand but don’t implement it correctly. A brand is defined by consumer perception, not the correct colors or a core-value statement on a website. Most play it safe and don’t try new approaches. There is more innovation and consumer choice in deodorants, with new niche categories popping up every year. We want consumers to have choice in energy, too; it seems strange that there is actually more consumer engagement in armpit aroma than energy.

How do energy branding and customer engagement work together?
Branding guides companies in engagement. To simplify, let’s take a look at the only way possible for customer engagement before social media and smart metering—the dreaded bill and that call to the service center. A great brand would make the bill simple and—in terms that the customer understands—branding involves gaining consumer insights. These two touch points are, by default, a negative experience, but branding can at least make it more tolerable. The possibilities of engagement today are almost endless and energy branding is essential for each engagement to create value for customers.

What advice would you give energy companies, especially electric and gas utilities, about branding? What top three things should they be focused on?
First, the customer isn’t always right. Be customer centric but don’t chase their wishes blindly. Meet their needs today and anticipate their needs tomorrow.

Second, welcome competition. It increases awareness of energy retail. If they offer the lowest price, you have the opportunity to offer the greatest value.

Third, create intangible value for your customers. Know your virtues, be proactive in reaching out, speak to them in a different way and give them any excuse to love your services. It’s easy to beat the lowest price, being loved takes hard work and dedication of years.

Branding energy, or consumer influence in the energy world

An interview from Think Geo Energy with Dr. Friðrik Larsen, the conference chairman. The full interview can be found here.

Could you maybe explain briefly what one can understand under branding and how it relates to the energy sector?

Branding is about understanding the world a business operates in and using that understanding to communicate with and appeal to the consumer. In a way, branding is like philosophy. You gain knowledge about the role of your company and how it can relate to consumers. Often the consumer is not set out to buy a certain product but a solution to a problem. Everyone needs energy so the question is not if someone is going to buy it but how you can appeal to people. A good brand speaks one voice to a specific audience. For an industry that has up to now sold an undifferentiated product it is crucial to speak in the correct manner to a specific group of customers to differentiate your services and become a brand.

Why do you think it is so crucial for energy firms to consider branding more seriously?

We seem to be at a certain threshold in technology, its evolving exponentially and it’s a question when something radically new will disrupt the way we think about energy. A branding-oriented company is ready to adapt from being a candle maker to making lightbulbs. Energy and especially electricity hasn’t changed a lot since Edison and we are going to see a change just around the corner. If not radical, then incremental. Energy is still the same as 20 years ago and we will see an outsider coming up with an update to the business model, you can call it the Uber of energy. At least we will see Amazon or another beloved brand make a killing in the industry.

What do you think is important for companies in the energy sector to consider if they are approaching the topic of branding?

That branding is about creating a core philosophy that all activities depend on. It should set the tone for everything from products to marketing activities and beyond. Do it properly from the get go and maintain your brand – it is easier to stay in shape than having to shape up.

I think one can assume that branding is not only about the company providing the energy itself, but also about the kind of energy provided. How important is it for companies to brand the source of energy they are selling?

People are always interested in the product they consume – when dealing with big corporations – people have lost the connection they used to have with the maker and the origin. That is one of the appeals of Apple and Steve Jobs – you got a feeling for the creator. The branding of green sources is successful not only to the perception consumers get that they are saving the planet. I think its success has a lot to do with the fact that before green, companies didn’t feel the need to advertise its source of energy. Green-branding gave the energy an origin story.

Naturally, we can talk about public perception about coal, nuclear energy and climate change concerns, but maybe focusing on renewable energy, how important is this in the branding context today?

Branding is a lot about story telling. The renewables have an interesting story to tell, they get people excited. Hydro offers you beautiful power plants, often dating to the first days of electric power. Geothermal is created from volcanic powers, which is pretty awesome when you think about it. Solar and wind connects in a different way, both are still a novelty compared to other sources but they convert electricity from natural sources people feel on their own skins. Solar is still so futuristic, it is the only large-scale generation that doesn’t use the turbine.

You are based out of Iceland and therefore experience the role of geothermal energy in the daily life of people. But in the international context, what would you see as important for the geothermal energy sector with regards to branding?

Just the stories it can tell in order to get people more excited about the source, harnessing volcanic powers but also the possibilities of co-branding geothermal with other companies that rely on it directly. The Blue Lagoon in Iceland is a pretty well-known example of a company using the exhaust after the generation of electricity. There is the possibility of a thermal value-chain, where the heat leads from one link to the other to create something. Someone could brand a process and it would be part of the branding or a cluster using the same source could be part of each participant’s branding.

If one were to rethink branding for a specific energy source, how should this be driven, by an individual company, an industry group or governments?

Individual companies in a free market setting, competing to appeal to consumers is by far the most likely to succeed. A group or a government will focus on one message while competitors are more likely to deliver a different message and fine tune it. They are also more likely to appeal to different segments, making it more appealing to more consumers.

What is the goal with the conference that you are organising?

To start a dialogue. Since it is the first conference of its kind it is important to sow the seeds, introduce branding to the energy space and introduce energy branding to marketers and c-level executives. You see it too often that energy companies spend a lot of money on marketing activities without knowing that marketing needs a solid brand behind it and the marketing industry is too often willing to accept that money without knowing how energy differs from soap or cereal.

What do you want people to take away from the conference?

How branding and a two way communication between energy and consumers is the key to the future of energy.

And maybe as a last question, if you had to choose one key thing for companies to keep in mind on branding, what would this be?

That is goes well beyond the logo and the letterhead of the electric bill, it is about understanding and anticipating the consumer’s needs and wants.

Welcome to the world’s first Energy Branding Conference

We welcome you to Iceland in September for CHARGE – The World’s First Energy Branding Conference.

Energy is on the threshold of change, not caused by smart technology, solar or efficiency but consumer power. The theme of the conference is how consumers are going to choose the provider that knows them best and can communicate with them at a personal level, beyond the meter reading and the electric bill.

At the core of every successful company is branding, the process of understanding the consumer better than the competitors. Marketing will always be less efficient without a coherent brand strategy guiding the way, smart technology is underutilized without deep understanding of the consumer and how the company should use it in harmony with consumer perception.

The conference has already gathered an exciting list of speakers who understand branding and marketing and who understand how electricity differs from other commodities due to consumers perception of the product and the companies that have historically provided it.

Guests will not only enjoy two days of inspiring lectures and keynotes but will be able to enjoy one of the wonders of the modern world, the Blue Lagoon thermal spa that utilizes water from a thermal plant to create a unique experience in the middle of a lava field. Afterwards, guests will attend a gala dinner where the CHARGE awards will be presented to the best energy brands in the world.

Register now – the early bird offer ends June 2nd.