Tag Archives: energy

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).

helle andersenfintan slyejukka ruusunenmarko kruithof

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.

Charge-logo-awards-negative-bg-RGB

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 

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.

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.