Tag Archives: sustainability

Challenges of a decentralised energy market

The energy industry is changing faster now than it has ever before. These changes can in many cases be traced to the focus on renewable energy sources and energy decentralisation. With pressure from lawmakers, energy companies have been changing their energy mix to increase the use of renewable or sustainable energy sources.

Renewable energy branding has changed – it is becoming less of a differentiation for an energy company to offer a high percentage of renewable energy to customers. What has also changed is what customers expect to see from their energy companies in terms of customer service and engagement. It is more important now than ever before for energy market segmentation of customers – especially with more and more consumers in the energy market becoming prosumers. This is why energy companies have a focus on renewable energy and customer relations.

The most effective ways of communicating with energy consumers can be through content marketing, storytelling, advertising or direct contact but it the most important and effective way for communications to become successful is by building a strong brand with a coherent voice as a trusted source of information. People connect to brands.

Energy decentralisation can have two meanings but both of those meanings have had an impact on the energy sector. The decentralisation of the market in general, or deregulation or liberalisation, has meant that some market territories are no longer controlled by a monopoly which produces, transmits, distributes and sells electricity to an end consumer. Markets have been changed in order to increase competition in the retail and generation areas.

This has created new challenges for energy companies. When the consumer has a choice – he is more likely to choose the brand which speaks his language and connects to him in more ways than just supplying energy to the sockets.  This is not only causing a change in the retail sector – new brands that have been established around the transmission part and the distribution parts of the power systems have become more effective in brand-building and communicating to customers and other stakeholders. They have found out that branding is not only a proven way to communicate with the public but also to help people inside the organisations to communicate with each other. Branding has proven to be a valuable tool in breaking the silo mentality within organisations.

Energy decentralisation can also refer to new technologies enabling consumers to produce their own energy. Instead of energy coming from a centralised energy plant, it is all the sudden flowing from the rooftops of homes and small-scale windmills at farms. This addition to the power mix is not only changing the way people think of energy by bringing the production closer to home but is also changing the way energy companies are approaching the market with new strategies.

Electricity brands, in retail, transmission and distribution have had to find new ways to engage with those customers who are able to get energy off-grid. These customers are not only self-sufficient with their energy usage but are also selling power to the grid. This means a whole new means of communications. The average consumer is not an expert in terms familiar to people in the energy space – there is a need for a common language for energy companies and consumers to have their engagements in.

Energy company branding is an important topic for the changing times in the energy sector. Energy utilities are aware of the fact that they are not dealing with meter points but people of flesh and blood that need a deeper, more emotional connection than before.

 

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.

 

Energy brands and strategic vision

 

Retail energy strategy is about finding the right positioning and implementing it. Energy company branding is not simple for energy providers, positioning on the market requires a deep knowledge of how energy consumers behave and how the market can be disrupted. For incumbent utilities, this can be a difficult task since consumers have an already established idea of what the utility is and what it does and how it reacts. The utility company and the idea consumers have about it is changing, both with the entrance of smaller newcomers and changing technology.

The age of consumer choice in power markets

Power providers have been unbundled in most liberalised markets and the challenge for all participants in the market is to unlock customer value by creating brand value that gives the customer a reason to choose. Customers that have been indifferent towards their energy suppliers are slowly but surely responding to marketing programs and branding in the energy space. What has become the most common form of differentiation in market messages on the energy market has been a green positioning, focusing on the renewables that the energy provider can source for their customers.

Renewable Energy Strategies

Renewable energy strategies can vary, depending on the market and how customers on the market perceive renewables. In most countries, solar and wind are considered to be THE sources of renewable energy while sources such as nuclear and especially hydro are branded as sustainable or clean sources of electricity. While solar and wind are still sufficient to power regular homes, the technology is not just there in terms of scale and efficiency to give reliable power to large-scale industrial users. Many large companies are, however, demanding renewable energy to power their production or be the backbone of their services. It does not matter how green/renewable/sustainable/clean the source of the energy is. What matters is that the brand that is promoting the source of energy that it sells to its customers is also a sustainable brand. Being a sustainable brand is not about renewing the colour palette to reflect a greener colour.

Customer engagement strategy

The brands that are able to deliver results in connecting to the minds of consumers are the brands that are delivering a higher purpose. It is not just a matter of the cover – it is also about the contents inside. The truly effective energy brands are about changing the status quo. Effective brands set out to change the world. They identify gaps in the market by thinking like a consumer. Often they are founded by regular consumers that are fed up with the way things are done. From the start, these brands are equipped with a vision. Their strategic market entry is done by a narrow customer segmentation – by being focused on a niche market that they can expand further down the road.

Doing something new

The top companies for customer experience are not myopic about technology. Smart metering is an add-on to the experience but it can not the solution to everything. If a brand is not well crafted and lacks strategy and vision, the execution of the possibilities of smart metering will at best become awkward. Utility analytics and customer engagement metrics are a valuable add-on for the energy marketer and anyone interested in maintaining a brand. Smart metering enables customer engagement metrics and smart customer service but customer engagement and loyalty do not come automatically with smart meters and smart meter data. People engage with brands – not technology. Technology enables further customer engagement in energy and it can help customer segmentation. But technology and user interface must be appealing and easy for customers. To be able to make it easy for customers, companies need a good user interface and to be able to design a good user interface, energy companies need to be able to understand the end customer.

The Future of Energy

The future of energy is customer choice. Customers are already able to choose a supplier in deregulated markets but energy consumers around the world are already able to choose if they bypass the regulated monopolies altogether through microgrids, their own rooftop solar or other ways of localised small-scale production of energy. The future of energy is in the hands of the consumer and the energy companies that are able to build their value proposition according to the needs of the consumers will own the future.

 

 

 

Making sustainable energy relatable

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CHARGE Energy Branding 2017

At CHARGE, we try to bring to the table the best practices in Energy Branding and give a glimpse at what the best energy companies in the world are doing in terms of customer engagement and making their products and services more tangible by relating to the customer on human terms.

A part of the conference has focused on how companies are branding green outside the energy space. Companies that are focusing on sustainability are not only looking at becoming clean energy brands or branding green electricity by letting the customer know that they are using the best green energy in the world to make their products or services. They are looking at how they can cut costs by being sustainable. Being sustainable can often cut electricity used or energy consumed.

It is often the case that it is not the sustainability itself or being good for the planet that increases brand value in itself. As it has been discussed at the energy conference, consumers are often inadvertently interested in energy itself and how companies are sourcing their green energy. The clean energy coming from the rooftop of the store you are shopping at creates some value in the mind of the customer. Energy marketing conference is one way to put it, it is not only about energy retailers trying to catch the attention of the customer – branding or marketing energy is also a way for retailers or manufacturers to tell a unique story to the customers. And in a way, it is a green energy conference although it is just one of many topics discussed. It is a utilities and energy conference in the widest sense. Sustainability is an energy issue in one way or another. It reflects on how companies can become sustainable on the balance sheet by behaving thrifty when it comes to energy consumption. And by telling that story, brands can increase their value in the mind of the consumer.

Hosting the conference in Iceland means that it is the perfect place for a global energy event. The country is known for its production of clean, renewable energy – both hydro and geothermal. Being placed in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, Iceland is also the perfect place to bring together key decision makers together for an executive forum of people from all over the world. The energy space is often localised due to historical reasons and although the borders dividing the energy space are shrinking fast – there is a lot to learn from each other.

Join us in Reykjavik, Iceland where CHARGE will be hosted for the third time in September 2018. It will be one of the most memorable energy conferences of 2018. Iceland is exotic yet accessible with daily direct flights to three continents.

 

 

Dates for CHARGE 2018 announced!

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The 3rd CHARGE Energy Branding conference will take place in Reykjavik, Iceland – in September 2018. The Harpa Conference hall has been booked for the 24th and 25th of September. Save the dates and make sure to make most of the trip to Iceland and arrive on Saturday 22nd of September. Use the weekend for some sightseeing in and around Reykjavik and some pre-event networking.

Don’t miss the only global event that puts consumer perception on energy, sustainability and brand building in the energy space in crystal clear focus. Meet your peers and consumer-obsessed individuals in and around the utility sector. Listen to professionals from global energy brands, smaller challengers, energy startups, energy associations and global brands in other sectors and discuss the present and future challenges of the energy sector.

The location of the event is not a coincidence, situated where the tectonic plates of North America and Europe meet – Iceland is the perfect place to host the discussion on branding energy utilities. The energy sector has been and is still to some degree, localised. Reykjavik provides a great setting for discussing the future of energy, being powered 100% by renewable sources and heated by the volcanic powers of geothermal energy. With direct flights from both coasts of N-America and most European countries – Iceland is just perhaps the most accessible exotic island in the world.

Join us again in Iceland for CHARGE 2018!

Bespoke energy solution for the Nordics premiered at CHARGE

The unique energy usage of consumers in the Nordic region will be at the heart of geo’s presence at CHARGE.

The Icelandic backdrop provides an ideal opportunity for geo to unveil the findings of its recent pilot projects in Finland and Norway. These focused on the use of geo’s Cosy smart thermostat to help consumers better manage the heating in their homes, by not heating when nobody is home and, in part, by taking advantage of ‘Nordpool tariffs’. 

As a result, the company will be launching a bespoke designed version of Cosy for the Nordic region which will be on show on the geo stand at the event.

Attention will also be given to highlighting the three vital areas of home energy consumption:understand – making energy usage more visible; control – the solutions that put control back into consumer’s hands so they can make changes; and automate – the benefits of integrated energy management so that metering services, energy storage, heating, appliance controls, renewables and electric vehicles are automated.

The geo team will be on the stand to discuss the changes that have been brought about as a result of the electricity market moving from regulation to competition and the opportunities that this provides for the industry, and for consumers.

These changes and opportunities will also form part of the presentation to be given by Simon Anderson, Chief Strategy Officer at geo, when he speaks at CHARGE Energy Branding.

“The Nordic markets are at a hugely important point in the way that they use energy in the home,” Simon Anderson said. “Electricity is rapidly increasing in price and demand is growing, even as the grid infrastructure struggles to cope. The situation is ripe for new energy sources and new energy solutions that can better manage that demand, and lower costs for consumers. This will be a key focus for us at this important event in the geo calendar.”

 

Charging around Iceland in an Electric Vehicle

Electricity from renewable sources pours from the wall sockets of Icelandic homes. A vast majority of the country’s car fleet is, however, powered by fossil fuels. Electric vehicles are a viable option in Reykjavik, the nation’s capitals, where two-thirds of the population lives. But traveling around between the remote and spread out rural villages is a challenge no one has taken on.

One of the guests attending last year was Stuart McBain, an accountant from England who specializes in clients that have a sustainability focus. He was so thrilled with the conference that he stated: “I will be attending CHARGE for the rest of my life!”. Stuart has been an electric car owner for some years now and is quite passionate about the transformation from fossil fuels to electricity.

I will be attending CHARGE for the rest of my life!

His passion has literally driven him around the coastline of Britain in an electric car and he is planning to drive along the equator as well.

Stuart is a man of his words but wanted to give something back and deliver a presentation about his passion for renewable energy and sustainability. In a conversation with Dr. Fridrik Larsen, he kindly asked for a slot on the EV track. Since the demand for speaking slots is higher than supply, Fridrik thought that Stuart would have to earn his slot on stage: “Only if you put your money where your mouth is and drive around Iceland before the conference” (well… not really but it sounds kind of cool).

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Stuart will attempt to drive the ring-road around Iceland in an electric car accompanied by his 81-year-old mother and his friend Mark Gorecki. The ring road, or Highway 1, is only 1332 km long but there are many challenges for an electric vehicle. For one, there is no network or infrastructure of charge points and another is the number of mountains they will need to drive up along the way.

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One of the challenges is climbing the mountain roads of Highway 1.

 …there is no network or infrastructure of charge points

Stuart claims that he does not know the term Range Anxiety which is good since there are often more than 100 kilometers between villages along the way and a portion of the trip takes them through the deserted Martian landscape of the Icelandic highlands with an elevation of 600 meters above sea level and not a farm, village or survival shelter in sight for 170 kilometers. If the ring road is not too much of a challenge for them, they might go off the ring road to visit a village or two in a remote fjord.

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After driving around the country that was the inspiration for The Shire, they will attempt to drive along the volcanic desert landscape that was Tolkien’s inspiration for Mordor

If Stuart makes it back in time he will give a presentation at CHARGE and share his adventure as well as talk about his passion for sustainability and electric vehicles.

 

 

How sustainable is your Energy Branding?

Brands need to be sustainable — this is something that should be obvious to everyone. In times when renewable energy sources receive much of the buzz from marketing departments to engineers, from energy companies to the mainstream media — a different kind of sustainability is often forgotten.

[…] there does not seem to be a consensus on the true meaning of sustainability

Defining sustainability

In the energy space, sustainable sources or renewable sources of energy are often used about a wide area of energy sources and there does not seem to be a consensus on the true meaning of sustainability. There are of course official definitions and standards but most individuals do not keep those standards in mind, their definition is often determined by their (in)experience and their perception.

For some, sustainable energy means something that is not fossil fuels while some would include nuclear while others would dismiss hydro from the equation. Almost everyone has to some extent a valid point in the argument, their definition of sustainable energy is based on their value judgment.

The forgotten definition of sustainability

Another type of sustainability for energy is often forgotten — the sustainability of the brands. A brand is both the front and the inside mechanics of the energy company. A brand is of course more than a logo — it’s the perception of consumers and employees alike as everything the company stands for — the brand is affected by every touch point people have with the brand. If a company does is not actively defining the brand and keeping the brand in mind at all times — the brand will be actively defined by the employees and the customers that interact with the brand.

[…] a brand is an investment that should pay off in the short term and the long term

Some companies reluctantly agree that marketing and branding are something that has to be done and allocate X% of their budgets to the marketing department — some even look at it as a sunken cost. But this is not a sustainable attitude. Branding and marketing should not be money thrown away — spending money on a brand is an investment that should pay off in the short term and the long term. Sustainability should be about not wasting resources, the output from any activity should be the same or greater than the input.

Return on Investment

Investing in a sustainable image (this should not be confused with a sustainable-as-in-green image) by building a strong brand should be the priority of any business. Brands should not throw money away at marketing to make them look cool and current — brands should invest their resources in creating a coherent marketing message that is in line with their brand. Brands should not look at their image as something that can be easily fixed in a moment spending a lot at efforts that are the corporate-social-responsible-buzz-thing-to-do of the moment.

Investing in a sustainable image by building a strong brand should be the priority of any business

Saving puppies and suddenly becoming concerned about the well-being of something that has to do with children is not a sustainable way of branding. These things can be sustainable if it relates to the brand and the message of the brand and it can enhance the well-being of the brand. A book publisher is credible when it becomes concerned about children reading books — it is in the brand‘s self-interest, in the long run, to turn more children into bookworms — but it has multiple benefits for the society the publisher does business in.

The challenges of brand building in the energy sector

For a challenger brand entering a competitive energy market — brand building comes more naturally. Challengers often start out small, with a group of like-minded individuals set out to change the world. Their challenge is not to lose sight of what defines them as a brand and stay true to their brand as they expand and make sure that any addition on the team makes a fit with the brand. The incumbents, on the other hand, have a more challenging task ahead of defining their brands. The incumbents can be traced back to different times — times, before google had not entered the vocabulary of small children and IBM, was making tabulating machines under the name of CTR. The incumbent brands have often existed for generations and they have many tasks that are fundamentally different in nature. While the challenger brands are like teenagers, figuring out their identity and changing it slightly as they develop, the incumbents are grown adults that have their identities set but need to define them.

Sustainable investment

To create a sustainable brand, companies need to look at branding and the brand as a strategic matter and a human resource matter. Money spent on branding should be spent effectively and strategically and should be in line with what the company does today and what it will do tomorrow. While the debate on sustainable energy sources goes on, the definition of brand sustainability should be pretty clear.

At CHARGE 2017, we will have great presentations and examples of sustainable brands as well as brands that have increased their financial sustainability by leveraging their brand message with an eco-sustainable value proposition for their customers.

Energizing opportunities at IKEA

IKEA

Sustainability has been a part IKEA’s identity since it’s humble beginnings in Sweden decades ago. Guðný Camilla Aradóttir is the Sustainability Responsible at IKEA Iceland, taking care of sustainability issues. The goal of the brand is to eliminate waste at all time.

IKEA’s sustainability strategy, titled People & Planet Positive, set out some ambitious goals for the brand to head towards more sustainability. IKEA operates wind farms around the world and has installed solar panels on the rooftops of its store locations around the world, installed panels on office buildings and even sold solar panels for homes at some of its locations.

Sustainability as a brand asset

Eneco was one of the first of the established energy utilities in the world to become fully renewable and became the frontrunner in the Dutch energy industry in the production of electricity from sustainable sources. Regine Alewijnse, Brand Manager of Eneco presented the brand’s story and the challenges that are facing truly renewable companies when many companies in the energy value chain present themselves as renewable when in fact, a majority of them are renewable only as far as the marketing message goes.

To further the point, Regine explained how sustainability can become more than a hollow marketing message, by making sustainability a valuable brand asset.

Eneco’s approach has not only been to offer renewable energy and offer customers a choice but also to enable customers the possibility to monitor their energy usage and helping them to cut down usage without noticing it by offering software that monitors and detects usage.