Tag Archives: utilities and energy conference

Branding Bananas and other commodities

The most basic requirement for branding is differentiation. But how is utility branding possible when the product itself can’t be differentiated? How is energy market segmentation even possible when everyone is buying the same thing? These are questions that you might use to make an argument that branding for energy companies is a waste of time – the only differentiator is the price. You can only gain new customers by offering a lower price. As the experience from the UK has shown – trying to lead a race to the bottom can lead your brand to bankruptcy.

To demonstrate that a commodity can be differentiated by a brand, it is popular to point to other industries that have gone the branding route. Branded salt is sold at a premium and there is a seemingly endless supply of telecommunication brands active globally. But the best example of a well-branded commodity that differentiates primarily on owning part of consumers hearts and minds are bananas. One brand, in particular, has become synonyms with bananas. That brand is Chiquita. When people are asked to name the first brand that they connect with bananas, its Chiquita. Not many people can tell the difference between regular yellow bananas.

As finalists for the World’s Best Energy Brands Awards have shown, it is possible to differentiate a mere commodity such as electricity.  (follow the link to get a glimpse of some great brand case studies from the energy industry).

Electricity is a basic necessity and it is price sensitive up to a point – the brands that have been the most successful in the market have found a balance between offering a competitive price structure and giving customers a reason to choose a brand that offers something more than just a basic necessity.

Sometimes the commodity itself is differentiated – well not the electrons themselves but the source where the electrons are generated. Say hello to Green Energy Marketing. Clean Energy Industry Strategic Communications is probably the most notable and has been used the longest as a differentiator on the market. But making a clean energy strategic market entry has become more challenging than before since almost everybody on the market is either 100% renewable or offering renewables as an option on the market.

Energy Decentralisation is providing more opportunities as well as challenges to energy brands. Distributed generation and prosumers has changed the energy brand spectrum. Electricity brands are becoming a more flexible concept since customers do not need to be connected to the grid and can do business with electricity brands that only supply them with the tools and equipment needed for the customers to be self-sufficient of energy.

The most important thing in creating a brand in the energy space is to find out how to be different and the most enduring way of being different from the competition is to claim a feeling. In the end – people make their choice by determining who they trust.

Efficient Energy Brand Communication

The Energy Brand, the heart of strategy and communication. Image credit: LarsEn Energy Branding
The Energy Brand, the heart of strategy and communication. Image credit: LarsEn Energy Branding

One of the most challenging tasks of utility companies is how to reach the ears and eyes of stakeholders and potential customers in a way that it gets noticed and remembered. Though energy efficiency has been a hot topic for energy companies, the most important task ahead is efficiency in communication – if communication goes by unnoticed, resources have been wasted.

Every company in the energy space needs to be able to communicate efficiently, it does not matter where in the chain the company operates – TSO brands, DSO Brands, Energy Generation Brands, retail brands and brands that are bundled in one or more aspects of the energy value chain, all need to be able to communicate their message in an efficient way.

Brand or be branded

Communication needs to come from a credible source – a source that the audience wants to listen to and notice in the first place – but also a source that is considered believable. The source of communication in utility marketing is always the brand. It does not matter if the utility does not consider it self to be in branding. If the utility does is not actively invested in its brand building then the brand, its image and credibility is out of the hands of the utility and the image of the utility is shaped by everyone else.

Utility marketing should start with building a brand. Communication efforts will not be taken seriously if the energy company has not effectively built a brand and has taken branding seriously. Communication processes such as the tone of voice and proactiveness can be created but to know how the processes are created, a good strategic tool is to know the brand and how the brand would behave as a person.

The cornerstone of every interaction

The big question facing many brand builders in the energy space is how to brand energy since electricity is a commodity that can not be differentiated. The answer to the question is easy: differentiate your company with a unique brand that can be heard in the noisy clutter of communication people are bombarded with every day. The hard part is to follow up on the brand building and have the energy company behave as the brand at every level at the operation and at every touchpoint. If the brand behaves in accordance with what people expect and is consistently behaving as a brand at every touchpoint, the brand becomes credible.

Don’t settle with a credible brand – aim for incredible

With a strong brand that is incredible at getting the attention of their customers in a positive way, challenges become easier. An incredible brand has consistency and is dependable. Good energy brands know how to communicate with new challenges such as distributed energy and prosumers, they know how to fit new green energy technology to their service offering, know when and how to showcase their green electricity offering and how to add value for their customers with effective ingredient branding of either their power source.

Join the discussion at CHARGE 2018. CHARGE Energy Branding is the only utilities and energy conference that has a clear focus on energy branding and how utilities at every stage in the energy stream can benefit from a strong brand that delivers consistent and efficient communication to stakeholders.