February 25, 2019 admin

Powershop is arguably one of the most innovative and disruptive brands that have emerged within the energy space. The New-Zealand founded online energy retailer is the fastest growing company in the country since forever.

Charging the Energy Brand


February 11, 2019 admin

Distinctive communication, effective segmentation and customer satisfaction driven by positive customer experience and a well-rounded, differentiated brand have all become critical components to the modern utility in the energy sector.

The trend of deregulation

Historically, these components were not as important. Energy markets were closed off and few, or even a single utility, supplied electricity to a nation through its own vertically integrated infrastructure. This meant utilities simply did not need to pay attention to these components as the consumer had no other alternatives to choose from.

Deregulation of electricity markets started in the early 1980s but did not effectively take off until the United Kingdom deregulated electricity supply in 1990. This caused other established countries to follow the UK’s example and deregulate their own electricity markets.

Deregulation is well underway in many regions such as North America, Europe and Oceania. Asia has not taken large steps but are beginning to do so.
35 countries accounting for 44% of the global energy consumption have started deregulating their energy markets. Source & Photo credit: EnPowered

The deregulation trend has spread widely since the 1990s. Today we are looking at substantially deregulated global electricity environment and more steps are being taken every year to ultimately achieve total deregulation worldwide.

Implications for the utility

The deregulation process has had a serious impact on the utility’s market conditions. Markets are becoming more decentralized, competition is increasing and the demand for market transparency is strong.

This has caused the old-fashioned utility severe problems. They are now dealing with people’s needs and wants – and consumers want to know where their electricity is coming from. Further, the value is shifting from the product itself to the service attached to it. The product has become an experience and the quality of that that experience will influence the consumers’ actions.

Consequently, utilities must now look outside of their internal environment and focus on the customer. They must emphasize more modern touchpoints, captivate customers on mediums on which they want to be engaged and be able to communicate complicated information in a simple way. This requires deep knowledge and understanding of customers and can not be easily achieved without adopting the components of the modern utility.

The modern utility requires a well-rounded brand

A strong brand is important to every utility which seeks to adopt the modern way of conducting their business. It is a compass that enhances focus and strategic vision, guides marketing communications, reflects consumer perception and provides differentiation from the competition.

A modern utility brand incorporates all the components. Communication, segmentation, customer satisfaction and experience are all reflected in the brand itself. Such a brand helps consumers make sense of the market complexity by forming relationships with loyal customers, who in turn become less price sensitive and less likely to switch over to a competitor.

A Modern Utility is in harmony with its consumers. The brand is the combination of company identity and company image
A modern energy brand is in harmony with its consumers


Charging the Energy Brand


February 11, 2019 admin

When your only point of differentiation is price – you are peddling a commodity. Once you are differentiating by creating a perception in the mind of a consumer – you have a product. There is a simple key to a branding strategy. To have a commodity make the leap into branding, consumers have to be able to distinguish the brand from other competitors or other products. In a nutshell; a company selling a commodity needs to have its offering the same as offerings from the competition.

Making a unique connection

The most simple way of creating a brand is by having just one offering under the brand’s name. This product needs to signal that it is unique with a logo and a set of colours on the packaging. The packaging needs to stay the same and the product needs to stay the same so when the consumer buys the package, the consumer knows what he or she is getting. The message through the channel mix needs to stay the same and if you have created the right connections in the mind of the consumer, you are pretty much set with a good brand that might need some adjustment as time moves.

Branding a product that will sit in the shelves of the supermarket has a lot to do with what you do on the conveyor belt and through your marketing in the media.

Branding a service

For electricity and energy in general, companies are not branding a product, they are branding a service. The stream of electrons is the same, it doesn’t matter if you have procured or produced green electricity, the customer gets the electrons that were generated next to the home. The perception of green, brown or blue energy is created through branding – in the end, what the customer receives is just a commodity.
There is no physical packaging the customer experiences when using the core product. The service the energy company provides is what the customer perceives as the brand.

Energy brands can earn a premium by engaging in the right way with customers.

The brand at every touch-point

For energy brands to really succeed in the market, they need to establish a brand that can be felt through every touch point. The brand must be experienced through the call centre, the app and through ads and social media. Many energy companies silo the brand away at the marketing or communications department. Customers get a hint of the brand through marketing or through PR but in most cases, the brand is not felt through other communications with the company – or rather a different brand is felt through different touchpoints. This split personality that people sense from the brand creates scepticism that pollutes every ambitious outreach for a better image.

A brand must be felt at every touchpoint. At CHARGE 2018, Michaël Boumendil talked about the importance of Audio Branding

The need for consistency

To put it in a context with store-bought physical products – Coca Cola would never have succeeded by having five logos, eight different colours for the same product or if one of six cans of Coke would be filled with just water or Fanta. In the same sense, an energy company will never succeed if the brand puts forth one positioning in an ad, a different brand promise in another ad, customers receive a different attitude when they reach out to the service center and a completely different approach when the company is reaching out when they are announcing a new project.

The brand needs to communicate its message and meaning to different stakeholders.

Keeping the promise

A brand is a promise kept and it has to be constantly delivered. No one is happy when coming home from the store with a different product inside the packaging that was promised on the inside. Service brands have the challenge to having their products on a constant conveyor belt and the service must always have the same branded ingredients. For a brand to succeed in any industry, it must always be up to standards at every touch point the customer can possibly have with the brand.


Charging the Energy Brand

February 11, 2019 admin

The energy industry faces a great problem. Energy companies are perceived as faceless, heartless entities. To put it mildly, customers hate them. But why is that?

A big part of the problem is that energy companies have not been paying attention to branding. They spend a lot of money on their brands, but they don’t view branding as something that is part of their DNA. Branding in energy has often been siloed away as the
private matter of the marketing and communications department and the image-building has been outsourced to advertising and marketing agencies.

It does not matter how much is spent on funny ads. All marketing activities need to rely on a well-defined brand. Every organisation is involved in branding, whether they like it or not. Brands are defined by consumers and you brand your services by everything you do. Clever ads or massive corporate social responsibility activities might raise awareness, but it also builds an image and gives a promise in the mind of the consumer that needs to be fulfilled. There must be a balance between promises made and promises kept. Customers don’t like cheques that bounce any more than the utilities do.

How can you brand a commodity?

Energy is a commodity and a commodity is always the same – it doesn’t matter if it’s frozen orange juice, pork bellies or an energy futures contract. But you can differentiate a commodity. When you have differentiated a commodity, you have created a brand. Take a commodity, add a story, an experience for the customer, put a name on it and you have a brand. There are banana brands and there are salt brands. Electricity is just the same. You can differentiate right at the source and sell green energy and you can differentiate on the service level. Brands are defined in the mind of the consumer and the key is to create a different experience than the competition. There are many brands in the UK market that have been doing an outstanding job in their branding. Brands such as Ovo, Octopus, Ecotricity, Bulb and Igloo.

The branding challenge of the big six

The brands I mentioned are all perceived favourably by their customers and a clear majority of their customers are fans and promoters of the brands. But they all have found the magic flute of energy – starting with a clean slate. Most challenger brands have earned most of their customer base, meaning their customers were impressed by their marketing efforts and made an informed decision to switch. The promises the brands have made through their marketing efforts have been kept and that means happy customers. The big six have an unhappy customer base that has been scarred in the past with promises not kept. It is an enormous task for a brand that has been perceived as cold and distant to try to change to become perceived as being warm and cuddly overnight. Customers are already suspicious of them and would most likely ask “why do you care all of a sudden?”

And then there were five

The SSE and Npower merger will be an interesting case for the branding textbooks. There is a great opportunity to start over again. An opportunity to take the strengths of the old brands but leave the weaknesses behind.

The question is which way the new brand will go: will the new brand distance itself as far as possible from the old brands and the other big five brands? The points of differentiation must be followed through and shine through every part of the organisation. For example, being a green brand is not a matter of choosing the right shade of green paint for the headquarters. Every process needs to be green and all parts of the supply chain must be green or sustainable.

If the new brand is to show a new beginning, it must show in action that it is different from the parent brands. But the most important thing to remember is that branding is not just doing the groundwork and launching a new identity. It is about implementing and follow through. Brands need to be monitored and measured constantly. Brands live and breathe in the minds of consumers and what matters is how they are perceived by consumers.

This article was originally published in Utility Week

Charging the Energy Brand