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.
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.
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.
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.