CHARGE Interview

Picture1 2 | CHARGE Energy Conference

Magnus Hall, president, and CEO of Vattenfall (2 min read)

Magnus Hall has been at the helm of Vattenfall, one of Europe’s leading energy companies, since 2014. Ahead of CHARGE 2020, we explore how his business background influenced his understanding of the energy business and his definition of branding, that it is “about creating an expectation you fulfill”.

CHARGE: Tell us about your background?

Magnus Hall: I have a combined degree in business and engineering. I started my career in the paper industry, which is where my father and grandfather worked. I was on the marketing side of the business and advanced from divisional manager to CEO. After 10 years I moved to Vattenfall. This is relevant because the paper industry is very energy-intensive. You could say I moved from a business where energy meant a lot, to a business where energy means everything.

CHARGE: How has this influenced you as CEO of Vattenfall?

MH: I brought to the position an understanding of how important energy is on the user side. In the energy business, you tend to view energy, and especially electricity, as a somewhat intangible commodity. But if you are an intensive user, energy price, availability and security are as important as anything else.

CHARGE: What is branding to you?

MH: First, I’d like to say I’m not an expert on branding, but the concept is very important to me. I would say it is about creating an expectation that you fulfill.  You make a commitment to your customers, to society, and to your stakeholders, and you live up to it. And then you communicate that and you deliver it. This would be my definition of what branding is.

CHARGE: When you came to Vattenfall did you need to convince people that they should take branding seriously?

MH: Branding is not a one-man show, it’s teamwork. When I joined the company, I recruited a new communications director, and we started exploring the concept of how we tell our story. Branding is not far from this process, it’s really the content of it: what is our strategy, what is our commitment, and what is our purpose. We realized that it should simply be “Fossil free living within one generation”.  But, I never had to convince people, it was part of the process. Now, the question is how do you take it further out and all the way up. In the first instance to the board, and then to the owner. Again, I am not sure it is about convincing, as much as it is about onboarding. Once you are at that stage, where people in the company are on board, you really have a good branding position.

CHARGE: When building an energy brand, to what degree should you focus on emotions?

MH: You need emotions to create openness for other messages. In energy branding, you need a good mixture of rational and emotional communication. Take our example: we want to make it possible to live without fossil fuels within one generation. What we mean by “one generation” is that when the kids born today become parents, in 25 or 27 years, Vattenfall will be there to supply fossil-free energy. In the meantime, we should really concentrate on solutions. That is where emotions come in. If you talk about “one generation” instead of, for example, “in 2045”, you are making it emotional, connecting it to your family, your children. And it also reflects the strength of our commitment. I think this combination is necessary.