As we approach CHARGE Energy Branding Europe 2021 (Oct 11-13), we’ve been asking our top speakers and partners to reveal their approach to branding in energy.
In this article, we speak to Axel Löber, SVP Global Brand & Marketing at E.ON, with additional feedback from Marc Cloosterman, CEO of VIM Group. The interviewer, Dr Fridrik Larsen, is the founder of CHARGE Energy Branding.
Axel and Marc will be joined at CHARGE Energy Branding Europe 2021’s opening panel (Oct 11) by Duncan Blake, SVP of Brand at bp, and Nicolas Ziegler, Head of Brand Management at ABB. As we navigate the technological demands of the energy transition, they, as brand leaders, have to work hard to adapt the brand image and reputations of their businesses. Especially as social, policy and regulatory expectations for energy companies, particularly amongst customers, start to shift dramatically.
In this panel, they will address how they balance the pressures of brand leadership and meet these brand challenges head on. Moreover, they’ll share lessons learned on how they leverage customer insights, analytics and brand positioning metrics to benchmark and optimize marcomms performance on a day-to-day basis. Finally, before answering audience questions, they’ll explore their response to the emergence of disruptive market entrants as incumbents.
It will be a fascinating panel, and you can register to watch it LIVE here now >>>
What do you think are the main challenges for energy companies when it comes to branding and communication?
Axel: The energy industry falls in a low-low interest category. When it comes to branding and communication, we need to create relevance and overcome the low involvement from our customers. This will be even more important in the next years as we move forward with the energy transition. The goal should be to play a role in peoples’ lives and being a partner on this important journey.
How do you believe brand, marketing, storytelling and reputation management skills will help us to navigate the challenges of the energy transition, particularly as we run-up to and after COP26?
Axel: Energy is key to tackle climate change. However, we need to find better ways to explain this potential and build on the initial relevance that is created. Stopping with engineering jargon and starting with meaningful conversations on the role of energy in decarbonising people’s lives is a good start. There are many products and projects that help us with the challenges of the energy transition. However, without engaging brand storytelling we will not be able to take the individual person along.
How does your brand, reputation or storytelling approach differ between your B2B and B2C strategies?
Axel: I don’t see a difference between B2B and B2C. For our strategies we even consider this specific differentiation as the wrong question. Behind every buying decision there is a human being. Therefore, we focus on building our brand, reputation, and storytelling around H2H – Human to Human – interaction. Humanizing our marketing approach will help us to gain trust and build relationships with our customers. Because the effects of climate change are very much personal.
When building an energy brand, how much emphasis do you place on emotion versus rationality? Does “feeling” and emotive resonance have a place within your brand strategy?
Axel: As it’s always about human relationships and trust, emotions sit in the core of everything we do. For example, our Change Makers YouTube Series: real people showing how to make the energy transition work. Facts are important contributors and proof points, but facts alone will never cut through all the clutter. We need to remind ourselves that our message needs to come across in the entire universe of brand messages. To stand out against other consumer brands especially from different sectors, it is essential to activate the emotions consumers.
What advice would you give to the next generation of brand leaders taking our industry through the energy transition?
Axel: Always start from the wants and needs of real people – and try to avoid corporate jargon which is based on biased thinking. We need to learn from real-life insights and customer feedback and meet the people on eye level. The energy transition can only be achieved in cooperation with everybody involved. If as many prosumers as possible work together, there are basically no limits in what we can achieve.
Marc: It’s very exciting to dedicate one’s attention to the Why and What of branding – to use some of the Simon Sinek-slang. I’ve seen over and over again that the focus on the How – the boring process-side of branding – has been underutilized by brand leaders. However, it is the How of branding that board members are expecting you to lay out for them in order to make decisions and hand you out the mandate for any decent brand journey or -initiative. It consists of the rationale. the business case and the roadmap to realize future impact on the customer and all other stakeholders. Once you have the mandate, the Why and the What become really important, and exciting, in parallel to the How.