Katie Conway, General Manager, West Coast, Siegel+Gale recently spoke on “Building a brand fit for the future” at CHARGE North America 2023. We approached Katie to reveal her approach to branding in energy.
What interests you most about energy brands today?
The industry is at a fascinating inflection point. When you look at the traditional side of the sector, organizations in this space are dealing with a massive perception issue, especially when it comes to younger generations. Many brands are seen as untrustworthy, old school, and not diverse. Yet these same companies—along with those in the renewables space—are at the center of one of the most pressing issues of our time. The legacy energy brands need to flip the negative perceptions on their heads, and those brands who are bold enough to act have a huge opportunity to win.
How do you see your clients building the business case for brand investment?
Those who effectively build the case for brand investment highlight the benefits a strong brand can bring both to internal KPIs, such as engagement and retention, as well as external factors such as consideration, engagement and loyalty. They recognize that their peers can also be brand advocates, and spend time getting to know them, their motivations and metrics. They also talk to their peers about the value of brand in ways that help them see how it can be relevant and meaningful.
Why should energy companies take branding/reputation seriously as an investable asset?
The energy industry is undergoing a major transformation. Amidst a general backdrop of mistrust, customers have elevated expectations and exciting upstarts are coming on to the scene. It’s difficult for companies to rise above the fray and gain trust. Given these challenges, investing in brand is essential for companies in all energy sectors. It will help incumbents who need to shift perceptions, as well as the emerging players who must build credibility.
What are your top 3 tips for simplifying complex concepts/technologies for branding and communications?
- Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Not only does doing this make your messages and experiences complex, but it also makes them meaningless.
- Take the customer’s view. At the end of day, a brand needs to compel a customer into action, so empathizing with them – understanding their needs, motivations and goals – and focusing your story on what matters to your customers is essential.
- Do your homework. Research, facts and data can help a diverse group of stakeholders with competing interests and priorities see the same picture and align on the way forward, streamlining the process of brand-building within the organization.
How does brand, reputation or storytelling approach differ between your B2B and B2C strategies?
It doesn’t! AI hasn’t come for our brains quite yet, so whether we’re buying milk, a car or a technology solution, we’re doing so as a human. No matter the context, we want to build brands that connect with people.
How much emphasis do you place on emotion versus rationality when building an energy brand? Does “feeling” and emotive resonance have a place within your brand strategy?
There is a huge opportunity to inject more feeling into energy brands. Energy is so foundational to our lives that we take it for granted, but that exact reason is why there’s an opportunity to create more of an emotional connection. Not to mention, this industry is at the center of the climate change crisis, which is a topic fraught with emotion.
What advice would you give brand and marketing leaders in 2023/2024?
You must go beyond making a promise – your brand and organization must deliver on that promise. That means, your secret weapon to brand impact is in fact your own colleagues – especially those outside the marketing department. Helping them understand what your brand stands for and the promises you’re making to customers is a first and essential step in achieving brand impact.
Don’t overlook the role brand can play in attracting talent to your organization. We learned from some recent research that younger generations are unlikely to consider a job with an energy company because the sector is perceived so negatively. But you could argue that having this purpose-driven generation that embraces diverse perspectives within the walls of these organizations, is exactly what many energy brands need to tackle the problems facing the industry—and our world—today.
Siegel+Gale is a global brand experience firm. Since 1969, our branding experts have blended emotion, art and rigor to design brand experiences that surprise, delight and drive measurable results. For over 50 years, we have championed simplicity for leading corporations, nonprofits and government organizations worldwide.
No matter the brand challenge, we activate our brand purpose: to make it simpler for our clients and colleagues to succeed. We shine when it comes to partnering with clients who operate in complex industries like manufacturing, technology and energy—3M, Exelon, PG&E, Southern Company, Dominion Energy, Chevron, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Southern California Edison, NOV and more.
At Siegel+Gale, we often get to serve brands that are:
• Considering or preparing for a merger, acquisition, or spinoff.
• Needing help articulating their purpose to current and potential talent.
• Launching a new product or service.
• Welcoming a new CEO or CMO who is looking to drive change.
• Evolving to disrupt or rejuvenate.
• Looking to deliver simpler experiences.
We are a part of Omnicom Group Inc., and have offices in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Dubai, Shanghai and Tokyo.