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 Marc Pion, Global Head of Marketing & Communications at powercloud. The interviewer, Dr Fridrik Larsen, is the founder of CHARGE Energy Branding.
With its platform of the same name, powercloud has been offering an open cloud SaaS solution for the energy industry since 2012 and is currently the market leader in Germany with more than 200 customers. powercloud, the fastest growing billing system in the energy industry, promotes the development of innovative energy brands and green offers making established utilites, network and metering point operators, as well as municipal utilities – ready, relevant and agile for customer and market needs alike. (Plus, optional: powercloud already manages around 8 million contractual relationships with an associated turnover of around €6 billion – with another 20 million contracts in the process of being migrated today.)
The powercloud solution will be represented at CHARGE Energy Branding Europe 2021 (Oct 11-13),, by Marco Beicht CEO and guest executive speakers to be confirmed. They’ll be leading an exclusive workshop Monday October 11 titled; It’s almost 12 o’clock: How do we leverage agile IT utility innovation to deliver the energy transition at speed and scale?
What do you think are the main challenges for energy companies when it comes to branding and communication?
At powercloud, all processes of our cloud SaaS platform are designed to meet the expectations and desires of the end consumers. This also very much applies to branding and communication: Consider everything from the end customer’s point of view and offer content, products and services that fit perfectly! The energy customer has traditionally been regarded as a metering point and the technical measuring equipment was given priority – as a consumer who was supplied with a certain quantity of electricity or gas in return for payment. This view is no longer viable in times of increasing individualization and personalization – branding and communication need to take this into account and address towards a very interesting new species called “prosumers”.
How does your brand, reputation or storytelling approach differ between your B2B and B2C strategies?
powercloud operates in B2B only and a typical B2B customer can be framed to this fictional statement: “I will not notice you. I will not buy anything from you. I will not give you any personal data. I don’t even know you. Until…you show me how you solve my most pressing problems. Help me in my zig-zag search for a best-in-class provider. Provide me with relevant and convincing content. But then, I still don’t approach you right away. I need some more time.” So: provide very relevant content at each touch point. Observe the customer journey, but don’t force people to a specific journey, because they will take their own routes anyway. And be aware of the fact that sales cycles in B2B takes months, not hours. So try to get in their memory.
What did you say when you were convincing people in your company to take branding/reputation seriously as an investable asset? Who did you need to convince?
I’m very lucky to work in a very young company with a digital mind-set and an agile culture. So the team is aware of the power of branding and communication. In our daily routines, we offer updated templates and tools for everybody to use within our guidelines, for me it is key to behave a as service partner towards my colleagues instead of being a “brand sheriff”. Nothing is stiff, everything is flowing.
What is the general perception of the brand within your business versus how it was a few years ago? How has it changed and what are your hopes for your brand in the next few years?
The biggest shift came from being recognized as “the start-up from the Black Forrest” to a global software company. We left our home market Germany since last year and switched to English, French, Spanish and Italian, on www.power.cloud and on LinkedIn, for example. Our branding and communication needs to reflect our vision to become ‘the’ digital utilities‘ backbone facilitating innovative change and underpinning decentralization and the green energy revolution. Allowing utilities to fully cater to their customers’ needs while supporting the reduction of our planet‘s CO2 footprint – helping to drive a truly sustainable future for our world. So we still have a lot of work to do.
What lessons have you learned about simplifying complex concepts/technologies for the purposes of branding?
As we have multiple target audiences – CEOs, CFOs, CDOs, IT Project Managers, Billing and Accounting Experts, Partners, etc. – we need to provide the right content for different interests. Sometimes it needs to be very simple, then an animation is great, and sometimes it gets naturally complex when we talk about different IT migration scenarios towards a very technical audience, for example. So we need to adapt our branding for very different communication levels, there is no “one size fits all”. The challenge is to make everything look similar and consistent – as powercloud.
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?
Well…here you refer to a weak point (laughs). In fact we communicate very rational and technology-driven currently. And yes, we need to open up to much more emotions. When you’re in B2B, you tend to factual communication due to the rolls and responsibilities you address and target. In B2B, it’s easy to forget that you’re dealing with regular people who make their decisions just as emotionally as anyone else in the end. This is where we need to get much better and work on it – I promise!
When you look back on your time in your role, what honest mistakes have you made that you’ve learned from in building your brand and key business relationships?
Most important for me is to have everything integrated as much as possible – in the past, it was much more fragmented. Not only from a global content plan perspective, for example, but also on an operational level and tool-wise. Last year we implemented HubSpot for Marketing, Sales and Service. It truly helps organizing not only the daily tasks, upcoming activities, incoming leads and customers, but it also disciplines our different departments to stick to just one joint tool and work very close together – the efficiency is just huge. If by today you don’t have a collaborative, data-driven, automated and integrated tool to execute tactically your brand and communication strategy, you’re just lost. Especially when you have global goals to fulfill.