Jukka Ruusunen, president and CEO of Fingrid. (2 min read)
Ahead of CHARGE 2020 we speak to Mr Ruusunen on the benefits of branding to transmission companies, why it makes sense that everybody becomes “brand aware” and that 2018 Best Transmission Brand award.
CHARGE: Why does a transmission company need branding?
Jukka Ruusunen: Whether you are interested in branding or not, the outside world has an opinion about your company. For heavily regulated utilities this is of special significance because your customers, meaning the society as a whole, have all the tools to control you. So to get a sort of public license to operate, we must have a good brand which reinforces the message that we are working for the whole of the society, that we are reliable, and that we are the best option for Finnish citizens.
CHARGE: At Fingrid you offer everybody, including your engineers, training which covers “brand awareness”. What feedback have you had from these training programmes?
JR: At first there was some confusion as to why we were doing this. But, for a 21st century energy company it is not enough to be good just at technology. We need to distinguish ourselves by how we relate to customers. But secondly, these training programmes have a huge internal company benefit: teams learn to cooperate better, and then finally, we found these programmes have a personal benefit for Fingrid staff. You are acquiring new skills, valuable in the jobs market.
CHARGE: You won the 2018 CHARGE award for Best Transmission Brand. But, I understand that you had to fight a little to persuade your people to participate?
JR: There is a sense in our industry that the concept of brand is for marketing people and not for electrical engineers. You can even use a different word for brand internally, because “the brand” is for television and whatever. So I found myself in discussions with colleagues on the deeper meaning of branding, going beyond the name. I remember asking whether we should be interested in how the society and our customers see us – as Fingrid people? Then everyone said, of course, this is important. So this is the brand! I think engineers think of branding as a Hollywood-style word but when you talk about reputation, reliability and all those issues then people understand. So maybe we use more words, we don’t call it brand, but we actually mean the same things.
CHARGE: Taking what you’ve just said into account: let’s say you were planning to spend €1 million euros on branding over the next five years. How do you talk about it at stakeholder level? How do you justify branding spend?
JR: If we want to protect the ownership and the value of the company, then what is at stake is much more than €1 million euros. We are lowering the risk of difficult financial regulation. And then we are working with customers and learning from customers. That means we are developing the company, we are meeting the challenges of the future. Effectively, the way to understand and implement branding activity is by not separating it out from other strategic activities. Don’t turn it into a separate work-stream, don’t leave it with consultants and forget about it. Keep on talking about it when you talk to your people.