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CHARGE meets Philip Guiliano, Partner at BrandActive

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As we approach CHARGE Energy Branding Week North America (March 22-26), we’ve been asking our top speakers and partners to reveal their approach to branding in energy.

In this article, we speak to Philip Guiliano, Partner at BrandActive. Philip has over 20 years of experience defining and delivering complex solutions for global clients and is a speaker, facilitator, writer, and board committee member for multiple organizations. He began his career with the management consulting arm of Computer Science Corporation. He then led business development for the Global Technology and Brand Strategy practices for Siegel+Gale. Philip joined BrandActive, a management consulting firm that focuses exclusively on the financial analysis, implementation strategy, and logistics of brand implementation, in 2006 to lead BrandActive’s presence in the United States.

At BrandActive, he combines his engineering education, business consulting background, and branding experience as he helps clients entering into a rebrand, brand architecture change, M&A, spin-off or split optimize all phases of their rebrand implementation. He also helps clients with the operational aspects of their brand identity management including, process redesign, systemization, vendor selections, and other optimization activities. He has led global corporate brand identity implementation cost analysis and roll-out management programs for clients including Verizon, HP, Caterpillar, Nextel, Schneider Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Unify, Eversource, Merck, Ascension, and many other Fortune 500 companies.

Personally, Philip is a highly curious adventurer in the relationships he chooses to engage in, focused on helping those around him be their best selves, while immersing himself in nature at home and through his travels. He’s been to over 60 countries and visited mountain summits on 6 continents.

In this Charge session, Philip will be joined by representatives from Lippincott, Green Mountain Power and Rhythm for the panel, “Rethink energy brands to supercharge growth,” on Monday (3/22) at 10:20-11:05 CDT, before leading a workshop at 2 pm. This workshop, “Drive better business outcomes and save on budget through marketing and operations efficiency gains,” promises to help marketing leaders globally boost efficiency, save money, maximize impact and strengthen business performance.

The interviewer, Dr Fridrik Larsen, is the founder of CHARGE Energy Branding.

What do you think are the main challenges for energy companies when it comes to branding and communication?

The answer to this depends on what type of energy company you are and where you sit in the energy supply chain. Generally, making the case that brand matters is a trend we still see with many of our clients. The reasons why vary for different kinds of companies. If you are an up-stream, mid-stream, or services related B2B company – many of whom get the largest amount of their revenue from a small set of key customers – executive management places more focus on customer satisfaction and retention than they do on brand. If you are a utility company or another direct-t- customer entity, many of those customers don’t have a choice but to use you. So – why does brand matter? Energy marketers need to think outside of traditional brand metrics,  although if presented well, things like enterprise value, brand equity, and other traditional metrics can be highly meaningful. Regardless, brand plays an important role inside and outside of the marketing function in terms of cost effectiveness, operational efficiency, trust, employee attraction and retention, and call center volume. Clearly, effective branding produces real, measurable business outcomes.

We still see a lot of companies spending too much money to manage multiple brands in a decentralized way. They may have grown through acquisition, or their internal organic growth didn’t include a cohesive brand strategy.  Many disparate brands were created, and now all of need to be managed and marketed. Many companies facing these situations have strategic, cultural, and ownership challenges related to brand and communications. Central brand management, if it even exists, lacks a centralized management and control model to reduce direct costs, improve resource efficiency, and speed up time to market. This holds true even in situations where those brands remain separate from the corporate brand. The business case for centralizing certain things (processes, systems, vendors, agencies, etc.) is very compelling – and actually empowers decentralized brand execution.

What do you think are the biggest opportunities today for energy companies as it relates to brand and marketing?

I’m going to come at this from a real practical perspective. Marketing departments at most energy companies have to do all they can with limited budgets. The pressure to do more with less only becomes even more difficult during a downturn like the one we experienced over the past year. The biggest and most practical opportunity I see for marketing executives at energy companies is to take a holistic look at their brand and marketing operations. It’s an interesting phenomenon that while energy companies are hyper-focused on operational effectiveness outside of marketing, some find the idea of marketing operational effectiveness a bit of a foreign concept. Taking a holistic look means examining things like agency mapping and management, data, campaign creation and management, technology support, training, and more. It includes  looking at customer touchpoints outside of marketing’s control including facilities, fleet, uniforms and PPE, badges, HR, and other operational areas where brand is impacted, money is being spent, and marketing plays a limited role.

Ok – so with all you have shared so far, how do you see your clients building the business case for brand investment?

We deal in the tangible. Almost every single energy company we have worked with has enough efficiency opportunities locked up inside their current agencies and vendors, brand architecture, marketing structure, brand and marketing tactics, and brand touchpoint operations to create a payback model for brand conversion in real tangible operational savings. In some cases, the costs deliver a return as quick as three years; in others it may require be a 10-year payback. The payback I’m speaking of isn’t measured in market return, customer acquisition/retention, premium pricing, enterprise value, or those revenue factors. This payback is achieved by doing things differently tomorrow than you do them today. As I said, the best way to do this is to look at people, processes, agency/vendor rationalization, management and pricing, and training. Take a look at the branded assets themselves to determine how rationalized, simplified, and value-engineered they are. Don’t forget sustainability initiatives related to branded assets, marketing and brand management technology and automation, and things of this nature. And each opportunity that you find can have an individual ROI model behind it. This can then help you prioritize these improvements and investments either as stand-alone programs or as a part of a larger brand change initiative. By looking at these things – what you do every day, how you do it, who you do it with, how much you spend on it, and the opportunity cost lost by resources spending time on things that don’t actually drive marketing objectives and revenue – you can create a case for brand investment that can be internally funded as long as the right investment is made up front. Doing the analysis upfront helps get that budget secured.  

You have talked a lot about taking advantage of downturns and unstable environments as an opportunity to “clean house” as it relates to brand and marketing – can you give some practical examples of what you mean?

I kind of stole my own thunder by addressing a lot of this in my previous answer. That said, it’s surprising how many energy companies haven’t invested in brand and marketing technology. That holds in the case of  mainstay technology like digital asset management and campaign management and extends to workflow management and other such technology. Some energy companies haven’t centralized media buys, haven’t mapped their agency capabilities to rationalize agency usage, and don’t have a standard operating procedure for how agencies should work with them. There’s no standard for who owns the assets produced, who owns the data and the analytics, and the like. Instead, the company adapts themselves to how each agency works by default, and that can be highly inefficient. We also see huge opportunities for standardization, repeatability, and efficiency in process design and for many energy companies, creating a marketing M&A playbook. Also, the branded assets themselves have a lot of opportunity in them. Let’s take signage because its tangible and easy to understand. We see a lot of companies that don’t have a standard signage package, and if they do, they haven’t technically specified these things to ensure cost effectiveness. These two things generally mean companies are paying 10-20% more than they need to for signage. On top of that, many don’t have a standardized vendor or small vendor set that all can produce those assets in the same exact way at value-priced cost. This adds up to 10% more inefficiency. The same thinking can be applied to fleet graphics, uniforms, badges, collateral, and many other things.

What advice would you leave brand and marketing leaders going into 2021? (expand your influence through rationality)

This stands to be another interesting year in the energy space whether it be economically, legislatively with the Biden agenda, a rush of M&A activity, environmentally, or a host of other influences. I’m going to go back to taking advantage of this time to proactively set yourself up to be lean, effective, and agile. Look at your operations – not just to “find the money” as I have indicated previously in this interview – but also to make adapting to change that much more simplified. The more rationalized your operations, agencies/vendors, processes, and assets are,  the easier it is to change directions, integrate an acquisition, do more activities that truly drive business results with the resources that you have, and so much more.

Brand Active are GOLD Sponsors for CHARGE Energy Branding Week North America (March 22-26). Join them, and save $50 on your ticket when you sign up using the code BRAND50 here now >>>