The pace of change in the energy landscape over the last few years has been breathtaking. It feels like we have now reached a tipping point, where sector-level changes such as the ever decreasing costs of renewable generation and the increasing need for demand-side response solutions are beginning to impact on mainstream consumers’ energy, mobility and smart home buying decisions.
The upshot of this for the original clean energy brands? A barrage of new competition. Whether from the big suppliers developing more sophisticated and comprehensive clean energy solutions (plus investing in broader social purpose initiatives), or newcomers to the market who feel more contemporary to consumers, the challenge will revolve largely around how to stand out.
In this new, far less niche playing field, a powerful business tool in the armoury of clean energy providers is brand purpose. Unlike many other corporate sectors, clean energy’s ecological halo means brands already have the substance and authenticity required for brand purpose. They have a natural purpose opportunity. However, being a provider of a great, sustainable product or service is not enough.
As consumers are becoming more astute when making the distinction between ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ energy providers, so they will also become more particular within a broader clean energy category over which brand to choose. Good ethics must span across the entire business proposition, allowing for a comprehensive brand purpose that is about being good, not just being green.
A brand purpose with substance is a way of differentiating in this space and driving consumer preference. There are lots of new entrants, many of whom are looking at positioning themselves in the ‘clean’ space. However, there is still an enormous amount of apathy towards the category amongst mainstream consumers and a lack of insight into the benefits of switching – either for individuals or for the environment.
Brand purpose can engage with customers, giving them something to talk about, believe in and reflect the way they want to be perceived in the world – building their own personal brand. Look at Tesla as an example; a brand synonymous with environmental protection and clean energy, but also with innovation, entrepreneurialism and adventure. If you own a Tesla product it positions you on the cutting edge. Making your brand part of your customers’ identity and being part of what represents them is the holy grail for all marketers.
Brand purpose is a central organisational initiative for a business. It isn’t just a commitment to a single issue or cause; an effective purpose permeates into culture, improving the way customers experience the brand but also the way internal team members feel about where they work.
Well executed, brand purpose initiatives can accelerate the adoption of demand side response and smart asset utilisation technologies, not just for the large business customers who are already getting behind this, but at scale, across millions of SMEs and households. Compelling brand communications will be central to helping customers understand why they should adopt these innovations and brand purpose is an obvious way to make this engagement inspiring and meaningful.
But poor delivery stands to be a potential stumbling block. There is only so much goodwill that brand purpose will buy you. Customers who switch to a company because of their promise of purpose, only to be disappointed with pricing, service or technology, are unlikely to stick around.
Purpose gives people a great reason to sign up to new energy brands, and a reason to stay, as long as customers enjoy the experience and the brand lives up to its promises. If the business disappoints on the basics, then don’t expect a strong purpose to always save the day – particularly among switchers.