By Dr. Fridrik Larsen
You can’t judge a book by looking at the cover was how Bo Diddley once put it. You can apply this to brands in the energy space by phrasing it: You can’t judge a brand by looking at the logo. A brand is not defined by the logo, it is judged by feelings in the hearts of consumers and it is defined by knowledge and connections in the minds of consumers.
Branding is not the process of designing or updating a logo. Branding is neither the process of naming or renaming the utility or the retailer. By refreshing the logo or renaming the company, there will be a temporary effect on its image. At best the efforts might have a positive effect in the short term. At worst, updating the color palette and imagery or making the company’s name reflect better the zeitgeist, will confuse the consumer since the graphical representation of the company does not reflect the perception of the brand.
The focus of great brands is not graphical representation; it is consumer experience and perception of all aspects of the operations. A new logo on the letterhead of the energy bill is not what the consumer seeks – understanding the energy bill is what the consumer wants. Many energy companies think that marketing is only about buying airtime and spreads in newspapers. Marketing is useless if there is not a strong brand with clear message and meaning behind it.
enerTo be able to build a strategy, companies start by looking inwards. When building a brand, an inside look is required as well. In a similar fashion, the industry itself must start looking inwards if it wants to create value and remain as relevant in the future.
Branding is about being inclusive, starting a dialogue with different stakeholders. It is not only for customers, the brand has a meaning for investors, regulators, politicians and other businesses. That is why it is important for the energy industry not only to engage in a dialogue with stakeholders outside the industry but also to engage in a dialogue within the industry. And we have to rethink how we define the industry – it is not only about the utilities or the energy companies, the industry is everyone involved in powering the industry, innovators, investors, software vendors, hardware makers and so on.
That is why events like the New York Energy week is important for the industry. The focus in inwards and different parties within the industry invite others to join them in the conversation.
Dr. Fridrik Larsen is the CEO of LarsEn Energy Branding and the chairman of CHARGE – a global energy summit on branding and consumer focus. Dr. Larsen was the first person in the world to deliver a PhD. dissertation on branding in the energy space and his book on the subject published soon by Palgrave Macmillan. You can find him on Twitter as @fridriklarsen