At a time when the energy sector is among the least trusted in the UK, and at a time of momentous change with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) setting its final remedies, Dr Fridrik Larsen is urging suppliers to become more brand-oriented.

How can energy branding help utilities in the UK at a time of transformation in the industry?

Branding helps utilities to form relationships with customers and gain their trust. It used to be easy to stand out from the big six by just being new, but now the big six have started to become more brand-oriented.

Is energy branding evolving?

We have seen some improvement in the utility brand that is addressing the basic issues they are facing; cost, reliability, billing. Today we have the service brand, the low-cost brand, the green brand and the local brand. There is an opening in the market for some abstract terms like fun and exciting. We are going to see the Apple of energy in terms of the enthusiasm some consumers have towards a company, no question.

Are utilities in the UK doing enough to gain consumer trust?

Yes, and no. Companies are investing in customer satisfaction, and many have been improving. But customers don’t care about their utilities – some hate them – but generally they don’t think about them. That is the problem, that lack of caring.

How can energy branding help to promote smart meters and encourage behaviour change?

Smart technology could let the consumer know that the utility cares about them: through recognising patterns and alerting the customer when there is something different in the usage pattern, utilities can establish themselves as a likeable brand.

What advice would you give a new supplier entering the market?

Take an abstract stance. But you have to keep in mind that any abstract needs to be the heart and soul of the brand and all touchpoints should reflect it. If someone takes a gimmick approach and supplies energy as Clown Power!, then the consumer would expect a lot of silliness everywhere.

 

Dr Fridrik Larsen has a PhD in energy branding and set up LarsEn Energy Branding as Europe’s first branding consultancy with a focus on the energy sector.