Erik speaks at CHARGE
A quick Q&A before taking the stage
Erik will speak at the CHARGE Energy Branding Conference in Iceland. He will share the stage with the president of Iceland and the CEOs of Duke Energy and TenneT, among others. Read his quick Q&A below.
What would be a great icebreaker to begin a conversation with you?
Tell me that a there is a new e-Ferrari coming out, or that there is a magic trick to eat healthier while traveling the world – or make a statement about any form of “inequality” and the education system in Belgium. The latter is my favorite topic because: (a) I am a firm believer of the importance of “equal opportunities” regardless of age, gender, ethnic background, religion … and (b) I believe our education system is outdated.
What is the best way for a brand to connect to its customers?
By adjusting the context in any way it can to reduce customer elasticity towards the brand. Branding is all about creating inelasticity among the audiences you cater to in terms of service, price, distribution and loyalty. I’ll talk about that at the conference.
How do you see energy move away from being a commodity in the coming years?
I adhere to the vision that Fridrik Larsen has on this: change or die. Unfortunately, I think many energy companies will fade away and a lot of existing value will be destroyed, and potential value lost. It is a massive corporate change, a cultural change that is needed to disrupt the disrupters, or the “energy space invaders” as Larsen puts it. This is the sole way out of the so-called commodity-trap in which most energy companies and brands (to be) liberalized are stuck.
Can electricity be differentiated and therefore branded?
In terms of current consumer behavior and usage: no. There has been extensive research on the topic, and every marketer understands this. The question is: Can the source of the electricity be branded? Yes, that is possible. When you look at Eneco in Belgium, for example, they have positioned themselves as the 100% local Belgian energy provider, stressing that their energy is also produced entirely, 100% in Belgium. Not all their customers are equally sensitive to this, but you can see that they have a relatively larger sample of customers who adhere to this sustainable idea when it comes to the energy that flows through their homes than other suppliers in the market. Another question is whether one day a (high-end) brand will come out with a diversified use approach, being a product / service that only works with a specific energy profile. Just to give an example: imagine a Tesla that can only consume 100% green energy. A development like this could propel energy brands to a higher level of involvement.
What can energy companies learn from the best brands in other industries such as Amazon, Apple or Disney?
Centricity and intimacy. Most energy companies are back-end driven, like old-fashioned industrial companies, which are often overprotected by government regulation. But now the question is: Do we want to regulate and liberate them? I guess it depends on the social view of any given country or community. It is also true that energy companies are a part of the economic, and in most countries the social fabric, which is to say that they employ people who would not be qualified under full market conditions. So there is a societal dilemma to deal with as well.
Do you think that energy companies are paying enough attention to their brands and their customers?
No, because most of them do not understand what “customer” means. For them a customer is a number on a contract, a house number in a street … not the person living there. It’s the same challenge faced by most of the financial industry.
During his keynote, Erik will talk about the potential influence of valuable brands like Google, Amazon and Tesla on the energy sector. Want to influence the course of energy history? Fill out the survey and let us know what you think!