What’s Happening Now In Utility EE Marketing
Apr 10, 2017
At the recent Midwest Solutions Conference hosted by MEEA in Chicago, I had the opportunity to moderate a dynamic panel of utility marketing experts. The topic drew an attentive crowd interested in learning how different types of utilities market energy efficiency. Connecting with energy efficiency industry-leading marketers to discuss things that are near and dear to my heart—what’s the right target, right message, right program, and right medium – was priceless. That’s what Nexant Marketing and Communication Solutions is all about.
My panelists were:
- Janet Rehberg, Marketing Director for Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives,
- Cristina Fernandez, Marketing, Communications and Outreach Manager for Nicor Gas (who spoke on behalf of Meena Beyers, Managing Director, EEP Customer and Partner Engagement), and
- Cara Shaefer, Director—Energy Services & Renewables for City Utilities of Springfield Missouri.
During the MEEA session the panel and attendees explored how different types of utilities—cooperatives, investor-owned, and municipalities—market their energy efficiency programs to different audiences.
Janet shared Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives’ unique marketing challenges of developing strategies for a group of cooperative utilities—where each customer is an owner of the business. She works with 25 rural electric cooperatives and each has different marketing needs. To succeed, she focuses on members (the cooperative utilities), the community (utility customers), and the environment. Every program, associated marketing collateral, and strategy must be developed so that all member cooperatives can benefit and take advantage of them. Overarching digital advertising, website content, and social media presence supports all member cooperatives.
For Nicor Gas, Cristina discussed the complexities of branding for an investor-owned utility under a parent company. These branding nuances affect energy efficiency programs, as well as their multicultural marketing strategy and campaign—which happened to be the 2017 MEEA Inspiring Efficiency Award Winner. Her energy efficiency marketing team developed and implemented the multicultural marketing strategy to achieve deeper reach and provide broader access to EnergySMART across Nicor Gas territory fully in alignment with brand standards.
Cristina accepting the award from Anne Carter
Cara spoke about the uniqueness of her municipal utility, City Utilities of Springfield —where the city runs the utility and is owned by its citizens. City Utilities not only provides the community with electricity, natural gas, and water, but also broadband and public transportation services. She shared a quote from Steven Stodden, Associate General Manager of Electric Supply, that I agreed really summed up how a municipal utility markets to and engages with its owners:
“By serving our customers with products and services that they may not even envision at this time, public power has a connection with our customers far different than the regulated utilities. We are owned by our customers and are part of the community. This allows us to anticipate and respond to their needs far more quickly and better than our competition. By doing the right things in the right ways at the right time is how we will survive and excel.”
This is what energy efficiency marketing is all about in my opinion: the right target, right message, right program, and right medium. And to Steven’s point, timing is also crucial!
More tools for walking the walk - MEEA got social this year
MEEA introduced a new lead retrieval app (Attendify) for this year’s MES Conference that allowed exhibitors to scan badges directly from their phones instead of using one of those large scanners. There was also a new event app for attendees (linked to the exhibitor Lead app). The event app included a way to “be social” on the app itself, as well as push to social media platforms like Twitter and Linked In. On the first day, all the top posters were MEEA staff, so I stepped up my social media game and got to the top of the list by the last day.
Panel information and links to presentation slides:
Left to right: Cara, Cristina, Janet, Kelly
Branding conveys a lot about an organization–its personality, its values, its priorities. But how can utilities integrate energy efficiency into the image they project? In this session, the marketing professionals from investor-owned, municipal and cooperative utilities will share how energy efficiency supports and shapes their brand identities.
- Janet Rehberg, Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives [Presentation PDF]
- Cristina Fernandez, Nicor Gas [Presentation PDF]
- Cara Shaefer, City Utilities of Springfield [Presentation PDF]
- Moderator: Kelly Mulder, Nexant
Because there’s nothing like looking outside our industry to give us inspiration for innovative marketing and communications:
- The Top 10 Revenue Impacting Marketing Activities [Infographic] from uberflip:– this is for B2B marketing, but still helpful for utility marketers to think about strategies that are increasingly easier to scale with inexpensive tools to manage a brand across multiple users, channels and platforms
- Also, check out the top 7 utility social media accounts to follow as researched by branding experts Jacobs & Clevenger