Consumer focus: The marketing shift in energy

Driven by industry standards of cost effective efficiency, reliability, and safety the business of energy has long utilized a successful marketing model of conservative supplier to a passive consumer. While this approach has traditionally offered a coveted level of profit and stability, a rapidly evolving market is shifting this concept of business as usual.

Today’s energy industry faces an array of unprecedented challenges and opportunities. Driving new business imperatives are internal and external complexities such as regulatory compliance, renewables, advanced technologies and an engagement motivated consumer base. 

Ahead of the curve will be companies that are positioning themselves as consumer first responders. Through an enriched marketing culture of engagement the energy industry has the opportunity to build an asset once primarily reserved for consumer majors such as The Coca Cola Company, brand loyalty.

Reflective of this shift and its opportunities are the changes being implemented by industry marketing bests such as the McDonnell Group.  An integrated marketing firm for the energy industry, McDonnell Group recently completed a refresh and expansion of its services. The result of an extensive customer survey, the changes implemented allow the firm to offer an ecosystem of dynamic solutions centered on engagement

"The way the energy industry markets itself is changing," said McDonnell Group CEO Don McDonnell. "Now more than ever, utilities and technology providers are looking to align strategy for a marketplace characterized by new sources of energy, response to storms and climate change, aging infrastructure, and the realization that the era of consumer engagement is upon us. When our clients asked us to expand our services to help them more, it was a very easy decision to make."

Through its advisory board, a team made up of local and national energy leaders, McDonnell Group is modeling a responsive business strategy aimed at providing its clients with a competitive advantage. In line with this, the firm has also recently announced the addition of Penny McIntyre to their advisory board.

McIntyre’s appointment stands out because of what she brings to the table, an extensive and expert knowledge of the consumer goods industry.  Her perspectives into the global energy market are through the lens of more than 25 years of executive level marketing experience at Fortune 500 companies such as Newell Rubbermaid and SC Johnson Wax.

Following the announcement of her appointment PennEnergy had the opportunity to speak with McIntyre about what brought her to the McDonnell Group and how she envisioned the role of consumer engagement in the growth of the energy industry. Her feedback mirrored the trending initiatives of thought leaders such as the McDonnell Group, consumers are no longer satisfied with a passive role and the industry needs to adapt.

“McDonnell Group is actively bridging the gap between utilities and their customers, turning a keen focus towards engaging consumers in two-way dialogue,” said McIntyre of her appointment to the firm’s advisory board.

When asking if she thought the energy industry could successfully market its services in the same way as recognized consumer goods majors, McIntyre expressed not only did she believe they could, but that they must.

“The consumer expectation is one of interaction to fulfill a need,” McIntyre told PennEnergy. “Consumers need to understand the purpose and vision behind a commodity.”

She went on to explain that a robust understanding of the consumer is what will allow the energy industry to make the necessary shift from base provider to a necessary benefit in the consumer mind-space and in building a strong brand.

To get started McIntyre spoke to energy companies first establishing clear messaging to connect with their customers. But what’s the message?  To find out she said the industry need only leverage the volumes of data these sectors were already exposed to under their existing business structures. She stressed it was not a matter of discarding existing methods and data, but enhancing these through consumer driven strategies.

“What is needed is a robust understanding of the consumer. Getting in touch with the needs of different customer segments will allow the right messaging to be matched with the right group, for the right purpose” McIntyre shared.

“This shift does not represent a revolution in what companies are providing, but a revolution in how those services will be viewed and used. This can be a triple win - for consumers, utilities and the environment,” McIntyre concluded.

The message for the energy industry appears to be one of extending its value chain by extending customer engagement. By utilizing customer data, energy companies can meet traditional business imperatives while effectively targeting customers to meet evolving ones. It’s all a matter of applied perspective and there are many lessons to be taken from traditional consumer marketing for the oil & gas, electric power and technology industries.

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