EEC Perspectives

Utility Marketing: Creating a Value Proposition That Resonates

Credit: The New Yorker

What, if anything, can utility marketers learn from companies that are not in the business of providing electricity, natural gas or water? Longtime readers know my views on that: lessons are everywhere, from insurance companies to football teams, airlines and telecommunications companies. You just have to be open to the potential that some company not engaged in the provision of utility services could have a meaningful insight that could affect utility marketing.

“You could observe a lot by just watching,” Yogi Berra (right) once said. I was reminded of that particular head-scratcher the other day, when I was standing in line in my local credit union.

Normally I conduct business at the credit union using their drive-through window, but on this particular day I had to transact a more complicated piece of business. I thought I would be out the door quickly, so I left my mobile device in the car. Deprived of that omnipresent tool of digital distraction, I found myself checking out the newly remodeled credit union branch.

I observed a lot just by watching.

Utility Marketing: Learning from a Non-utility

The walls of the Elevations Credit Union are adorned with posters, banks of video displays and a new slogan  —  “It matters where you bank.” The copy Read more »

What if Plato was Your Energy Communications Consultant?

Credit: Wikipedia Commons

“Thought leadership” is a term you hear a lot these days. I’ve penned a few “thought leadership” pieces over the years. But today, I thought I’d go back and ask, only slightly tongue in cheek, what recommendations Plato (left) and Aristotle might make if they were your energy communications consultant.

I think you’ll find their words of wisdom, spoken over 2,000 years ago, remain highly applicable today.

Though I’m sure I didn’t feel this way at the time, I was fortunate to read Plato as a college student. The Greek philosopher explored (among other things) rhetoric, or the art of persuasion. What Plato called a rhetorician would today be called a communications consultant or advertising agency creative director.

Plato’s teacher, Socrates, was put to death by the leader of Athens. He was accused of being a rhetorician. His accusers said Socrates made weak arguments seem strong, and strong arguments seem weak. Then and now, a skilled user of rhetoric could be a serious threat to the established order.

Athenian leaders didn’t target mathematicians or natural scientists, people who calculated spatial relationships or documented observable facts. Instead, they executed a wordsmith because he had the power to persuade.

That’s a little scary if you’re a wordsmith like me. While a character in Shakespeare advocated killing all the lawyers, it looks like Athenian authorities wanted to off all the ancient world’s speechwriters, messaging gurus, advertising folks and image-makers because they had the power to convince people that black was white, up was down, truth was falsehood and beauty was ugly.

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Utilities, Do More Face-to-Face Public Engagement!

I’m not much for poetry — I know, my loss — but one poem that did make a lasting impression on me was Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” which I learned in Mr. Gagliardi’s 7th grade English class at St. Theresa’s School in Briarcliff Manor, New York. The poem ended this way:

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

Looking back, that poem helped awaken a character trait of going against the grain. Lots of people root for the underdog or cheer for the Cinderella team. But I went beyond that. I stopped listening to certain musical groups when they became too popular. I often don’t go to movies (such as animated flicks) that are wildly popular. And I delight in exploring the less-traveled path.

Over the last year, I have learned that some energy companies are exploring a less-well-traveled path when it comes to public engagement. Our just-released market research report, Juggling Chainsaws: 2017 Survey of Utility Communicators and Marketers, shows that many utilities are investing more and more of their money, effort and faith in using digital tools like social media, video, chat and text, to connect with customers.

Credit: iStock

But a few utilities are taking the less-well-traveled path: while they are becoming more digital, they also are cultivating something pre-digital, even pre-historic: direct, face-to-face (F2F) public engagement.

You remember F2F, right? That’s when one person actually spoke directly to another, face-to-face, without electronic intermediaries. So 20th century, right? Nope. And because it is effective as well as cost effective, some utilities are starting to pay attention.

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