Magazine article Marketing

Energy Goes into Efficiency

Magazine article Marketing

Energy Goes into Efficiency

Article excerpt

Energy brands are shifting away from green marketing to more credible themes.

EDF's decision to review its sustainability-driven marketing strategy (Marketing, 12 May) may mark a turning point in energy firms' use of environmental themes in their advertising.

Only a few years ago, it was the norm for these companies to base big campaigns on their latest 'renewables' project, such as E.ON's 2007 'Winds of change' ad publicising its Robin Rigg Wind Farm off the coast of Scotland.

However, it is EDF that has been most committed to communicating its 'green' credentials, through both its sponsorship of the London 2012 Games and last year's much-derided 'Green Britain Day' initiative.

Yet, the marketing focus taken by rivals, including British Gas, RWE-owned Npower and E.ON on energy efficiency and cutting customers' bills, rather than saving the planet, has forced EDF to reconsider its strategy across Europe.

The recent BP oil-rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has reinforced the argument that green claims should not be made lightly. Although it has not pushed the message for several years, BP has been accused of hypocrisy over its 'Beyond Petroleum' positioning.

Honesty the best policy

Jeremy Davies, director of brand and communications at E.ON, now concedes that using flowery images of an ecological utopia will do little to convince consumers, and that energy companies must be more honest about how their businesses work.

'Consumers are not that dumb: an energy company is a big emitter of carbon,' he says. 'People were surprised with our 'Why?' campaign (about why an energy provider would want customers to use less energy), but it is about being transparent, clear and bold.'

There has been a clear shift in behaviour from brands, according to Jo Kenrick, who heads the Marketing Society's May Day Alliance - an initiative aimed at ensuring greater transparency in green claims in marketing.

She says that brands previously entered sustainability projects thinking 'we should tell people about it', even though they were not particularly significant, but now view sustainability as more of a business challenge than a communication opportunity.

'All that marketing is the wrapping paper. …

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