SAN FRANCISCO: Continued utility deregulation is forcing utilities, traditionally not a group mindful of their public image, to pay as much attention to their brand as to their product.
SAN FRANCISCO: Continued utility deregulation is forcing utilities,
traditionally not a group mindful of their public image, to pay as much
attention to their brand as to their product.
Just a few years ago, utilities were not concerned with branding - after
all, they were providing a commodity product in a regulated
But with deregulation, the stakes are higher.
’As deregulation brings increased competition and pricing pressure,
utilities with strong brand names will have an edge in attracting
customers and extending into new business areas,’ said James Gregory,
CEO of consultancy Corporate Branding, which ranks utilities based on
their branding effectiveness.
Senior execs at Pacific Gas & Electric, traditionally one of the
highest-ranked energy companies in terms of branding and media presence,
said they were concerned with corporate brand recognition years before
deregulation of the energy industry made identity an issue. Of course,
the fact that the company delivers natural gas and electricity to one in
every 20 Americans hasn’t hurt either.
’Our awareness of corporate reputation and identity goes back decades
before corporate branding was in vogue,’ said Greg Pruett, VP of
corporate communications at parent company PG&E Corp.
Despite efforts by companies such as PG&E, Delahaye MediaLink director
of research K.C. Brown predicted that true widespread brand recognition
of utilities will not occur for at least a few years. ’Right now,
deregulation is still going on, so you have all of these companies
attempting to position themselves,’ he said. ’What’s generating brand
image on a national level right now are mergers and acquisitions.’
Meanwhile, although PG&E retained the top spot in Corporate Branding’s
annual ranking of utilities, Gregory said scores among all utilities
were low simply because they possess very weak corporate brands. For
example, PG&E’s corporate brand power score of 26.3 is more than doubled
by Ford’s score of 64.6 and FedEx’s 70.5.
PG&E’s Pruett countered that Americans are more conscious of
consumer-oriented products and services than they are of energy
providers - a fact he believes will continue to change as more and more
states deregulate their utilities.
’You’re seeing sponsorships in ways you’ve never heard of before,
including stadiums,’ Brown said. ’Texas Utilities is now TXU. Houston
Industries is now Reliant. A lot of people have no idea what the brand
is, but they’re starting to learn the names.’