The swell of activity comes after thousands of billpayers moved to dump their current provider ahead of price increases from British Gas, npower, SSE and Scottish Power. Comparison portal Moneysupermarket said the exodus helped it save householders £20m in total on their annual energy bills in October, while Uswitch recently revealed the number of customers switching providers jumped 570 per cent in the days between the first two price hike announcements.
The upswing was further accelerated by the government’s plans to curb switching times and Prime Minister David Cameron’s plea for disgruntled customers to change their suppliers.
Four of the Big Six are pushing high-profile advertising campaigns trumpeting their added value services and fixed tariffs to temper the disquiet, but the country’s smaller players are adopting a more targeted, low-cost approach to exploit the trend and grow their customer base.
First Utility is ramping up the digital support around its “Fight the Power” campaign, which aims to reduce the amount of time it takes for customers to change suppliers. The business is recruiting social media advocates to champion the cause online and has hired specialists Affilinet to help target bloggers and other influencers it can use to attract customers.
Riman Verma, digital marketing manager, First Utility says: “Energy is a very hot topic right now and will only become more so in the future. We’re on an acquisition drive at the moment and in the last month we saw 100,000 registrations on our site, that’s 50 per cent of our consumer base to date.”
The tactical push is part of wider marketing drive going into 2014 that will see the business invest further into display advertising and SEO as well broaden out into mobile search and possibly TV.
Elsewhere, green energy supplier Ecotricity is employing a more PR-intensive approach to its brand building drive that has seen it speed up the amount of content It produces around the news agenda and latest energy debates. It is backed by Facebook, Google+ and Twitter activity showcasing its chief executive’s appearances on TV alongside promotions for apps, such as “Dump the Big Six”.
Ovo is following a similar path focusing on reaching new customers through social media. The company, which lambasted the price rises from its bigger rivals at a Select Committee hearing last week, is using an “always-on” strategy to tap into online conversations mentioning the brand. It claims the move helped lift Ovo brand awareness by 13 per cent in October.
Anna-Lucy Terry, social media manager Ovo says: When energy bosses appeared in front of the [Select Committee], approximately 40 per cent of all the conversations surrounding ‘energy prices’ were Ovo related. We knew from #AskBG that dealing with such chatter in the public forum can be risky, but for us it represented an opportunity to expose our business and what makes us different–a company built by customers for customers.”
The energy firm is gearing up for a major customer acquisition push next year that has seen it create new marketing roles, including its first head of digital to shape the strategy