E.ON looks to challenge sector norms with an ‘un-utility’ marketing approach

E.ON’s new marketing campaign aims to show consumers why it’s more than a utilities provider by focusing on the potential of new energy sources.

E.ON is trying to shift consumers typically negative perceptions of the utility sector by showing it is more than purely a gas and electricity provider and how it is working towards a more sustainable future.

Belinda Moore, the company’s board-level marketing and communications director, says the brand is looking to adopt an “un-utility” approach to its campaigns as she marks her first anniversary in the role.

Moore explains that ‘un-utility’ refers to not only changing what customers think about E.ON but doing so by challenging norms within the sector while asking themselves what they can do differently and how they can be seen differently.

“In the same way as we’ve transformed our company over the last couple of years, becoming known for more than gas and electricity supplies, we’re working to transform our brand to truly represent the help we can give our customers today and in the future,” she tells Marketing Week.

Its new campaign first airs today (9 March) during Gogglebox and will appear on ITV thereafter. Created by Engine and called ‘The Big Dip’ it shows Barcelona’s city streets transformed into a giant swimming pool that is sustainably heated by E.ON’s air source heat pumps.

E.ON actually heated an Olympic-sized swimming pool using this new tech, which harnesses energy in the air, combined with electricity, to heat homes and hot water. And while this might feel a world away from most people’s experience of their utilities company, Moore says the campaign is designed to demonstrate what the energy provider can do on a much larger scale.

“[The campaign] mirrors the bold and pioneering approach that we want to bring to our customers’ lives by offering exciting new ways of engaging with energy – creating smarter homes, more sustainable solutions or simply better supporting their individual energy needs,” Moore says.

According to Moore, the campaign, while focused on heat pumps, shows how “amazing things” can be done with energy. She also touched on the company’s  broader efforts such as working on electric vehicles that will help make low carbon transport a reality while also growing solar and battery technologies to boost sustainable living.

We’ll never please everybody. We’re an easy target.

Belinda Moore, E.ON

“We want to show customers what we can do, from the basic entry point such as installing a boiler in your home that will keep you warm to the most extreme, such as creating heat from thin air,” Moore says.

“It’s really about keeping people intrigued, and helping customers find out more about what we can do that’s good for them.”

Moore says one of the things she’s been working on since joining E.ON 12 months ago is its purpose, and what story the company wants to develop.

“We’re focused on personalised energy solutions, and what’s right for you might not be right for someone else. It’s not a one-size fits all approach,” she says.

While she claims that E.ON can’t compete with the likes of British Gas and SSE in terms of marketing spend, E.ON will use TV, cinema and digital platforms, as well as share its behind the scenes footage of the making of the campaign on social media.

“We’ll use whatever channel is right for our customers and go as broad as we possibly can to make this step change,” Moore says.

“On top of changing perceptions of the brand we’ve always had an on strategy of attracting new customers as well as retaining existing customers and we hope to do this by helping them think differently, showing a voice, challenging norms and disrupting the sector.

“It’s not necessarily about the price of a thermostat, but instead trying to find products and services that appeal to our customers’ own needs,” she says.

Moore admits being in the utilities sector can be difficult. According to YouGov BrandIndex, E.ON has an Index score (which is a balance of metrics including quality, value and satisfaction) of zero, above its big six rivals but behind newer players. And the government is looking to tackle the issue of price with a mooted price cap for the sector.

And Moore says: “We’ll never please everybody. We’re an easy target.”

In terms of the company’s direction going forward, Moore says her previous roles in the healthcare and FMCG sectors has helped E.ON become more customer centric. And she is using that to help E.ON make the transition from talking about product to thinking about its brand, why it does things and how it articulates that.

While E.ON is one of the ‘big six’, it’s the smaller utilities companies that Moore thinks they can learn from. For instance, E.ON plans to introduce a new interactive platform called ‘Heartbeat’, which is essentially a live customer feedback service and something the smaller players are using.

“With more than 60 players in the market place it’s about being ahead of the game,” Moore says. “As new players within the market get bigger, they acquire new customers and I think we have a lot to learn from them.

“And I believe it’s just as important that we maintain that surprise element around what we can do.”