How E.ON repositioned as the ‘un-utility’ energy company

When E.ON wanted to promote its solar storage technology, it turned to the band Gorillaz to get across a message of technical innovation, creativity and collaboration.

As one of the big six energy companies, E.ON faces the challenge of marketing its business and brand in a category that many consumers are at best ambivalent about and at worst actively dislike.

But in 2016, the company rolled out a host of new products including new solar storage technology and it wanted to promote this tech to the masses. To do that, it felt it needed to move away from the perception of energy companies as “faceless” and in effect become an “un-utility” company.

To achieve this, E.ON and its agency WCRS partnered with the band Gorillaz, which was picked because of its technical innovation, creativity and collaborative style. To allow people to get close to the technology and physically experience it, the brand created Kong Solar Studios, a replica of Gorillaz’s original Kong Studios that was by day a fan experience and at night a solar-powered studio where up and coming talent could create music.

The campaign followed the search for talent to play in the studios and then their journey as they record a track in the studio overnight using just one charge of E.ON solar batteries. The end result was an EP hosted on Soundcloud, the creation of which was powered entirely by the sun.

The activation aimed to showcase E.ON’s solar technology in an unexpected way. And it proved so successful the company won the Branded Experiences and Event category at this year’s Marketing Week Masters Awards.

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In a notoriously low-interest sector, the aim of the event was to raise awareness of the new E.ON brand since its decision to sell off its power generation business and focus instead on sustainable energy options. WCRS thought content would work best but knew that in a saturated market traditional media was unlikely to cut through so it instead tried to make E.ON part of the discussion around popular culture.

The studio went on tour with Gorillaz around the UK, Germany and Hungary while Guardian Labs in the UK, MusikExpress in Germany and Stenk in Hungary documented the campaign. This was then amplified by social media to ensure wider reach and engagement.

The campaign led to E.ON standing out from the crowd. The online film made about the process was viewed more than 100 million times, with more than 239,000 hours of content viewed in total, leading to an 8.1% increase in website traffic.

The three original tracks created have a combined total of 82,000 streams and counting, while fans queued for more than two hours to get inside the studio.

All of this resulted in a 146% increase in brand interest and a 97% increase in creative interest in the UK. There were even higher spikes in other markets, such as Italy – where brand interest rose 443% and creative by 243%.

Perhaps most importantly, the campaign shifted people’s perceptions of E.ON from being a “boring utility company” to an “enabler of amazing energy solutions” by 94%.