The batteries in the old Mercury brand had become a little flat, so the marketing team decided it was time to give the business a jolt of new (wonderful) energy.
To say the energy market is over- supplied would be an understatement. There are 35 power companies operating across New Zealand, all offering slight variations on exactly the same product. In light of this, the local market has come to be regarded as one of the most competitive in the world and this plays out with power companies adopting aggressive pricing strategies as they vie against each other for business. And as customers bounce from company to company in search of the best deal, annual industry churn has risen to an average of 20 percent per annum.
Around a year ago, the marketing team behind Mercury Energy felt that they had to find a way to offer more than just price. The problem, however, was that the old setup of Mercury Energy retailing electricity and its parent Mighty River Power generating it had lost salience with consumers. While both brands were well established and trusted, they were considered old-fashioned and traditional. This antiquity was perhaps best summarised by the old Mercury Energy logo, which featured the Roman God Jupiter wielding a lightning bolt. It just wasn’t quite as relevant as it once was. What’s more is that consumers couldn’t connect the dots between the two organisations; despite depending on one another, Mercury and Mighty River Power were seen as independent companies.
Mercury chief marketing officer Julia Jack knew that if the company was to extend its competitive advantage beyond price, the team would need to ameliorate the lack of salience and cohesiveness in the brand.
More than a logo
Rebranding efforts can sometimes be reduced to simply slapping a new logo onto an existing brand and leaving everything else unchanged. However, this was not such a case. From the outset, Jack and her team knew they had to do more than retire the long- serving Roman God. So, they set out to completely transform what the brand represented and give New Zealanders something they could actually believe in.
Mighty River Power and Mercury were conflated under a single banner, removing all doubt that the companies were related. The old brand livery was replaced by a slick new design, featuring a simple illustration of a bee. And the company rolled out an eye-catching campaign that starred a young New Zealand woman easily navigating the nation’s hilly terrain with the help of an e-bike. None of these decisions were random.
“We built the brand and all the things we are delivering under it by asking our customers what they wanted from Mercury, and we engaged them every step of the way – including choosing our bee logo,” Jack recently said in a statement celebrating the first year of the new brand.
The symbol of the bee along with the e- bike played beautifully into Mercury’s positioning as a power companies that relies only on renewable energy sources. It was a classic creative example of showing rather than telling. Mercury showed it cared by placing emphasis on a creature integral to environmental sustainability and by becoming a champion of e- bikes.
This narrative was tied together under the new slogan ‘Energy Made Wonderful’, an infectiously positive platform that strives to show how sustainable energy can make the world a better place.
Sweet, sweet success
Looking at the results, it’s somewhat fitting that Mercury chose the bee as its symbol because the new brand is really working its butt off for the company. Within the first 12 months, Mercury has beaten every objective set to measure the success of the brand: awareness, consideration, likability, positive sentiment, customer satisfaction, acquisition, staff engagement, website visits, interaction, engagement and product attachment.
These measures have also translated into commercial success, with Mercury achieving a net gain of over 18,000 customer connections in the 12 months through to June 2017— a massive turnaround for a company that was losing customers before then.
Customer satisfaction is also at an all- time high, and the company currently has the lowest customer switching rate in the market. While the industry average still sits at around 19.8 percent, Mercury’s churn rate has dropped to 13.5 percent. To put the value of this into perspective, each percentage point under the industry average accounts for $ 1.2 million in avoided replacement costs (totalling $ 7.6 million).
“Our customers are voting with their feet by choosing to stay with us in record numbers,” Jack says. “That’s the real sign that our brand and how we put it into action is hitting the mark.”
Beyond the initial buzz
When the new brand first launched, Jack said that she wanted to “flip the industry model” and show that it was possible to keep customers loyal in spite of the constant price wars. The retention figures at the brand certainly suggest that the company has achieved that. But Jack knows that as quickly as the industry can be flipped one way, it can also bounce back to what it once was. For this reason, the team isn’t resting on its laurels just yet.
“We’ll continue to build on the work we’ve already done but, above all, we’ll keep asking and listening to our customers so we can continue to make energy wonderful for them,” Jack says.
The point she makes here is that even the best brands require continuous work. Relevance is a fluid concept that can depart almost as quickly as it arrived. For the Mercury brand to remain as engaging as it currently is, the marketing team will have to build on the foundations they currently have. And every adjustment that’s made should always be informed by what would improve the customer’s experience.
Rest assured, the bee at the centre is not quite done buzzing yet. There’s still work to do. For now, however, the team can take some time out to find a little space on the mantelpiece for the three Marketing Awards trophies they’ve won for their efforts over the last year.
Our customers are voting with their feet by choosing to stay with us in record numbers. ------- JULIA JACK