The Value of Brand Trust to Utilities

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In competitive markets, brand strength has long been associated with positive business outcomes, including growing revenue through increased market share, elevated pricing power and higher customer loyalty. While market share and customer loyalty haven’t historically been things utilities think about, they are taking on a new strategic importance as the tectonic plates underpinning the 21st century energy market continue to shift.

Utilities are beginning to manage their brands to support the new market challenges they face—from implementing new rate structures to figuring out how to sustain financial growth. Successfully navigating these challenges requires strong brands with enough emotional leverage to persuade consumers to come along on the journey to a new energy future.

Our Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement study, now in its sixth year, focuses on the impact of brand on customer engagement for the utility industry, making Market Strategies-Morpace the undisputed leader in brand insights for utilities. Through this research, we’ve identified three elements of brand value for utilities:

  1. Enhanced pricing power via customer support for higher rates.
  2. Revenue growth by capturing market share for new product offerings not protected by the utility’s monopoly position.
  3. Lower risk of customer and load defection as customers consider distributed energy resources and dis-intermediators.

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Superpowers and Princesses: A Three-minute Lesson on Projective Exercises

Superpowers and Princesses: A Three-Minute Lesson on Projective ExercisesProjective exercises—the presentation of calibrated stimuli onto which a respondent projects their feelings, attitudes or beliefs—are a critical asset in the qualitative researcher’s emotional toolbox. The technique offers the promise of achieving greater depth and validity of insight by facilitating expression of subconscious or difficult-to-articulate feelings that are less accessible using direct “Q&A.”

But what makes for a good projective exercise?

We put learning into action at a recent market research conference by testing a series of probes that revealed some lessons about projectives.

First, we asked visitors to our booth to help us learn about, “What makes great qualitative research.” We then invited them to post onto a chalkboard their reactions to a probe related to the goal of understanding how to deliver great qualitative research. Our lesson on projectives focuses on contrasting two of several probes that we asked:

  1. What is your qualitative superpower?
  2. What Disney princess would make a great moderator?

Before reading on, what do you notice about these questions? Is one easier for you to answer? Do you suspect one would elicit superior insights vs. the other? Let’s explore what we observed and discuss why one question might better achieve the promise of projective techniques. Continue reading

The Power of Brand Identity Research

The Power of Brand Identity ResearchEvery impression counts when promoting and maintaining a successful business, and managing your brand identity is a major factor in that success. Whether it’s your logo, your website or your business cards, your customers build an impression of your company through every interaction they have with it. Each touchpoint adds up to create your brand image. But in today’s dynamic digital market, customers have more ways than ever to engage with brands.

New and evolving technologies demand that businesses account for the myriad of platforms that can promote as well as demote their brand. Brand research across a diverse range of markets has shown that your customers’ opinions, needs and expectations can turn on a dime, particularly in the court of social media. As a result, the challenge for businesses is to navigate these platforms to ensure they don’t get lost in the crowd, or worse, stand out for all of the wrong reasons.

What Is Brand Identity and Brand Image?

Brand identity is the way a business defines itself to their target audience. Every element that helps define your brand, from name and logo to color scheme and even the language you use to communicate with your audience come together to create your overall brand identity.

On the other hand, your brand image is the perception that customers have of your brand. It is the aggregate of every experience, interaction and association that people have with your organization. Continue reading

Going Beyond Consideration

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Understanding the Institutional Investor Journey When Selecting an Asset Manager

Institutional investors yield considerable decision-making power and often involve an extensive list of resources in their process of vetting and hiring a new asset manager. The firms vying for attention need to effectively differentiate yet not over-complicate their unique value propositions. Given the intensity of competition in the institutional market, asset managers need to make the most of every potential mandate to position themselves to win new assets. While many struggle with the challenges of building brand awareness to even get a chance to be considered, the most successful firms arm their sales, relationship management and product teams with insight on the decision-making process in order to maximize their opportunities of being selected.

Common triggers prompting asset manager searches include multiple periods of underperformance, investment team turnover, style drift, and corporate merger/acquisition activity. That said, new-manager hires are not always the result of the need to replace an incumbent, as institutional investors and consultants are open to opportunistic searches for new strategies that could enhance the overall portfolio. While performance and price along with familiarity and strength of the brand are integral in the evaluation of asset managers, a variety of more subjective factors weigh heavily in the final selection decision.

In the process of hiring an asset manager, all institutional investors follow a similar journey, with each type bringing its own nuances to the overall process. Along the journey, asset managers can leverage a number of points of influence to maximize their potential for selection. The people and additional sources of information also involved in the journey vary by type of institution, offering opportunities for asset managers to target their ongoing outreach to specific audiences. For example, consultant recommendations are by far the most influential factor for defined benefit (DB) pensions, yet peer recommendations, either formal or word-of-mouth, can be a gateway for endowments.

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Advisors’ Top Reason for Selling Annuities

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Amid Rising Sales, Advisors Cite Guaranteed Retirement Income as Top Reason for Selling Annuity Products

Annuity sales are rebounding and advisors expect to maintain, or even increase, their use of annuity products in the near future. At the same time, the composition of advisors is changing, as many advisors shift further toward fee-based compensation models. Annuity providers have an opportunity to support advisors using a variety of compensation models through this transition while highlighting the important benefits annuity products can bring to advisors and their clients.

When asked how important a list of factors was as reasons for selling annuities to clients, advisors cite the ability to generate guaranteed income in retirement as the top factor. In fact, over three-quarters (76%) of advisors, regardless of compensation type, cite this factor as very important. Diving into different types of annuities reveals that retirement income products and guaranteed rates are also among the leading consideration drivers for variable and fixed annuities, respectively.  Continue reading

Dear Energy Santa: Three Wishes for Energy Utilities

Dear Energy Santa Three Wishes for Energy UtilitiesWith digital transformation occurring at breakneck pace, it is time to shift gears. Our wish list revolves around reinvigorating your brand and your approach to customer experience so that more people can “believe” in you again.

You may be asking; why wouldn’t we just add some shiny new toys to engage customers? Isn’t that what we asked for last year? While shiny new toys have their place in this strategy, we are inundated with new gadgets and technologies and the immediate data and information they offer, though the ongoing relationship and experiences we have with you are not changing as much to keep up with the trend. We know you are making strides to introduce new interaction and communication technologies to improve our relationship, though our experience appears to be stuck in neutral.

We communicate with each other only a handful of times each year and you do not always provide us with what we desire. Since we have a strong desire to freshen and update our relationship with you—and, in turn, improve the relationship our customers have with the energy industry—it is time you start considering a new approach. Continue reading

How Energy Utility Brands Should Develop KPIs

How Energy Utility Brands Should Develop KPIs As utilities face increasing deregulation and competition from distributed generation, they need to refocus their key performance indicators (KPIs) on metrics that describe customer actions and sentiment rather than on the somewhat passive metric of operational satisfaction.

Recently, utility executives have been asking us to help them develop or evolve their KPIs to include Customer Effort, Customer Advocacy, Net Promoter Score® (NPS) and Ease of Doing Business. Given that the industry is primarily monopolistic, this presents some unique challenges in identifying KPIs that provide effective and useful metrics for utilities today. Continue reading

How Your Brick-and-Mortar Retail Store Can Survive the Online Retail Wave

How Brick and Mortar Retail Can Survive the Online WaveThere’s no doubt that online sales are growing. In fact, at 16%, online retail sales growth is swiftly outpacing in-store sales growth, which stands at 3.4%. But before you close up shop, consider the other side of this story: Most of that growth is attributed to brick-and-mortar retailers adding online sales to their mix. Plus, when it comes to total sales, brick-and-mortar stores lead the way. In 2017, in-store sales increased by $152.7 billion, while ecommerce and online sales increased by only $62.5 billion.

So, while the Amazon effect is very real, it’s not as scary as it seems. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore the fact that digital is woven into the daily lives of your customers, or that many of them enjoy the ease and convenience of shopping for some of their favorite items from the comfort of their own couch.

What it does mean is that if you want your customers to continue visiting your brick-and-mortar store, you’ll need to make a few changes. Continue reading

The Financial and Emotional Upside of Marketing to Caregivers

The Financial and Emotional Upside of Marketing to CaregiversHealthcare marketers may be talking to the people who use their products—but are they talking to the people who buy their products? It’s an important distinction, and in many cases, these two stakeholders may not be the same.

In a recent self-funded study, the healthcare research team at Market Strategies International-Morpace honed in on how caregivers interact with healthcare services and products in relation to the loved one they care for. The results are striking in their implications for healthcare marketers. Nearly one-third (29%) of the adult population is responsible for caring for another adult with a debilitating medical condition. Of this group, 52% buy over the counter (OTC) medications for their loved one and in many cases without their loved one’s input—which begs the question, why aren’t more healthcare marketers actively trying to connect with caregivers?

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Financial Planning Games: Financial Advisors Compete Head-to-head with Planning Websites

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My firm’s CEO, Melissa Sauter, lives by the motto, “fail to plan, plan to fail,” and encourages her employees to do so as well. Based on life’s often harsh lessons around preparation, “fail to plan, plan to fail” seems to resonate with most people, including affluent investors, as more than half (58%) report having a financial plan and another one in five (19%) is currently working on one.

However, 17% of investors with at least $100,000 in investable assets admit to not having started to make a financial plan, including about one in five investors ages 54 to 62, arguably beyond the ideal time to already have a financial plan in place.

Financial planning is the act of creating a plan where you establish a set of goals in your life and figure out how much money it will take to achieve them. This involves saving money, investing, and getting insurance to protect you and your loved ones. It also includes having legal documents created in the event of an emergency so that your family is prepared.

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