How One Utility Narrowed Participation and Pay Gaps for Women

How One Utility Narrowed Participation and Pay Gaps for Women

Want to create more opportunities for women in energy? “Will and determination is all you need,” says Bjarni Bjarnason, CEO of Reykjavik Energy.

Ernst & Young’s 2016 “Women in Power and Utilities Index” reveals that women constitute only 23% of North American utility non-executive directors and 21% of senior management. While this leads the world (Europe comes in second at 23% and 12%, respectively), it is still nowhere near the 51% proportion of women in the overall population. Ernst & Young’s report also highlights why gender diversity is more than a moral imperative – they found that the 20 most gender-diverse utilities outperformed the bottom 20 by 1.07% in return on equity.

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Insights from the CHARGE Energy Branding Conference

K.C. Boyce at 2016 CHARGE The Worlds First Energy Branding Conference At the end of September, I had the good fortune to present Cogent Reports’ work at the first-of-its-kind energy branding conference in Reykjavik, Iceland. The conference brought together CEOs and CMOs from utilities across the globe, and provided valuable insights into the challenges utilities face and the ways they’ve successfully overcome them. Several key themes emerged from the conference:

1. We’re All in the Same Boat

Regardless of whether utilities were state-owned or investor-owned, whether they were regulated or deregulated, or the role they played in the grid from generation to distribution, nearly every utility that presented shared common challenges that will sound familiar to U.S. utilities. These challenges included making the business case for brand (more on that in a moment), figuring out how to pivot business models, and effectively engaging consumers.

As Nick Gorgoglione, a former senior brand manager for the telecom firm Vodafone said, “We’re not an Apple. People don’t listen to us. People don’t want to listen to us.”
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Net Promoter Scores Net Nothing for Utilities

Customers Will Advocate for, but Not Recommend, Utilities

Insights Powered by Cogent Reports™    

Net Promoter Scores Net Nothing for Utilities 

As utilities continue to evaluate customer measurement scores, the most debated one I hear is regarding Net Promoter ScoresSM (NPS®). Promoters of the theory say that if a customer states he or she would recommend a company, then that company would benefit from a loyal customer base and third-party recommendations. For a retail company where customers can select a vendor, this makes perfect sense. Detractors of the measurement doubt NPS’s applicability to a monopoly where there is no choice but to use a utility for service. It is like recommending someone should use electricity.

How Accurate Is NPS in Predicting Actual Promoting Activity of a Utility?

The Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement™: Residential study surveys 130 utilities and asks the NPS recommendation question. From that data you can calculate NPS in the normal manner (% of 9–10 ratings minus % of 0–6 ratings x 100). However, the following graph shows how NPS performance in no way predicts customers making positive comments about the utility. Continue reading

Legacy Restaurant Brands Show Appetite for Millennials


In May of this year, Applebee’s introduced its “hand-cut steaks over wood-fired grill” menu. It was a $40 million investment, and it hasn’t gone too well. In fact, Q2 sales were down 4%. It seems that, as far as consumers see it, wood-fired grilled steak is a blip for a brand that needs to do more than reconfigure kitchens to grill steaks. It’s still a steak at Applebee’s, and consumers aren’t biting (so to speak).

But the question that led to the initiative was right: how do you stay relevant when Millennials shun big chains and brands? Continue reading

Brand Loyalty: Vying for the Throne

Game of Thrones

Editor’s note: This is a spoiler alert for fans of Game of Thrones (GOT). You may not want to continue reading unless, of course, you want an entertaining way of looking at what drives brand allegiance.

Like 8.9 million other people, I sat riveted to my television when the season finale of GOT aired. If you’ve never seen the show or read the novels, here’s a quick, overly-simplistic synopsis: There exists a large kingdom called Westeros. The king of Westeros dies. Many others vie for the throne, each with a considerably decent claim to it. Not surprisingly, few are open to reasonable, sit-down discussions to determine whose claim is best, and thus, things must be decided the old-fashioned way: war.  To win a war, you need an army. And to obtain an army, you need loyal subjects. Thus, one could say the content of five books/six seasons of TV follows each individual’s story as he or she attempts to win over others to his/her side. I’m on Team Dany. Daenerys “Dany” Targaryen’s family ruled Westeros for thousands of years before the now deceased king took over. Although legacy isn’t everything, her lineage gives her a lot of street cred.  If I lived in the seven kingdoms, I would certainly declare for Daenerys as Queen of Westeros—and according to the end of the season finale, several thousand others agree.

But it took a while for Daenerys to achieve this support. How did she go from being a frightened girl with a wish to rule in Season One to a confident woman with an impressive legion of backers in Season Six? What is it about her, her decisions or her journey that inspired such loyalty?

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The Participant is in Charge

Businessman Filling Survey Form

I had the pleasure of attending “How Advertising Works Now: The Consumer and Customer in Charge,” a really cool event run by The Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) in Minneapolis last week. The day was hosted by UnitedHealth Group (UHG) at a facility owned by its Optum brand. This was very appropriate as the day focused a good deal on data, analytics and creating meaningful insights—a bit like Optum. Of course, these are issues we focus on every day—how to best use the data at our fingertips to help clients make confident business decisions.

While Market Strategies has a long history in advertising and communications research, this event featured some great speakers and original research that the ARF had commissioned, so even for those of us who have been in the business a long time, it was of great interest.

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Brand Resurgence: Don’t Call it a Comeback

2016-01-lincolnOver the last couple of months, I’ve noticed some brands in the midst of resurgence in their marketplace. While doing so, the immortal words of LL Cool J have rung out in my head (as old-school rap songs are sometimes wont to do):

Don’t call it a comeback
I been here for years
Rockin’ my peers and puttin’ suckas in fear

There are a number of “brands”—whether celebrity, automotive, retail or consumer packaged goods—that have been on the rise in the past year or so. When such a brand revival happens, I’m drawn to dig into the reasons behind the resurgence. What allows an older (and sometimes waning) brand to capture the attention of newer, younger fans and customers? Let’s look at a couple of examples and explore why their brand health may be trending up.

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Hold the Phone!

Not Everyone Hates Contracts   

Telecom Brand Love

Editor’s Note: This is the third post of a three-part blog series that examines how changes in the wireless industry have led to commoditization and what carriers must do to truly differentiate. Register for our December 17 Telecom Brand Love webinar now.

The past two years have brought a seismic shift in the US wireless telecom industry. Market Strategies has been writing about how this once highly differentiated marketplace has been transforming into a sea of beige, making it difficult for customers to differentiate between providers. T-Mobile is doing a brilliant job delivering on its brand promise to customers, but other carriers seem to be following suit instead of honoring their own brand promise. By jumping on the no-contract, one-size-fits-all bandwagon, carriers may be missing an opportunity to understand the generational and lifetime value differences of their own customers.

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To Contract or Not to Contract

Telecom Brand LoveEditor’s Note: This is the second post of a three-part blog series that examines how changes in the wireless industry have led to commoditization and what carriers must do to truly differentiate. Register for our December 17 Telecom Brand Love webinar now.

Living in a more rural suburb in Atlanta, I am used to not having the most cutting edge technologies available at my home. This is why I was incredibly excited to learn yesterday that AT&T was finally offering U-verse to my address—and, even better, it isn’t just standard U-verse but U-verse with GigaPower for Internet speeds up to 1Gbps! GigaPower is 40 times as fast as what I currently have with Xfinity, and the promotional pricing for GigaPower is actually $7 cheaper than what I currently pay.

Seems like a no brainer to fire Xfinity and sign up with AT&T, right? It’s not that easy.

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Why do dissatisfied customers stay with their wireless carrier?

Telecom Brand Love

Editor’s Note: This is the first post of a three-part blog series that examines how changes in the wireless industry have led to commoditization and what carriers must do to truly differentiate. Register for our December 17 Telecom Brand Love webinar now.

The best reason to remain a loyal customer is because you’re receiving exemplary service and support. However, looking at the American Customer Satisfaction Index, it is evident that wireless carriers are not overwhelmingly satisfying their customers. In fact, the wireless telecom industry scored lower for overall satisfaction than every other industry except for other telecom specialties (including ISPs, Pay TV and wireline phone) and the government. Despite these low ratings, the wireless industry continues to have extremely low churn rates. So, if customers aren’t satisfied, then what is driving low churn rates?

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