Npower: 'We needed to earn the right to engage with customers'

Npower: moving away from price-focused marketing
Npower: moving away from price-focused marketing

Npower is preparing a major marketing drive to convey what it describes as a new, "customer-centric" approach to business.

The energy brand has appointed McCann Manchester as its lead creative agency, with a significant consumer campaign expected over the next six months.

The aim of the campaign will be to drive a new brand positioning, distinguishing Npower from its "pack" of rivals, such as British Gas, E.On and EDF Energy. The overall strategy has been developed with branding agency Interbrand.

It follows a quiet 18 month for Npower – last year, its adspend dropped to just £3m, according to figures from Nielsen, compared to an annual spend of more than £8m in 2011.

Debbie BrittonMarketing director Debbie Britton (right), who joined the company from insurer Axa in January 2012, told Marketing that the company needed to "earn the right" to have a dialogue with consumers.

She said: "We’ve been working really hard over the last 12 months to fix the basics.

""Nobody is going to love energy companies, but what we want to earn is the right to be trusted and respected. Until the reputational side has been rebuilt, you don’t even earn the right to engage in that way.

"We've had to turn around a lot of things, and we’re now in a position where we are doing that and putting the customer at the heart of our business. That gives us an opportunity to shape what we say externally, and it won’t just be about the latest offers or prices."

Lack of understanding

Under the guidance of previous marketing director Kevin Peake, Npower had dedicated a large portion of its marketing budget to sports sponsorship properties, such as domestic Test cricket and a three-year deal as title sponsor of the Football League, which expired this summer.

Our challenge is to build a brand that is recognised for its own personality in the market.

Britton argued that the brand’s previous "me-too" approach had led to a lack of understanding from consumers: "[In the energy sector] you put your hands over the logo and you just cannot tell them apart. That’s where we were as a sector and therein lays our challenge – to build a brand which has distinction that is recognised for its own personality in the market."

The positioning will be rolled out internally over the coming months, to create a "consistent" tone of voice across all customer touchpoints, as part of Npower’s plan to become the "number-one" brand in its sector for customer service by the end of 2015.

Britton said: "We think we’re on to a brand proposition which has a long life. You only do this once, ideally, for a number of years. I think we’ve got something that we can get behind as an organisation."

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