1. Market situation
While historically driven by monopolism, the energy market in Belgium is one of the most competitive ones in Europe. Liberalization of the market has led to the entrance of many players, all claiming their fair share of the market. Government pressure on prices and the entry of challengers (e.g. MEGA) has made the market and the consumer highly price sensitive. As a result, switching behavior in the energy market is on an all-time high (VREG, 2019), causing high churn losses and lowering profit margins.
This highly competitive market puts ENGIE's business under high pressure. To escape the commodity trap and protect market leadership, ENGIE needs to evolve from a commodity supplier to an energy provider focused on added value energy-services (heating, solar, mobility, home battery, smart home). These services are not solely a source of additional revenue, their success is a fundamental condition for sustainable future growth. Shifting the business model from commodity to services is not a quick fix but a long term ambition, requiring a focused marketing and communication plan, simplified in 2 steps.
- Being recognized as a service provider, starts with a clear vision for the brand, shaking off the dominant Electrabel heritage and proving its differentiation in a clear and compelling brand positioning. This strategy led to the launch of UP in 2019, a clear brand ambition uniting all Belgians behind one common goal; becoming a sustainable energy champion.
- Only, ambition alone does not suffice to turn a business around. Besides a clear purpose, people also need the right arguments and guidance to act upon their own energy situation and start investing in energy-services for their lives and homes. Turning intention into decision and belief into concrete action. Creating an UP-movement was the second step of the ENGIE turn-around, translated into a marketing and communication roadmap for 2020, with planned initiatives (e.g. Batibouw, but also Pop-Up stores throughout the country) to engage, activate and guide people in the world of energy transition.
But when in March 2020, a national lockdown was announced, these plans came abruptly to an end. Just like the entire world, the movement created by UP literally came to a halt and ENGIE was faced with an unprecedented challenge; how to create involvement for an UP movement when the entire country is at a standstill?
The success and risk of the campaign relied within a very strong understanding of people's needs and sentiment during lockdown. Being off-insight could not only damage ENGIE but also compromise the efforts and results of the UP ambition so far. Here is how we turned a risk into an insightful opportunity.
When the pandemic hit Belgium, people were forced to shelter from home. The hashtag #blijfinuwkot was quickly trending, urging people to take their responsibility and stay in. Shops, schools, and businesses were shut down and going outside was limited to the essential. Home quickly became the center of our lives, and this made people reevaluate the role and importance of their homes.
Not only did the importance and attachment of people to their homes increase, also the time they spend in and around the home increased exponentially. This sparked their efforts to better their immediate surroundings through a variety of activities like home improvement. People were finally taking care of those ever-postponed chores such as cleaning up their basements and refurbishing their garden sheds.
More time at home and for the home, made people realize that making it a better place to live, work, play and relax is something worth investing in and contributes to their personal comfort and wellbeing. A risk turned into an opportunity. The renewed importance of the home turned out to be the key to turn an ambition for the country into a long-awaited UP movement. Increasing the involvement and removing some of the key barriers that have held people back for so long:
- From something that does not feel like it is your responsibility to super easy actions you can do anytime at home (Responsibility barrier)
- From something that asks a big investment to small things you can do with the tools you have at home (Financial barrier)
- From something that appears complicated to simple chores you can easily integrate in your daily life (Complexity barrier)
- From something that will ask a compromise of your living standards to a new behavior that can improve your personal and living comfort (Comfort barrier)
All of this came together in Stay Home Save Up, an initiative inspiring people to be part of the energy transition and the UP movement in the most simple way. From defrosting your freezer to descaling your dish washer, these actions showed how every little step helps to save and step UP. An energy movement that can start even if the country is locked down.
ENGIE peaked on all key trust metrics compared to the same period the year before.
Consideration for ENGIE grew considerably compared to the same period the year before. A positive churn was reached in May 2020, a significant difference compared to May 2019. Note that there is a delay on the effect on churn due to the processing of contracts so the effect can only be adequately measured a few weeks after the campaign (May instead of April). This effect continued throughout the rest of the year, closing the year with a high positive churn rate.
The first heating campaign following the Stay Home Save Up campaign in June 2020 generated a significant increase in leads compared to the benchmarks of an 'in-season campaign' and 'always-on campaign' of 2019. This trend is further confirmed in the cumulative sales of all energy services within the ENGIE portfolio in the months following the campaign.
Stay Home Save Up was a milestone for ENGIE. Not only did it deliver on its direct expectations of being present in a national health crisis, with the right message and sentiment. It further strengthened the brand's ambition. Creating active involvement for energy and turning its business model around: from the mere supply of energy to the creation of a movement of people invested in the energy transition. Stay Home Save Up was a small step towards a bigger ambition. A step which required boldness and leadership and turned out to be a turn-around for the future of ENGIE.