Big Oil or Anything Else, Chris Farmer –  Indifference Kills Brands, Jessica G. Petrovic  – Interstellar Branding, Nikola Sekulic


Vol. I, Issue 4   –   September 2016


Energy Branding: 
Big Oil or Anything Else

holland-no-sakura-city-tulip-festival-in-japanby Chris Farmer

The world quite literally turns on oil. Fossil fuels, derived from oil extraction and derivatives, are said to supply 86% of the world’s energy consumption according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Many national economies are also at the mercy of Big Oil, providing as they do a huge chunk of GDP.

This 600-pound Gorilla tactic effectively quashes any attempt at “energy branding.” Big Oil has spent literally millions to convince us that no other form of energy is as cost-effective. We are indoctrinated to believe that wind energy is a matter of six windmills powering a farm, that solar power is only about hot houses in California, and that hydroelectric power is undependable.

Even the names that we use in referring to any other kind of energy sources are condescending. We call it “alternative” – indicating that it is second best. We call it “renewable” – implying that it is not constant.

In this way, the upcoming energy branding conference, Charge (Reykjavik, September 19-20), has a big job in front of it. In their own vision statement, they complain that marketing has not done the job for them. “A customer-centric view is required to develop and sustain lasting relationships with increasingly savvy energy consumers who also desire more information to be communicated to them.” And they think that this is the royal road to energy branding.

While we must applaud the intention, the real work is not in communicating more information (although that is part of it) and it is not spurred on by “savvy” consumers (although this is also part of it). Information about energy sources is out there and has been for a long time. And we have known for decades that fossil fuels will eventually be exhausted. Knowledge and information don’t help. And fear does not even help, since it is a vague future fear.

In order to make energy brands relevant, we consumers need to feel it more. The question I would ask the conference would be something like this: “In a world controlled by the interests of the oil industry, how can we raise the perception of different sources of energy as viable, efficient, and sustainable? How can we level the playing field with Big Oil and present consumers with equal choices – as opposed to Big Oil or Anything Else?”

As a branding exercise this is a daunting task. But I believe it can be accomplished by aiming at the real questions on a consumer’s mind, i.e., How can I power my laptop and phone? How can I keep the lights on? How can I cook my dinner?

These seemingly banal questions are much more motivational than speeches about the environment and conservation. By showing real examples of places where non-oil is working as a function of how normal people’s lives are, that will win over hearts and minds. France, for example, derives 75% of its electricity from nuclear power, including the City of Light, Paris. How much do we hear about this?

Sadly no single solution presents itself and the road to better energy branding will be a long one. Persistence will be required in the effort. But when considering the question, the focus must be kept on the essential facts of everyday life.

People might eventually be convinced by the science, but they will be swayed by whatever makes their lives the easiest.

justinLove You or Hate You:
Indifference Kills Brands

by Jessica G. Petrovic

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are” -Anais Nin

This quote by the fascinating Anais Nin could be one of my favorites in relevance to branding at this moment. Why? Because we look for ourselves in everything. Let me now throw out a bunch of seemingly random topics at you (even though they’re not and you’ll see why). Friends, face cream, boyfriend, girlfriend, social situations, a new car, underwear, a little black dress, a new tie, a watch, a movie, music, songs, celebrities, perfume, politics, politicians, a pair of shoes, a book, a poem, Italy, New York, Belgrade. This list could literally go forever. You name it; you’re looking for yourself in it. Whatever you’re looking at, facing, or experiencing in the world around you, chances are, when we don’t recognize ourselves in it, we may even shun it. Why? Because we can’t relate. We are looking for at least a piece of ourselves in it because we want to relate.

My son came home from school the other day shocked at the fact that I was listening to Justin Bieber. He looked at me with that tone of voice (you know the one) and said, “You’re listening to Justin Bieber?!?” I, of course, laughed and asked, “What do you have against Justin Bieber?” I’m not going to lie, I really like a few of his songs even at 34 years old (and so what?). He then says, with total conviction, “I don’t like him.” I asked my son, “Why not? You don’t even know him!”

So I started trying to figure out how and what he knows about Justin Bieber. I carefully ask him questions like a typical prying mom and, eventually, he opens up. As it turns out, there is a connection. Of course, there is a connection! There always is. The biggest bully at school absolutely loves “Biebs” and listens to him constantly. So my son, being a non-bully, associates liking Justin Bieber, to being a “mean” kid.

I tried rationalizing this to him, but it didn’t help for months, as the topic popped up from time to time. I told him I saw a documentary on Justin Bieber’s life and career that reveals his ‘human side’, not just his celebrity persona. I talked to him about how he was just a kid who happened to become famous because his talent became recognized by the music industry and people really liked his music. I explained that he has emotions and makes mistakes just like everyone else. I explained that liking Justin Bieber doesn’t put you in the same category as the bully at school.

Bzzzzz! #wrongmom #epicfail

He saw the bully-kid, connected to Justin Bieber, and because of that connection, he could not see himself in Biebs. The point is that he couldn’t like a person in whom he didn’t see himself. And regardless of the fact that he’s only nine, this is human nature. As we get older, we may ‘learn’ to love people with whom we have direct contact, even if we don’t see ourselves in them, although even this isn’t true for everyone. But usually we look for ourselves in other people or things because that’s where the comfort and familiarity is. Let’s take, for example, how ‘hippies’ wear oil that smells like flowers. It makes sense because they are essentially into all that is holistic. They believe that they are “one” with the flowers (the earth) and they see themselves as “part of it.” But let’s get a bit more scientific on the topic because it’s even more connected than you think.

In a revealing book called, The Human Brand, by customer loyalty expert, Chris Malone, and top social psychologist, Susan T. Fiske, research was done on how personal choosing a brand actually is. Ironically enough, the research done by the two showed that ‘our perceptions arise from spontaneous judgements on warmth and competence, the same two factors that also determine our impressions of people.’ The book focuses on how we relate to people, products, and companies and discovers the direct correlation between how we choose brands and the way we automatically perceive, judge, and behave toward one another.

From a social psychology perspective, the combination of warmth (the intentions others have toward us) and competence (how capable they are of carrying out those intentions) are the main factors in both the way we perceive and relate to companies, brands, and how we relate to other individuals. According to the authors, we innately expect relational accountability from the brands and companies we support, as we do with people and relationships.

We choose the things we can relate to and identify with, people, products, and services, alike. Our feelings associated to these things can make or break our desire. Ultimately, if people do not know what you stand for, they can neither love you nor hate you. Indifference towards you, your brand, or your service, is a failure. So take a stand. Be hated, or be loved.

In the end, whether Biebs is acceptable or not depends on what we think of ourselves as much as what we think of him.

From  O u t s i d e  t h e  B o x

coverInterstellar Branding

by Nikola Sekulic

We live in a wonderful time for humankind. Unparalleled progress in technology, the likes of which has never been seen in human history, enables us to slowly but surely venture out into space and begin to dream of colonization of our nearest neighboring planets, some of which our descendants may one day call their first and only home.

It might seem like a stretch to imagine planetary exploration as having anything to do with the art of branding, yet if we take a closer look at what the principles of branding entail and how significant their role is in shaping the perception of our daily lives (and in fact, the future), we will indeed be able to comprehend the importance it will have in mankind’s pursuit of the treasures of ‘Sol’.

Still, having the means to achieve something and having a service or a product, and even an idea, all of it counts for nothing if we do not frame it in a way people will love (or hate) and live by, thus moving them to action and giving them a sense of belonging.

So why should something as great as space exploration and planetary colonization be any different? Do you believe that people will willingly visit, and even stay on other planets than mother Earth where they are safe and taken care of without a very, and I mean very compelling reason? Interestingly enough, the same can be said about one’s favorite beer, favorite car, city or country.

If you don’t feel as if you belong there, then you probably will never even want to experience it.

The fact of the matter is, we are all consumers. As such, we crave a sense of belonging and purpose in this life. And our values and predilections are greatly shaped by everything we experience day in and day out, as we find ourselves believing that we have control over our convictions. The truth is sadly much different.

Therefore, is it so hard to believe that shaping the story of space exploration in the right way will make all the difference between having people of this world support planetary exploration, or completely revolting against it?

Home is where your favorite feelings are. If we are to entice people to make a new home on another planet, we have to offer something much more than water and oxygen – we have to give them the feeling of home.

Contrary to the dreary science fiction movies that endlessly portray planetary settlements as cities of wire and metal boxes, the main place of social activity, of course, being a dodgy bar, the likelier reality is one of beautiful white, domed, cities with everyone’s favorite past-time activities and shopping brands at their disposal.

If movie directors were to incorporate simple branding into their stories, we would find ourselves unamused with the tranquility of livelihood outside of Earth.

Simply giving people the means and the possibility of visiting other planets and potentially staying there is not so much different from a tourist agency giving you the option to visit Australia – it sounds fun, but if the offer is not branded in an appealing way, you’ll end up staying home and believing that Australia is just another place full of people you don’t know and don’t want to know.

Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important for government agencies such as NASA, the ESA (European Space Agency) and Roscosmos (Russian Federal Space Agency) to popularize the progress of science and the possibility of inhabiting nearby planets, in preparation for a positive global response when the day finally comes.

And that is done with careful and strategic branding. If we keep in mind that branding shapes the perception in our minds, and the trusting feeling in our hearts, we can safely conclude that voyaging onto other planets needs to be perceived as something purposeful and necessary for humankind.

Space exploration has never been more popular, constantly we are making technological progress and people are increasingly being engaged with the notion of space colonization – from pop culture like movies, TV shows, science fiction books, to articles and the ever-growing external communication of NASA and other space agencies around the world, providing people with videos, articles, and countless other types of informational material in order to provide knowledge and entice people to think about our near future.

The rise of online scientific magazines that base the majority of their writing on the subjects of the intricacies of the cosmos, populating the internet with articles and videos with the newest findings and advancements made in the pursuit of space colonization is by no means a simple result of a group of scientists trying to spread the knowledge – it is, in fact, a joined international effort of popularizing what will be our future.

This is by no means a conspiracy theory, it is simple branding and human nature.

We are afraid of the unknown, be it a new type of product or the Moon. In our nature, there is no real difference – we will be skeptical and suspicious of a new type of washing machine that simultaneously makes coffee, and we feel the same emotions toward leaving Earth.

But with the right branding, creating a feeling of possibility and trust, we can conquer this fear and imagine more of the universe.

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JULY 2016