It's that time of year again, the temperature drops and power bills rise as heaters and electric blankets come out in full force. It only seems fitting for electricity suppliers to launch a flurry of deals and campaigns to vie for the consumer dollar, a trend ad spend numbers support. But, while Trustpower's Carolyn Schofield says winter is when customers are most likely to switch, Flick Electric Co.'s Jessica Venning-Bryan says winter electricity campaigns are symptomatic of a more old school power company model and consistency is key.
Source: Nielsen. Spend is based on rate card value.
Trustpower has just released, the next iteration of its ‘Better Together’ campaign featuring Captain Energy and Broadband Girl, and two additional puppies.
While this fits the ad spend trend according to the data from Nielsen, being a power, broadband, phone and gas provider, Trustpower's advertising is pretty consistent year round and its power is always advertised as part of bundle deal.
However, speaking about the electricity industry as a whole, its marketing communications and programme manager Carolyn Schofield says because energy consumption and power bills tend to be higher during the winter months it makes sense for offers and promotions to be launched in that time.
She says bigger bills may prompt people to consider alternative suppliers.
About the drop in December, she says people aren't scrutinising power bills, instead they are busy enjoying the summer holiday.
Flick Electric Co. are currently running a ‘Winter Savings Guarantee’, and like Trustpower it will have consistent advertising spend year round.
General manager brand Jessica Venning-Bryan says “the model of loading your engagement with prospects in the lead up to winter is kind of symptomatic of quite an old model of power companies and their relationships with their customers”.
That model is based on customers fearing the rise of power bills or seeing the first big bill and starting to shop around, she says. It suggests customers are disengaged with the category until they are "grumpy with it".
While some say electricity is a “utility”, and people won’t engage with it, Venning-Bryan says Flick’s advertising spend remains consistent year round to drive higher engagement and create a market in which the customer is well educated and informed.
“We do talk to our customers and our prospects all year round. It’s not just at a time when they hate this thing they are spending money on and they feel the need to shop around.
"So for example, we might talk to people who are moving house in the spring time, because property sales are greater in the spring time and the summer time than they are in the winter, and that might be a reason people are thinking about shopping around. And that’s just one example.”
To engage customers, Venning-Bryan says Flick’s campaigns are values driven, it doesn’t offer cash incentives and the current ‘Winter Savings Guarantee’ is the only one of its kind it will run.
She says suppliers that don’t believe electricity customers can be engaged will “throw money at them” while Flick, which does believe it can engage customers, will offer different products and services instead.
An example of this is Flick’s launch of its Choice app in February, which gives Kiwis information about the carbon impact of electricity in real time. It is available and free for all Kiwis, including customers of other companies.
Flick also bucked the trend of winter ad spend by launching a campaign three days before Christmas last year.
Featuring comedian Laura Daniel, drag performer Amanda la’Whore and Wellington actor Abby Damen, Venning-Bryan says the 'Flick Yourself' campaign is a piece of content she thought would be "interesting, engaging and entertaining for people over the break".
Flick had a successful January off the back of it and is still in a high growth phase, she says.
"We don’t sit there and say ‘no one advertises over Christmas so why would we?’"
So while the jury's out on the best advertising strategy, we see which other electricity suppliers have turned up the heat on advertising this winter.
Genesis Energy kicked off the season with a ‘Happy Winter’ campaign offering customers $250 off their first electricity bill when they switch to the supplier.
Energy online reprised its ‘Door knocker’ campaign to show its deals are online anytime.
Both Mercury Energy and Meridian Energy launched competitions to win travel or airpoints off the back of their partnerships with airlines.
Meridian Energy teamed up with Qantas Frequent Flyer while Mercury Energy joined forces with Air New Zealand.
Mercury Energy is also offering those who switch to the company free power on Sundays for six months.
Powershop is getting into the winter spirit with a 'Winteraction' campaign. Launched on its Facebook page, it will offer specials and competitions during the three months of winter.