Electric Kiwi’s Luke Blincoe on backing The Project, getting New Zealanders to think about energy and running a feisty challenger brand

Electric Kiwi was this week confirmed as the broadcast partner of The Project, which will be hitting local TV screens for the first time on 20 February. A relative newcomer to the energy scene, Electric Kiwi is one of a number of independent energy providers offering New Zealand consumers an alternative to the big, traditional power companies.

This announcement also coincides with a significant staff change at the energy startup in the appointment of power company veteran Luke Blincoe as chief executive.

Most recently, Blincoe was group manager of business at Genesis and before that held various roles at Might River Power (now Mercury Energy), most notably as the general manager of Globug. 

We caught up with the new chief executive to find out how the business is doing and why he’s decided to back MediaWorks’ experimental current affairs show.           

StopPress: Many challenger brands prefer to go the digital route, so why back a TV show?

Luke Blincoe: “We are very focused on ROI across our entire marketing budget – for us, it is a simple philosophy, we look at what works and we do more of that, then we do less of the things that don’t. We had great success with Story last year, helping to establish a brand that very few people knew, as a legitimate player in the New Zealand energy market. We obviously have a mix of activity and TV has proved complementary to our other activity- and we are looking forward to a similar partnership with The Project.”

How is Electric Kiwi tracking so far?

“2016 was great for us, we exceeded all our plans and have been really proud of the way our team has also made our customers advocates of the Electric Kiwi brand by delivering an exceptional customer experience. We just had our best month ever in January, so we are on a high going into the new year.”

Is it difficult to establish a point of difference when selling a commodity?

“While electricity is in a sense the purest commodity, we are really in the game of differentiating our brand based on enhancing customer experience. Our play is online-centric, with smart technology that lets us track energy usage every 30 minutes – through this, we have access to numerous disruptive plays. The challenge is to do it in a way that makes us appealing to customers who have only ever used the big guys. For example, our ‘Hour of Power’ product gives people a free hour of off-peak power every day – this has been hugely successful and has shown people that there are real actions they can take to lower their power bill, and created a higher level of engagement with the category. This wouldn’t be possible without the brand awareness that TV has provided.”

It’s said that consumers spend very little time every year thinking about their electricity provider, so how do you win their attention? What’s the best way to get consumers actively thinking about electricity?

“There are a few key times each year when people think about their power provider – when they get a price increase letter in the mail and when their winter power bill keeps going up. Our challenge is to present a compelling case all year round, rather than just at those key times. The hour of power is one of the ways we do that daily, but we are totally focused on delivering a customer experience that people won’t want to leave.”

In your first major campaign, you took a shot at the big power companies and their fancy offices. So can we expect more of this feistiness in 2017?

“We are a small power company with a small passionate team – we’ve shown that you don’t have to be a massive organisation now to provide great value electricity and great customer service (our customer satisfaction and net promoter score are amongst the best in the industry). So yes, expect to see feistiness!”

What are you most excited about for your relationship with The Project?

“I think there is a real hunger for news to be done differently. And there is some serious talent in The Project team, so we can’t wait to see more of them, especially Josh Thomson.”

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