Energy Brands: Finding the Courage to Lead, the Humility to Partner

By Tom Zara

In the years ahead, energy brands must meet the rising demands of a growing world population, democratize access, and ensure an affordable, abundant supply for all—without putting undue pressures on the environment. Can the energy sector become a meaningful and participatory force in the lives of individuals and communities, creating a stronger corporate image, but also a real social benefit? Here are some ways the biggest players on the energy stage can lead the way forward:

Tell a heroic story—and act accordingly

Energy brands are heavily scrutinized by investors, activists, the media, and consumers alike. However, instead of succumbing to criticism and controversy as an inevitable consequence of doing business, brand leaders must be proactive. Employees are your brand’s first responders and, if authentically engaged, will wave the flag of commitment and conviction. Similarly, consumers can become allies if energy brands address concerns like natural resource depletion and pollution instead of ducking or attempting to “spin” them. Involving consumers in a collective campaign to embrace energy efficiency as a positive social norm, not simply as a cost-containment strategy, will help earn their trust.

Collaborate to find ingenious solutions.

Energy denied to one deprives us all—everyone suffers the consequences of scarcity, whether that means higher prices at the pump or increased threats to the security of nations. Energy brands must innovate to ensure greater access and to extend the benefits of social, political, and economic stability, which could very well foster a new era of global economic growth and shared prosperity.

As research into renewables advances, energy brands can collaborate with academia and governments to share knowledge and remain relevant and competitive. In doing so, energy companies can maximize their return on their investment in R&D. Further, when commerce and public institutions join forces, the ability to revolutionize methods of extraction, conversion, and distribution at this critical juncture will only accelerate. Customers must be part of these conversations, too, with the brand’s Corporate Citizenship platform creating a forum for discussion and external engagement.

Expand your sphere of influence.

Energy brands can evolve into a beacon of hope and a source of inspiration to customers and partners in the quest for energy sustainability. In the face of daunting conditions, change is contingent on the coordination of like-minded individuals invested in capitalizing on the opportunities of the future. For energy brands, a greater capacity to invite customers, partners, and competitors to combat common challenges will increase the probability of achieving outcomes that benefit all.

Tom Zara (tom.zara@interbrand.com) is Executive Director of Strategy, Interbrand New York, and Global Practice Leader for Corporate