The 6 biggest challenges of rebranding an energy company

The 6 biggest challenges of rebranding an energy company

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Tuesday, February 25, 2020 | Patrick Heath

If your energy company is preparing for a rebrand, you already know you have a big job ahead of you. After all, every rebrand requires a detailed command of logistics and a high degree of coordination to pull off. But for energy companies, the barrier to success is even higher. That’s because energy companies must also take a unique set of industry-specific branding challenges into account. This is true regardless of where an organization lives in the energy supply chain, from extraction and transmission to oil field services and utility companies.

In order to craft an effective and comprehensive rebranding plan for your energy company, you must first understand the unique risks that threaten to undermine it.

The unique challenges of rebranding an energy company

Most energy companies must contend with some or all of the following industry-specific considerations as they prepare to rebrand.

1. The size and breadth of branded assets

Transitioning branded assets from an old identity to a new one represents the single biggest task in any rebranding project. This job is more difficult for energy companies because of the size and breadth of their branded assets. Energy companies have to identify what assets they have, estimate the costs, and create transition plans for the “standard” branded assets common to many companies, such as websites and IT systems, HR systems, accounting and billing, and that alone is a big job. But there’s so much more to contend with. You can likely divide the bulk of your firm’s energy-specific branded assets into three major buckets.

  • Signage. From corporate offices and plants to unmanned locations and pipelines, energy companies typically own an enormous and diverse inventory of branded signage. Simply inventorying all that signage is a big job: Consider the thousands of markers or signs that accompany a pipeline, for example. In addition, you must figure out the best approach to designing and producing each category of signage You may want highly polished exterior signage for your downtown core and something practical for the many plants and field locations that aren’t as visible.
  • Fleet and equipment. All energy companies, regardless of their role in the space, tend to own or rent a lot of branded fleet and heavy equipment. Most companies use their fleet constantly, which can make it more challenging to formulate a brand transition plan.
  • Workwear. From coveralls and hardhats to personal protective equipment, energy companies own or rent a plethora of branded workwear. Workwear requirements vary drastically depending on a person’s role and where they are located. In many cases, the requirements for personal protective equipment are specifically prescribed by local health and safety teams.

2. Widely distributed branded assets

Depending on your firm’s business model, you may need to transition branded assets around the globe, from Canada to Saudi Arabia. In addition, some of your assets (such as right-of-way signage and heavy equipment) may be located in remote, rugged locations which requires proper planning to rebrand them in a cost-effective way

Of course, the farthest-flung, least visible assets are hardest to account for and transition. It may not seem worth the effort given their lack of visibility. But you shouldn’t ignore these assets. In many cases, you may need to transition them in order to fulfill a regulatory obligation.

3. Decentralized brand control

Many energy companies are decentralized, which means decision-making power is distributed across multiple locations and geographic regions. If your organization is decentralized, ownership of your branded assets may be similarly decentralized and fragmented. This means you won’t have a central sourcing or procurement department on whom you can rely to coordinate the transition of branded assets. Instead, signage, fleet, and uniforms are likely sourced and ordered at the site or plant level.

If you allow the rebrand implementation logistics to remain decentralized, the result is likely to be inconsistencies in brand expression, asset production quality and timing of execution. In order to get it right, you will need to apply a centralized rebranding project structure to your decentralized organization.

4. Industry- and location-specific regulations

Heavy regulations are par for the course in the energy industry. And those regulations most likely extend to some of your branded assets. For example, these regulations could impact where you must post signage and what the signs must say. They likely also dictate the particulars of some of your workwear. As a marketer, you may go into the rebranding process without a full understanding of all the various assets that might be touched by regulations. This is because so many of them are outside of marketing’s traditional purview.

5. Frequent deals and legacy branding

The energy industry is in a constant state of flux. Companies are frequently bought and sold, and there is a high volume of M&A and spin-off activity. As a result, energy companies regularly buy and sell major assets, such as plants and heavy machinery. With so many deals happening at such a high volume, many energy companies never fully complete their rebranding efforts. What does this mean? You should be prepared to deal with a fair amount of legacy branding.

You should also consider rationalizing your branded assets wherever possible. For example, you may choose to only put your legal entity name and not include the new branding on low-visibility assets (such as pipeline signs). That way, if you find yourself rebranding in the future, you won’t have to transition those assets again.

6. Rallying your organization around the rebrand

Energy companies are often so big and sprawling that it can be a challenge to get your entire organization focused on the need to implement a rebrand. Your teams will have many competing interests at any given time. Rebranding a particular asset may not always be at the forefront of those concerns.

In order to move your rebranding project along in a timely fashion, you’ll need to get buy-in from your executive leadership team. And they will need to commit to rallying the broader organization into alignment.

Mitigating the risks of your energy company’s rebrand

Once you understand the challenges you face in rebranding your energy company, it’s time to develop a plan that helps you mitigate those risks. This plan should include:

  • A full accounting of all your branded assets, including who owns what
  • Specific arrangements to meet legal and regulatory requirements
  • A centralized project structure
  • A plan to rationalize branded assets in an effort to segment off liabilities

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