Best Brand Transformation

How marketing leadership turned Meridian energy, one of New Zealand’s largest corporates, into a bold challenger brand championing renewable energy in the retail power market.

The Challenge 

Meridian is one of the ‘gen-tailers’, power generators that also retail to customers. Solid, established and very corporate – a blue-chip company if ever there was one. But its conservative stance, 51 percent majority government ownership and its reputation as a reliable dividend stock for investors belies a business with a unique point of difference. Unlike other gen-tailers Meridian had been generating 100 percent renewable energy from hydro lakes, wind turbines and solar for many years.

The problem was that this 100 percent renewable track record wasn’t being recognised or rewarded by consumers in a low interest market where understanding of renewable credentials was confused at best.

Identifying the Meridian brand as a key lever to improve already low levels of churn, and allow for higher margin acquisition, the Marketing team set out to help achieve this by changing perceptions of the brand from just another solid, trustworthy and reliable power company – very much the norm of the power category’s marketing – to something much more distinctive, engaging and compelling.

The Response

The trouble is that marketing sustainability is far from easy. Research showed 83 percent of consumers were utterly confused by how businesses talk about their environmental commitments. 71 percent of New Zealanders were not able to name any brand as a leader in sustainability or renewability.

In recent years however, the climate crisis and the commercial success of businesses focused on operating more sustainably has begun to normalise customer expectations. In line with this, brand transformation began with developing a core purpose inspired by the authentic values of the business: ‘Meridian is committed to doing good for the planet and people by harnessing its power to make a difference’. The purpose then drove an identity redesign. Simpler, engaging and relatable advertising followed to communicate the transformation, using the insight that all our energy comes from familiar natural elements: wind, water and sun.

From May 2019 brand communications ran across video, cinema, out of home, digital, and Meridian created a three-part TV series about ‘The power of the weather’ on TVNZ One. Its TVC celebrated Nigel, a relatable everyday kiwi, determined to do his part to make a difference by chasing down a napkin on the beach blown away by the wind.

The Result 

The brand transformation project was designed to overhaul entrenched perceptions and begin to carve out a unique position for Meridian as New Zealand’s only 100 percent renewable energy generator. Momentum from this will build over the coming years. However, in its first year the brand has seen the transformation impact several critical measures, including: the TVC being one of NZ’s favourite ads and the third most watched on Google in 2019; within three months, one in five viewers understood the brand’s unique points of difference; by the close of 2019, research from the Sustainable Business Council showed that Meridian came first in spontaneous recall of brands being leaders through their sustainability practices; and Meridian continues to enjoy the lowest levels of churn in the market at 15 percent down from close to 20 percent when the brand transformation began.

Entry details

Category: Best Brand Transformation
Company: Meridian Energy
Marketing Initiative: Meridian Brand Transformation
Marketing Partners: BC&F Dentsu, OMD, Inhouse Design
Judge’s Comments: “In possibly the most debated category of this year’s awards, the judges recognised the well-researched market insights that drove this brand transformation strategy, and the creative execution, partnerships and campaigns that clearly changed consumer perception. Meridian has clearly demonstrated up-lift in perception and awareness across its key metrics.”
Finalists: Trees That Count / The Project Crimson Trust, DB Breweries

This article was originally published in the December/January 2020 issue of NZ Marketing. You can subscribe to the magazine, here. Or read the other winner stories, here.

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