This large New York energy provider keeps the lights on for over 1,000,000 customers.

How IDLab Shattered Energy Industry Engagement Norms to Trigger The Most Enthusiastic Customer Response in Major East Coast Utility History

What a journey! We engaged 500,000 people, and we crushed it with 1.5 times the expected overall conversions throughout a 2.5-year long campaign.

+ Region                                      + Company Size
North America Large

+ Media Used
TV/video, email, direct mail, SEM/SEO, social media, CSRs, employee promotions

+ Industry                                 + Key Topic
Energy Time of Use campaigns
+ Services

TV/video production, email, direct mail, SEO, message platform, brand architecture, content creation & marketing, copywriting, analytics, evaluator coordination and primary research (focus groups, interviews, surveys)

Introduced an entirely new, emotion-first messaging platform

Based on nation-wide experience, deep pre-campaign research and real-time customer feedback during the campaigns, a theme of “getting the best deal on electricity” proved highly successful in driving engagement and conversions. Moreover, it drove the same results for both opt-in and default TOU (time of use). By focusing on behavioral tendencies and emotionally charged attitudes such as fear of missing out, friendly competition, unabashed brutal honesty, and the culture of the service area, the utility exceeded all campaign expectations. The move away from the industry stalwart “Save energy, Save money” message proved the right strategy. By putting EQ (emotion) ahead of IQ (intellect), we proved that focusing messaging on how the customer is getting the best deal on electricity (vs. save energy/save money) is nearly 2x superior for driving immediate and sustained engagement.

Crafted content that exceeded awareness and education goals across all ratepayers from low income to affluent.

Contrary to the utility’s initial thinking, we proved that customers don’t need to be educated on what TOU is – that’s easy for them to understand. What they demand to know is what’s in it for them, then the advantage to their family, and a distant third is the environment. 

We created and promoted a content ecosystem using lifestyle, entertainment, and educational content.

The campaign used a multi-touch/multi-channel approach to content and general promotion, leveraging high-return media channels – from the utility’s homepage to TV/video spots, blog articles, emails, retargeting, search, direct mail, display ads, and social media. By creating compelling content and meeting our audience where they already spend their time, we maximized customer engagement with the utility.

Reduced reliance on emails

To effectively reach and engage customers, it’s important to leverage multiple channels and touchpoints in order to engulf customers in the right messages. In the energy industry, it’s especially important to reduce reliance on email considering the volume of utility emails needed to support so many different programs and activities. By using a variety of channels, we ensured that customers received a diverse set of messages without oversaturating them with utility emails. We still overachieved the performance goals while allowing space for other program promotions and protecting against unsubscribes.

Implemented SEO best-practices

The goal of our SEO strategy was simple: provide the utility customers with the answers they need whenever they click an email, explore the website, or use any search engine. To achieve this, we optimized all TOU and related pages (content, structure, tags, and technical). We then implemented a targeted content strategy and calendar focused on creating fresh content and optimizing existing content around targeted keywords and clusters/constellations. The result? A 900% increase in organic traffic, page rank improvement from 3rd to 1st, and an engaging user experience that kept the utility customers engaged and coming back for more. By the end of the campaign, “Why TOU?” pages consistently ranked in the top 3 SERP positions.

Produced a multi-functional (TV) spot to maximize audience engagement across channels – English & Spanish

To ensure that our promotional spot/video was in line with the demographics of the service area and inclusive, we produced it in both English and Spanish. We also scripted the spot to support :30 and :15 second cut downs for use across multiple channels/tactics (social, broadcast, display, site, etc.). Plus, we shot the video within the service area/territory to show  familiar locations in order to trigger a cognitive and emotional connection with our audience. Through everyday connections that people can relate to, the TV spot made TOU rates appreciated and valued by customers. We achieved this by focusing on the emotional connection, personal value, and making the entire program less intimidating by making it familiar and accessible.

Leveraged a three-part email strategy – promotional, drip and nurture.

We took a highly-targeted approach to emailing a diverse customer base form low income to affluent. By segmenting our emails based on factors like demographics, energy usage, energy-using devices (e.g EVs, pools, large homes), previous promotions received and current behaviors , we sent the right message to the right people at the right time. It worked like a charm — we converted more customers at a higher rate and lower cost than the utility expected.

What Customers Say and What Customers Do, Aren’t Always the Same


Using our years of marketing and energy marketing expertise, we created campaign elements that the utility didn’t think would work and that the research said wouldn’t work BUT… They did work. 

For example: We designed a plain letter direct mail piece which the utility marketing team tested against their in-house “gloss” piece. Ours (the plain letter) was 2x better at converting customers than the utility’s “glossy” piece. 

The point: Leverage the front-line experiences of seasoned marketers even if the research doesn’t support their approach. Then quickly field test before spending too many media dollars based on isolated research. In other words, be sure to test customer actions, not just perceived preferences.

The 1-Click Path Increases Conversion

In any online transaction, customers respond best, meaning convert the highest, when given a frictionless purchase experience. While this wasn’t a typical ecommerce transaction, customers still saw it as a kind of “purchase” so we applied the right ecommerce principles. This is something we’ve done in the past and it always works best – something we encourage all utilities to do – look at your services as products for sale and engage the audience as such. 

In this case we built the tech that enabled customers to click from the email directly into their account (no login required) to compare and switch rates.

Text-Based Storytelling Worked; Choosing the Right Imagery Will Have Impact


We used imagery strategically across the campaign based on engagement timing. Specifically we used pattern-interruptor imagery in first-touch engagement to capture attention, we used relatable imagery during decision making, and then calm/reassuring images after switching rates. In addition, the proven “use vs. creative target” proved effective. In other words, we knew that the majority of our early adopters were older customers, but we used middle-aged subjects in imagery to tie into how customers see themselves, not how the world sees them.

“Global media has set in motion a sea-change in how energy customers see, engage with, and value their energy providers. From shortages, to price increases, to new sources, customers have vastly deeper and different expectations of their utilities. But… Many utilities are rerunning old marketing/engagement plays and missing a massive opportunity for positive change in their relationship with customers. The work we did with the team at this utility proved that changing the game is a big win for both customers and the utility. I hope others follow their lead – start with messaging by moving past “save energy, save money”. Push yourself and your agency to craft new messages. We did it for this utility (and others) and the results speak for themselves.”

Supercharge your customer engagement with IDLab Global’s award-winning energy marketing solutions. Leverage our innovative strategies and unparalleled industry knowledge to capitalize on the untapped potential of your customer relationships while lifting your JD Power scores and satisfying regulators and evaluators. From captivating campaigns to strategic insights, we’ll bring fresh ideas and rate-payer engagement to your marketing and program efforts.

Intrigued? So are we.

Drop us a line and let’s see if we’re a match for one another.

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