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MERCURY CASE STUDY

Mercury's purpose pays

wet dog

There's been talk recently of short-termism acting to the long term detriment of brands.

In a nutshell

  1. Purpose is the basis for any brand. It forms the foundation for any big communication idea and creates growth not only in sales, but organisational capability.
  2. Mercury's journey to Making Energy Wonderful started by understanding the need for a unified brand with a strong purpose. 
  3. Mercury's purpose had to be relevant to Kiwis. We were looking for a brand territory that could straddle New Zealand’s cultural and social context because being ‘on code’ is essential for brands today. 

And there are many potential root causes – quarterly reporting cycles, a dearth of true innovation, and the rise of digital measurement.

Whatever the cause, it is clear that it takes bravery, hard work and commitment to carry out long term brand initiatives – and of course a strong brand purpose and idea.

International judges at the Effies often cite the importance of marketing discipline here in New Zealand. Judge Chris Baker was vocal in StopPress about the need for long term strategy.

Baker describes a brand and its purpose as the ultimate organising tool. If there is a strong sense of purpose that sits across everything the business does, then all the work that is created can feed into that.

At TRA we believe purpose is the basis for any brand. It forms the foundation for any big communication idea. It is an umbrella but also an amplifier. It creates growth not only in sales, but organisational capability. Quite simply, a brand with a clear purpose, communicated well, will attract better talent to an organisation than one that doesn’t.

Nowhere has this been more evident than with Mercury. They recently won the Supreme Award at the 2017 Marketing Awards, and took out the coveted Grand Effie. With a purpose of Making Energy Wonderful, their communications are inspiring, consistent, and ultimately effective.

“A short-term campaign isn't always a bad thing, but it only works when it runs within a broader long-term strategy. And it's this latter part that the industry has lost sight of. Long-term isn’t just running the same ads or doing the same thing continuously, it is driven by a broader brand purpose and sometimes a broader communications idea or platform.” - Chris Baker

The journey to Making Energy Wonderful started by understanding the need for a unified brand with a strong purpose. TRA has worked with Mercury from the very start of that journey – defining what the purpose should be.

It is easy to forget that two years ago Mercury as we know it today did not exist. There were two brands – Mercury Energy the retailer, and the generation and share market listed brand Mighty River Power. While both were focused on their relevant stakeholders, there was not a single overarching purpose.

Both the Mighty River Power and Mercury Energy brands owned unique emotional memories and associations depending on the audience, so it was unclear which would be best to move forward with. This could not be decided until we had defined the brand purpose and promise. We needed to give people a reason why they should value the Mercury brand, that was clearly articulated, transparent and authentic.

This part of the process cannot be underestimated. People are incredibly savvy and can quickly sense when a brand isn’t clear or true in its raison d'être. In fact, modern marketing science has proven purpose and promise are in fact more influential on people’s behaviour than product differentiation.

yellow car
Mercury's Evie

Purpose also has to fit within a cultural context.

It’s all well and good having a purpose and promise, but this had to be relevant to Kiwis. We were looking for a brand territory that could straddle New Zealand’s cultural and social context.

Being ‘on code’ (in line with what’s happening in terms of cultural and social trends) rather than ‘off code’ (out of touch or stuck in the past) is essential for brands today, in driving the sense that they just ‘feel right’ and providing direction for future ambition.

Four key cultural and societal trends were identified as critical underpinnings to whichever brand we moved forward with:

  • An evolving ‘new’ New Zealand-ness and sense of what it means to be a Kiwi now based around innovation, multiculturalism and connectedness.
  • People’s innate desire to future-proof which an increasing focus on sustainability as being about more than just planting trees.
  • New notions of leadership as being collaborative, passionate, visionary, and most importantly inclusive.
  • An understanding that sustainability is not about living in the past, but requires innovation.

Mercury’s results speak for themselves. A brand purpose that it is evident in everything they do. Marketing and communications that stand out, both in the market and among peers.

Awards require proof and Mercury certainly have evidence that purpose pays. Awareness, consideration, likeability, positive sentiment, customer satisfaction, acquisition, staff engagement, website visits, interaction, engagement, product attachment – you name it, the numbers are all up. In some cases, massively so.

In StopPress Baker was also very clear that “the real question you should always be asking is how does this turn into money?”. He says the answer should be more robust than having a general sense it will do well because a lot of people have seen the campaign.

Instead, it’s about knowing who the audience is, what you want them to do, and then what the value is to that—is it a social benefit, or revenue and profit?

Mercury have always been very clear. They genuinely do want to inspire people to use energy in more wonderful ways. Whether that is e-bikes or solar, or the many more wonderful innovations on the cards.

But of course it is also about the money. The retail energy market is brutal. Average category churn is 20% per year. Brand purpose was always designed to not only inspire brand and communication, but the entire customer experience.

Energy Made Wonderful has meant that Mercury customers stay longer, and are more satisfied. And by no small margin. Energy Made Wonderful has meant churn rates are 5 points lower than the national average.

Proving that purpose pays.

Karin Glucina
Partner at TRA

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