In uncertain times, it is more important than ever to share experience, insights and advice with your peers so we can all learn from one another. With this in mind, we are having conversations with members across various sectors to understand how they and their teams have adapted their marketing strategies throughout the pandemic, what they have learned from it, and how they prepare to return to the new normal.
For this week’s instalment in the series we’ve chatted to Áine Plunkett, Lead Marketing Manager, SSE Airtricity.
MII: Hi Áine, how has your approach to marketing changed over the past year, and will this continue into the new normal?
We were fortunate enough to have our campaign “This is Generation Green” firmly in place before March 2020 and we had a clear plan for 2020/2021 in how we were going to evolve that campaign through our messaging and sponsorships.
During the pandemic, the importance of our environment around us, has been more important than ever to people. And our campaign message has evolved to “The small everyday choices we make can make all the difference to the world we want to live in.”
When Covid-19 hit last year, we needed to listen to our customers even more. We stood by our overarching marketing strategy and then amended accordingly. We had to work with our partners internally and externally to identify where additional marketing support was needed. We worked closely with our agencies in particular Javelin, OMD, Edelman and Ripple Marketing collectively to identify key areas that we needed to look at and amend in response to what was happening around us. We adapted our strategies to support this but we always stood true to our brand position and our marketing plan.
Like most marketing teams, our approach to working as a team has changed and evolved and we will definitely take the positives going forward. We’ve streamlined meetings, found new ways to collaborate on projects and there’s more trust in remote working (whether that’s working from home / remote radio recordings & tv filming) – resulting in both efficiencies and benefits to the environment too! So it’s a win-win for everyone.
How did you adapt your brand to connect with consumers during this time?
Last March, customers were concerned about their energy in particular with continuity of supply and also ability to meet payments. We communicated to every customer in the early weeks of the pandemic, giving them certainty of energy supply, implementing a moratorium on disconnections and being more flexible in our repayment arrangements. Over the course of last year we then evolved our marketing campaigns to feature real customers, adapted our communications to our customer needs, and adapted our sales strategies in line with their objectives.
One area we did have to significantly adapt in our brand was our sponsorship strategies. Our sponsorship partners were adversely hit with the pandemic. In particular, Dublin Zoo who had to close their doors on a number of occasions and still continue to operate on significant reduced numbers. Behind the doors, the animals still have to be fed and cared for – did you know it cost €75 a day to feed an elephant? Operating costs are ongoing whether they had visitors or not. As well as this, as Irelands number 1 family tourist attraction, many adults and children missed visiting Dublin Zoo and learning about their favourite animals.
As sustainability partner to Dublin Zoo, we have a shared purpose: inspiring a new generation through education to appreciate the natural world and make greener choices to protect it. We worked really closely with the zoo and adapted our strategies in line with theirs.
If people couldn’t go to the zoo, we would bring Dublin Zoo to them through our virtual Eco Explorers Club –a 12 week educational programme consisting of an online content hub, YouTube videos, digital partnerships and social content and competitions. Keeping Dublin Zoo well and truly open (albeit it virtually) and keeping the kids entertained from the safety of their own home.
What was the most important lesson you learnt from a marketing perspective during the pandemic?
I think the most important lesson that I learned as a marketeer over the last 18 months is to “stick to your guns”.
In relation to our overall marketing strategy, we stood firm to our brand positioning and our plan, while tweaking it as we went along as needed. We didn’t get distracted by what other brands were doing and we didn’t make any knee jerk decisions. We continued to listen to our customers at all times and ensured we put our customer first in how and when we communicated.
What are you most proud of from a marketing perspective that you and your brand team have delivered, or plan on delivering?
I’m a firm believer that marketing teams in general thrive in collaborative settings – so I anticipated remote working to be a particular challenge for the team.
I’m genuinely so proud of how our marketing team (and the wider team at SSE Airtricity) have adapted to the new ways of working and more importantly, how everyone has looked out for one other. Over the course of the last 18 months we’ve all had personal highs and lows but the level of support the team has given each other from afar has been incredible.
From a work perspective, we’ve managed to deliver a “multi award” winning campaign with “This is Generation Green” on top of all the other day to day elements, from communications, business energy campaigns, sponsorship of Dublin Zoo & the SSE Airtricity Leagues, digital creatives plus lots more. The expansion of our sponsorship of the SSE Airtricity League into the Womens National League has also been a specifically proud moment for the team and the business this year.
What did you learn about yourself over the last 15 months?
As a child growing-up I always played school with my dolls and teddies. My love for teaching grew and as a teenager my ambition was to study to be a teacher in college. I narrowly missed out on points for teaching and took a new direction of travel for a career in marketing.
One week into Home Schooling in 2020 and it became clear that I wasn’t cut out to be a full time teacher, and I realised my career in marketing was destiny!