With everything that 2020 and 2021 have given us so far, namely a global pandemic, it’s easy to forget that climate change is still a threat. While it’s vital that we talk vaccines and defeating COVID-19, it’s also important that we do not lose any ground in the battle for the planet. One of the companies keeping this conversation at the forefront is Geneco, one of Singapore’s leading energy retailers.
Joining us for this issue of the Marketing Expert Series, is Geneco’s Head of Marketing, Alex Chan, who shares the importance of green energy for Singapore and Geneco’s place on the frontlines for greener energy initiatives. With a background in marketing that cross-cuts multiple sectors and industries, Alex offers insights that help deepen our understanding of marketing, especially when it comes to marketing green energy.
Hi, Alex! Thanks for joining us in this issue of the Marketing Expert Series! Let’s start with something straightforward: tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get to where you are now?
It’s my pleasure and thanks for inviting me to the Series.
I always believe in the power of language and visual elements, and how it impacts the way one feels or think, whether it is a tv commercial or even a billboard. From then, I knew that this was an area that I always wanted to pursue, and that’s why I studied Mass Communications during my university days.
I started my career in advertising agencies as account servicing. Over time, I wanted to be in the end-to-end marketing journey and be a key influence behind campaign results. Soon after, I had an opportunity to work in the marketing team of M1, a telco company, where my passion to be a marketer truly ignited. One gig led to another, I had the opportunity to work in another leading telco StarHub and other industries, such as FMCG and Chemical.
Over my 17 years of experience, I was also fortunate to spearhead multiple award-winning brand and marketing campaigns. And that led me to where I am right now – Geneco, a retail brand of YTL PowerSeraya, in the energy industry.
As I progressed in my career, I realised that the marketing landscape is dynamic and evolves incredibly quickly. There is always something to learn, skills to hone and strategies to adapt. This is one key reason that continues to fan the fire for my passion for marketing.
Now, you’re the Head of Marketing at Geneco, a leading electricity retailer in Singapore. What does your role entail?
To make it concise, I would like to describe the Head of Marketing role as having two key focuses: Brand-First and Digital-First.
This role charts the path in building the brand of Geneco. In the competitive energy market with 12 retailers, consumers are immune to an endless bombardment of tactical shout-outs with ever so slight differences in prices, plans and promotions. There is a need to balance these functional attributes and differentiate the brand with emotional attributes. This is where brand building comes in, this is where it worked well for Geneco, and we will continue to do so.
In the world of digitalisation, this role is also required to develop and optimise digital performance as well as social media strategies. As Geneco is a digital company without any brick-and-mortar shops, its online presence has to be built towards delivering effective direct-to-consumer results. As part of customer engagement, this role also looks after the development and enhancement of the Geneco mobile app, which was recently revamped and relaunched. Singapore has a mobile penetration of 155%, one of the highest in the world, and we see the need to leverage the mobile app as a two-way platform to continue to engage and build loyalty with our customers.
Energy companies are all in the process of adapting to the impact of climate change. Green policy is in fashion, so to speak, what with the Singapore government launching its new Green Plan 2030. What steps has Geneco made to align with this initiative?
First, I would like to explain the brand name ‘Geneco’, which is made of two key parts: ‘Gen’ refers to our organisation as energy experts with over 50 years of power generation experience and electricity retailing for 20 years. And ‘Eco’ represents our commitment towards building a sustainable, greener nation. The brand purpose of Geneco is ‘Power The Change’ – our brand is not just about providing electricity, we aim to have a positive impact on the social, environmental and cultural aspects that shapes the lives of Singaporeans.
Since Geneco launched in 2018, we have embarked on this eco-journey by offering green electricity plans to our customers. Beyond this option, we have also initiated a program called The ChangeMakers, partnering with 6 like-minded organisations, Comcrop, Cultivate Central, Food Bank Singapore, Green Nudge, Refash and Repair Kopitiam. Each of us brings our area of expertise to encourage Singaporeans to adapt their lifestyles with greener practices.
Since the multi-agencies announced SG Green Plan 2030 earlier this year, Geneco is even more driven to work towards the 2030 vision with its green targets.
The first initiative we had was on Earth Day, 22 April. We announced the launch of our comprehensive solar installation solutions for residential, commercial and industrial customers, to help offset carbon dioxide emissions. On the same day, at Windsor Nature Park, we planted the first 50 of 250 trees that we have committed over 5 years. This initiative is under the NParks’ One Million Tree movement, and which is part of the SG Green Plan as well.
The next key initiative, and which I am very excited to share is the launch Power Eco Add-on – Singapore’s First-and-Only green add-on for an electricity plan.
Can you elaborate a little on this? How has it been received so far?
At Geneco, we always challenge ourselves and strive to create impactful ways to empower customers to Power The Change for the environment. Along with SG Green Plan 2030, we are even more committed to encourage and ease Singaporeans in embarking on a journey towards building a greener home for all.
Through the study on how Singaporeans responded towards climate change, we had the insight that while 80% of Singaporeans do care about the environment, 75% felt they lack options to act sustainably and 56% felt sustainability choice was of poor value.
And we were determined to make that change and worked on an innovative product that is the first of its kind – Power Eco Add-on.
Not only we simplified 6 plans to just 3 plans, but we also addressed the pain points of customers with 5 key differentiating benefits:
- Flexibility – It allows customers to choose between Carbon Credits or Renewable Energy Certificates.
- Affordability – Customers is able to select the level of green contribution from 25/50/75/100%, which starts from just 40cts more per month.
- Impact – Customers can help to offset/avoid up to 3920kg of carbon dioxide emissions and that’s an equivalent to 192 rain trees absorbing in a year.
- Simplicity – Customer’s sign-up journey takes less than 5mins
- Certified – A digital certificate will be sent to the customers for their green contributions
We coincided with our launch on National Day, not just to celebrate our Garden City’s 56th birthday, but also to reinforce our commitment to the SG Green Plan. We hope to rally Singaporeans to ‘Go Green Your Way’, which is the campaign tagline, and do their part for the nation.
And in just a month, we are heartened to see 10 times more customers who chose this green add-on actively as compared to the past. This result is exceptionally encouraging as it shows the growing commitment that Singaporeans has. It also reflects that the green path to SG Green Plan 2030 is a promising one.
Being more focused on green initiatives, I imagine your marketing strategies and approaches have shifted as well. Could you tell us a bit more about what marketing activities you’ve been using to engage your customers and partners? Have there been any marketing challenges?
If we think about it, the need to protect the environment is not a recent trend or topic. Years ago, our nation has quite a few green initiatives, such as the 3Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. And as shared earlier, though 80% of Singaporeans are aware and do care about the environment, such green practices have not been adopted widely over the years.
One of the key attributes is that the green topic is not a popular one for an engaging conversation, let alone to evoke any action.
Since its inception, Geneco has always strived to be a responsible organisation. We always seek to understand what challenges our customers are facing and how we can ease and encourage them into adopting a greener lifestyle.
For example, to amplify the Power Eco Add-on campaign, we looked for partners that not only understand and are aligned to our purpose but also have a wide reach for us to leverage and increase the campaign awareness.
We eventually collaborated with the ever-popular bubble tea chain Playmade, as the design of Power Eco Add-on’s varying green contributions is in the likes of the sugar level choices concept for bubble tea. With the strong bubble tea culture in Singapore, this partnership will allow us to reach out to more Singaporeans through our gamification and initiatives together.
In addition, we also engaged prominent social media KOLs, who range from eco-warriors to those who just started their sustainable journey, to talk about their own green lifestyles and then explain the benefits of Power Eco Add-on.
Through these collaborations, we believe that we are able to reach out to the masses, create meaningful conversations and open up new narratives on a sustainable future.
Let’s switch it up a bit now. You’re a successful marketer with a variety of experiences across a different number of well-known brands. How have your career experiences shaped you as a marketer?
I am very thankful for the opportunities I had as each industry has its own learning curves, customer behaviours and marketing strategies.
For example, some companies focus on tactical approaches; others focus more on brand building. Some companies are smaller scale with a different set of priorities, while the bigger companies have a different set of challenges. Some companies’ core business depends on having physical stores or presence; others are going digital-only. I was fortunate to be exposed to these experiences, which made me learn and re-learn and helped in shaping my skill sets as a marketer.
But what made a significant difference was that I had many inspiring mentors throughout my career. They didn’t just teach me about marketing but also guided me on how to be a more rounded individual, collaborative team player and a better leader. Some of them made an effort by translating their thoughts to me; while others inspired me by the way they led, approached and resolved matters.
These are valuable learnings, which will stay with me as a marketer and as an individual.
Looking back at your career, is there any experience that you feel had a bigger impact on your life as a whole? Or do you feel like they all add up?
There are definitely key moments in different stages of my career that influenced my journey. As I look back and beyond my own experiences, it culminates into two key takeaways that I will always reflect on – the constant need for self and skill improvement.
Marketing has evolved rapidly over the years, advanced by technology. The media landscape has been significantly disrupted, renowned companies who led in the past have been overtaken by e-commerce platforms, customers have vastly different consumer habits now, and with the Covid-19 pandemic, these changes are accelerated – the list goes on.
What I feel is important, during these waves of changes, is to hold on to our marketing basics, as these foundations will never waver. Then complement these foundations by learning constantly whenever there are new opportunities, and keep applying what we have learnt. Only then, I feel we can build ourselves upwards and be stronger marketers.
Any advice you’d give to young and aspiring marketers specialists?
I hope to give three pieces of advice and hope these will resonate with them.
Stay on top of the latest, whether they are trends, topics or happenings. It can be over casual conversations with your agency partners or connections with your peers in different industries; to be relevant is everything in this field.
Stay curious in the ever-evolving marketing landscape. Learning never stops, whether you are a marketer of 10 months or 10 years, there is always something new to add to your expertise.
Most of all, stay passionate. No matter how challenging it gets, remember why you chose Marketing and keep the fire burning bright. It will only make you stronger over time.
Thanks for spending some time with us, Alex! How can people connect with you if they’d like to know more about you?
Thanks for having me. For those who might have more questions or simply want to connect, they can easily find me via LinkedIn; I will be happy to share more.
The Marketing Expert Series features marketing and communications experts from across every industry. Every month, 2Stallions showcases the stories and expertise of marketing experts from around the world, join us as we explore how marketers navigate the challenges of the regions and industries they work in. If you’d like to be featured in the next issue of the Marketing Expert Series please reach out to us via email.
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