Using Images to Turn Your Brand into a Friendly Neighbour
Whether you’re at an agency or working client-side, your end goal is the same: to help shape the face of a brand. To reach this goal, you should be exploring all means necessary. Then - and only then - you might save the world from boring advertising.
This is the short story of how our agency, SuperHeroes Amsterdam/New York, brought tangible heart and soul to an energy brand that exists 100% online: energiedirect.nl. We didn’t stop at developing their campaigns, but also reshaped and redefined their brand’s image bank.
A poisonous cocktail
An average person spends no more than 10 minutes a year managing their home’s energy. That’s less than a single episode of Road Runner (meep-meep). Within that time, your brand will be forgotten.
With attention spans just a blip on the radar, energy providers have a hard time getting the right attention. Due to price wars and new online movers and shakers, a lot of these brands have moved from low interest to no interest at all. Combine this with a highly competitive landscape with all of the same offers, and what’s left is a poisonous cocktail that will leave you in the graveyard of brands.
One of the main problems in the energy industry is customer churn. The term 'churn' is a phrase a fancy businessman came up with to express a group of customers leaving to find a better deal elsewhere. And since the selection of an energy supplier is driven almost exclusively by price, this makes churn a real threat to building a successful energy brand and loyal client base. However, SuperHeroes was up to the challenge and decided it was time for us as an agency to make our energy brand energiedirect.nl a little more human again.
The no frills look
When you’re a straightforward, 100% online energy provider who likes to keep things simple, you need a strong yet no-frills way to express your brand. For new customers, we wanted to quickly establish an image that would make them feel at home. For existing customers, we wanted to make them feel confident in their choice and confirm that they are still on the better side of the deal. So instead of a distant, cold, corporate and happy-go-lucky stock image style photography, we introduced a visual tone-of-voice close to its consumers.
Holland’s 'National' Photographer: Jan Dirk van der Burg
Earlier work by Jan Dirk van der Burg with the series “Betondorp” (2015)
We decided to instil a unique and creative touch to the brand’s image bank by choosing a documentary-style photographer. The man for the job was Jan Dirk van der Burg. He is the 'Fotograaf des Vaderlands', which roughly translates to 'The Country’s National Photographer'; a title given to the photographer chosen as the national ambassador of Dutch photography for the year. We selected Van der Burg because he has mastered the art of capturing the unfiltered essence of Dutch people in all their realness. Van der Burg’s straightforward style, not unlike the brand itself, was the perfect fit to show how energiedirect.nl as a brand was equal to its customers.
Documentary-style photography lends itself to open-ended narratives where anything is possible - but we still had to keep in mind that the image bank’s commercial goals were just as important as its creative ones. Consumers in mind. Product focused.
That’s why together with energiedirect.nl, we described 50 different scenarios depicting various day-to-day moments with different people in and around their house. They would all match with the topics of the energy provider’s communication channels like newsletters, social media, website product pages, and the brand’s own app.
We gave Jan Dirk complete artistic freedom to cast the talent and choose the settings in which they would be captured. This 'carte blanche' way of working is the only way for a photographer like Jan Dirk to guarantee authenticity and his particular style. The candid nature of each narrative is seen and felt in each and every photo.
The documentary-style photography of Jan Dirk for energiedirect.nl keeps it miles away from a corporate image bank
Jan Dirk also shoots a series for national newspaper De Volkskrant. For this series, he captures people and the particular ways they like to enjoy their weekend. Dog competitions, LARP festivals, or computer fairs are amongst the mix of events he loves to showcase. Trying to keep things real, Jan Dirk would often approach people at these events and ask to feature them and tell their unique story at their own homes. A great method that street casting just can’t beat.
Selecting imperfect moments
When the photographer was finished, he had amassed over 500 photos captured in 50 different situations. So how did we select the perfect shots from this plethora of content? By choosing that moment of perfect imperfection. Someone blinks. A person looking away. An uncharacteristic pose. A crooked smile. Or even a pancake in front of someone’s face.
Would you have selected the photo if the main character was hidden behind a pancake?
The result? character in every little piece
It was immediately evident that energiedirect.nl had upped their identity. Now, every little online corner is filled with a meaningful, authentic, brand-related image. However, the face lift didn't stop at just the website and social media: newsletters have become more visually appealing and the app is one you’ll love to scroll through, filled with relatable custom-content. Combine all this with competitive pricing and great service and customer churn has plummeted in response.
Similar to defining the tone-of-voice in writing, we have rewritten the image of an online brand, bringing it alive with whimsy and authenticity. What the brand lacked in physical stores, packaging - let alone a physical product - it made up for in character and impact. Although they had only a few short moments of contact a year with their customers, the numbers showed that the new, relatable, documentary-style photography was a hit. Less wallpaper, more human.
Welcome home with energiedirect.nl.
Solar panels aren’t the most photogenic items, however Jan Dirk has found beauty in its symmetry
When visiting a Commodore fan event, Jan Dirk asked one of the people to capture him in his own home for energiedirect.nl.
Sustainability and a greener environment is one of the key goals of energiedirect.nl
This article is part of an ongoing series about how creative agency SuperHeroes Amsterdam/New York uses different weapons in their mission to save the world from boring advertising. Niek Eijsbouts is one of their creative directors and with his team of creatives he has created work for clients like LG, MTV, ING and energiedirect.nl.