Tuesday, 11 September 2007

News from npower

- New report issues warning to ‘dinosaur’ brands -

A groundbreaking study
[1], ‘The npower Challenger Brands Study 2008’, released today by energy provider, npower, reveals the eight ingredients that make up Britain’s best loved brands and issues a stark warning to some of the UK’s most established brands; including BA, British Gas and BT.

In ‘The npower Challenger Brands Study 2008’, many of the biggest and best known companies operating in the UK were subjected to an exclusive audit by 1,600 consumers and 150 marketing professionals to interrogate their brand personalities and uncover the traits that turn UK consumers on, and off. With 88% of UK adults saying they would be reluctant to buy from a brand they don’t identify with the study comes at a crucial time for British business.

‘The npower Challenger Brands Study 2008’ – the 8 ingredients for a successful challenger brand:

1. Strong Leadership
With their celebrity CEO’s it’s no surprise that 55% of respondents selected Virgin and Microsoft as the two brands with the strongest leadership skills. Interestingly, despite Stelios’s legacy, only 20% see Easyjet as a brand under strong leadership.

2. Listens
As consumers become more empowered it’s crucial that a brand is seen to be listening to its customers’ needs. 53% selected ‘come back king’ M&S as the brand most willing to listen while British Gas scored lowest for listening skills with only 8% of the vote.

3. Intelligent
As the underdog competitor to software giant, and near monopoly Microsoft, 54% cited Apple as the most intelligent brand for revolutionising the market by offering the creative alternative to Microsoft’s industry standards.

4. Innovative
Apple again came out top with 66% of the vote for its revolutionary products and innovative marketing. npower scored three times as highly as British Gas in the category for its sometimes unconventional, marketing campaigns, such as the first ever wind and solar ads.

5. Courage
34% paid tribute to Channel 4 as the second most courageous brand, beaten only narrowly by Virgin with a score of 41%.

6. Takes risks
Easyjet picks up 38% of the vote as a great example of a business with a risk-taking culture built within it. Some “Easy” risks have worked (Easyjet and EasyCruise) and some haven’t (Easycinema) but Stelios recognises that a brand has to carry on taking risks – even in the face of adversity. Debenhams, on the other hand, was perceived as the brand least likely to take risks.

7. Challenges
Virgin is crowned king of the challenger brands with 44% of the vote. The ‘old guard’ of established brands such as BA, British Gas and BT all scored lowest with just 3% of the vote. With 84% of respondents saying they prefer to buy from companies that ‘do things differently’ and six out of ten stating that they try to avoid overly dominant brands in a particular sector, the study highlights why it’s never been more important for businesses to challenge the status quo.

8. Maverick
When BA decided to ditch the Union Jack on the tail fins Virgin Airways spotted a great opportunity to hijack this icon and make it their own. It’s no surprise then that Virgin scores 12 times as highly as BA under this category. Similarly, npower recently demonstrated the brand’s youthful and irreverent spirit by hijacking ‘Sid’ – British Gas’s eighties brand icon – and bringing him to life via a cheeky brand campaign.

Threat to the establishment
Brands that fared less well in ‘The npower Challenger Brands Study 2008’ included some of Britain’s biggest and best known companies, including BA and BT, each of whom were perceived as ‘arrogant’ and ‘complacent’ by more than a third of UK consumers. Likewise heavyweight British institutions such as British Gas and ITV also came under criticism for their lack of agility, courage and failure to learn from their mistakes. However, giants who listen can come again. The reinvigorated M&S was the brand the British public could identify with most with a quarter (26%) saying M&S reflected their own values & identity.

David Molian, Cranfield School of Management faculty and brand consultant to npower, and one of the UK’s leading experts on challenger brand performance, says, “The npower Challenger Brands Study provides a compelling insight into brand identity and consumer perceptions. Today’s consumer is very brand-savvy. No business can afford to take its customers for granted. From the study we can see that the key ingredients for ‘challenger brand’ status are perceived intelligence, innovation, courage and strong leadership. British consumers have huge regard for businesses which they see as championing their interests – and won’t hesitate to slate brands which can’t meet expectations.”

Kevin Miles, MD of npower, who commissioned the research, says “As a young brand with high aspirations, npower commissioned the research to learn about the qualities and behaviour that creates a well respected, established challenger brand. One of the key insights was the need to understand your consumer and engage them in a personal and non-patronising way. At npower, we have always prided ourselves on our forward thinking approach, creating innovative and fresh marketing and comms campaigns that reflect our personality and brand principles at the same time”.

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For further information or if you are interested in an interview with either Kevin Miles, MD of npower or David Molian, brand consultant to npower, please contact:
Jo Chappel, Frank PR: Ph: 0207 693 7423 or
Nick McHugh, npower: Ph: or 01905 340 854 or

About npower
npower is the UK's largest electricity supplier and draws on 50 years experience in supplying electricity and gas. npower offers a range of essential home and business services to 6.8 million customers across the UK.

[1] The ‘npower Challenger Brand Study 2008’ was carried out by Tickbox in association with the Cranfield School of Management between 4th April and 23rd May 2007 on the following 24 leading brands operating in the UK: BA, Virgin, Easy Jet, British Gas, npower, PowerGen, Apple Microsoft, Sony, M&S, Debenhams, Primark, Adidas, Nike, Reebok, ITV, Sky, Channel 4, BT, Orange, Vodafone, Ford, Toyota and Skoda. Sample size: 1850 UK consumers and marketing professionals

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