Marketing products and services related to global political or social dilemmas such as green energy can be difficult. Companies don’t want to come off as insensitive in the face of important issues, but at the end of the day they still need to turn a profit.
Companies face significant challenges to bridge the marketing gap in the fraught, contentious space of climate change discourse—and win the hearts, minds, and active support of their intended audience.
Aspirations of worldwide green energy
Ørsted is a Denmark-based green energy company that constructs and operates wind and solar farms, energy storage facilities, and bioenergy plants. In 2017 they completely divested themselves of their oil and gas business. This shift necessitated a rebrand to facilitate their transition to end-to-end clean energy development. By 2025, they hope to achieve carbon neutrality.
When a user arrives at the home page of Ørsted’s website, they’re greeted with a screen-spanning image of a windmill positioned in front of a clear blue sky. This landscape is accompanied with copy which reads, “Ørsted ranked the most sustainable energy company in the world – three years running.”
A button beneath links out to a story flush with statistics outlining what led to that designation—and that page links out to another detailing their transformation from an oil-based company toward one dedicated to pioneering sustainable wind, solar, and bioenergy solutions.
Elsewhere on the site, Ørsted outline their decarbonisation manifesto with a whitepaper which explains the benefits of the power-to-x excess energy conversion methodology pivotal to reducing emissions.
One of Ørsted’s largest competitors in the green energy space is the Spanish company Iberdrola. Tabs at the topmost section of their front page highlight their commitments to environmental sustainability and social justice.
The latter is a huge topic in environmental science, as studies show that climate change disproportionately affects low-income communities. It’s also an area where the company notably differs in approach from a company like Ørsted; by providing copy which explains the toll climate change takes on the people of our planet, Iberdrola positions itself as understanding of and in conversation with the reasons climate change is such a threat.
Iberdrola backs up their promise with a strong range of high-quality content marketing pieces. Browse Iberdrola’s website and you’ll find a commitment to stopping deforestation in the Amazon, an analysis of climate change’s effects on coral reefs, and an essay by an aerospace engineer on tomorrow’s eco-friendly smart cities. Through this sort of content, Iberdrola espouses a strong aspirational identity as being forerunners in tomorrow’s green future. It’s hard not to want to root for the company as they proceed toward their 2050 carbon neutrality goal.
In today’s eco-conscious world, it’s easy to buy into what Ørsted and Iberdrola are selling, whether you’re a business looking to make use of their services or just a consumer.
Facing up to inconvenient truths
For a company like British Petroleum (BP), marketing efforts to try and connect with audiences are akin to tiptoeing across a minefield. In 2010, an explosion at the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig dumped over 130 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It is remembered as one of the worst environmental disasters in the history of the world, having killed millions of marine creatures and continuing to harm entire ecosystems to this day.
One wonders how anyone should ever take what BP has to say about the importance of sustainable energy seriously. Nevertheless, over on their gas & low carbon energy page, the company lays out their plans to lower carbon electricity and energy by 2030.
Note the difference in approach between a company like Ørsted compared to BP here; BP aren’t looking to divest themselves of gas and carbon, as it’s the cornerstone of their business. But they need to put on an environmentally-friendly face to try and mitigate the adverse effects of their 2010 environmental catastrophe on the company’s social mindshare.
One of BP’s largest competitors is the British energy company Royal Dutch Shell, or Shell for short. In 1991, the company published a film warning the world about climate change titled ‘Climate of Concern.’ They then subsequently ignored their own advice, continuing on with gas and oil-focused business as usual; though—conveniently enough—you won’t find that mentioned in their self-congratulatory website copy regarding the film!
While not as dire, Shell, like BP, has something of a sordid history with oil spills. But because these cases didn’t quite become world-altering events on the scale of BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill, Royal Dutch Shell are more easily able to position themselves as active participants in the race toward net-zero emissions to those who don’t know any better.
Still, no matter which way you shake it, the bread and butter of Shell’s business is gas and oil—as it is with BP. This being an inextricable fact, the two companies will never fully be able to position themselves as energy-clean companies to the world marketplace.
MarketSmiths Case Study
Founded in 1557, Canson have for centuries serviced creative types (like us!) by crafting paper that helps ideas sing. But being a French company, Canson had trouble communicating to North American audiences what makes their products so powerful in the hands of artists. MarketSmiths went to work right away on a total refresh of their copy strategy, architecting branding guidelines and product descriptions spanning the gamut of their vast catalog in crisp, rejuvenated English. Delighted with the results, Canson were able to incorporate their new tonal guide and product descriptions for the brand’s exciting next journey.
Renewing a vow for a cleaner Earth
The unifying approach between these four companies—Ørsted, Iberdrola, British Petroleum, and Royal Dutch Shell—is this aspirational need to reduce emissions. Where they differ is to what extent said reductions should occur.
With 29 years to go until 2050—the year many companies point to as being the time when carbon neutrality can be achieved—energy enterprises will only increase their respective marketing outputs in regards to environmentally-conscious business behaviors. Who will win the hearts and minds of consumers and businesses as the first truly energy-green company remains to be seen.
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