Animation has the power to break through marketing clutter. No matter the company or industry, consumers want entertaining, educational and aspirational content. In a sea of sensory overload, animated explainer videos enable your energy utility to stand out in a memorable, compelling way.

Animation helps brands to develop a unique and identifiable look that instantly separates them from competitors. Graphic imagery is a powerful tool. Graphic imagery that moves? That’s influential.

Benefits of Animated Explainer Videos

  • Eye-catching and attention-grabbing
  • More flexibility
  • High performance
  • Aids understanding of complex topics
  • Memorable

Video content is now an essential element of any marketing plan. Animation provides the flexibility to make branded video content faster and often for less money than live action alternatives.

While live action video depends largely on specific locations, appropriate talent and other external variables, the possibilities are endless with animation. You control every aspect of the environment and characters — your story can take place in the middle of the desert or on the surface of the moon.

For brands on a budget, that means they can do much more for less.

“The power of animation lies in the ability to translate emotions and ideas into a visual experience for viewers,” said Mary Harrison, Questline Digital Animator. “You don’t have to limit your imagination — animation pushes the boundaries beyond what is possible in real life.”

According to Questline Digital Benchmarks data, video and other multimedia content outperforms articles in residential customer communications. We see some of the highest engagement for animated explainer videos that break down difficult energy topics.

Animation provides opportunities for energy utilities to educate their customers on complex topics. Technical information can be effectively explained through simple animated videos, compared to a lengthy article or complicated lived-action explainer video.

“Animation is like having X-ray vision,” explained Matt Irving, Questline Digital Creative Director for Video. “You can see exactly how technology works inside the equipment — something that wouldn’t be possible with live footage.”

3 Ways Utilities Can Use Animated Explainer Videos

When people think of animation, they often think of cartoons from classic Disney movies, Pixar films or TV shows like The Simpsons. However, animation can also be realistic and lifelike — it all depends on what style works best to tell your story.

The subject matter can be serious, educational, technical or even heartfelt. Questline Digital has utilized animation in promotional campaigns ranging from communicating the safety and security of outdoor lighting to PSAs explaining rate cases. There are no limits to the stories that can be told with animation.

Animated explainer videos have the power to capture attention, engage audiences and make your message memorable — which, let’s face it, is not always easy to do.

Here are a few examples of how you can use animated explainer videos in your energy utility’s marketing to increase customer engagement.

Explain new billing programs

Animated video is a great way to educate your customers on the main features of their energy bill or a new billing program. Whether your utility is debuting a new bill redesign or simply wants to educate customers on how to read their bill, animated video makes an impact.

The visual nature of video works best for this type of communication. Instead of describing all the key features in an article or bill insert, your customers can clearly see them in the clip. Plus, you can highlight important changes with animation.

For one major utility, Questline Digital created an animated explainer video highlighting their new and improved bill, which featured a fresh look and easier-to-find information. This educational video experienced strong customer engagement with a 42.7% open rate and more than 14,000 total clicks from a promotional email campaign. The video also experienced nearly 8,000 views on the energy utility’s YouTube channel.

Simplify technical content

One of the most valuable capabilities of animation is simplifying intricate topics. You can provide an unobstructed look into equipment or drastically abridge the complexity of a concept.

For example, in the following video, variable frequency drives (VFD) are explained in just a few seconds with the use of animation. Showcasing how pipe valves and VFD technology differ would be time consuming without the use of graphics.

Educate customers about energy use

From smart home devices to electric vehicles, customers have more energy technology at their fingertips than ever before — and more questions about how best to control their energy use. Animated explainer videos can bring these topics to life, helping customers understand new energy technologies in a fun and entertaining format.

Questline Digital created the explainer video series “The Evolving World of Energy” for the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative. With the friendly character Professor Energy as a guide, the videos help unravel complicated energy topics and demonstrate the benefits to customers.

Step Up Your Storytelling

Explore the limitless possibilities of animation. Questline Digital can help you create customized videos to maximize engagement with your energy utility customers. We handle every facet of the process from pre-production and scriptwriting to art direction and editing.

Discover how Questline Digital can help step up your storytelling with animated explainer videos.

Gamification — the application of game-design elements in non-gaming contexts — is a great opportunity for energy utilities to engage customers. Games facilitate our natural desire for socializing, learning, competition and achievement, not to mention fun and play. The latter may sound frivolous but serves as a powerful engagement tool.

In 2010, Google released their first-ever gamified Doodle (a temporary alteration of the company’s logo) to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Pac-Man. In the following two days, consumers spent more than 4.82 million hours playing with Google’s Pac-Man logo.

This is not the only time Google has gamified its applications. On April Fool’s Day in 2015 and 2017, the search giant overlaid playable Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man maps over Google Maps. These events generated countless news articles, tutorials and hours of customer engagement.

How does gamification work?

By adding interactive elements to marketing messages, educational resources or other content, gamification makes that information more appealing and more memorable.

How does it work? Gamification leverages three elements to achieve high levels of engagement:

Mechanics: Most games are built around a core mechanic that must be performed to progress. In other words, the mechanic is the set of rules. The mechanic does not have to be complicated to make the game entertaining.  

Dynamics: This is essentially the game play, whether building a contraption, smashing moles or collecting widgets. Game dynamics act as the vehicle to progress and receive a reward.

Reward: This is achieved by the payoff. This could be a high score, medal or new piece of information. An engaging experience provides some measurement of progression for consumers as they try to reach their reward.

Fun and games with energy content

There are many types of games to engage and entertain your audience, including classic crossword puzzles, old-school video games and trivia. These interactive content pieces can be used in an eNewsletter, on your energy utility’s website or social media sites to drive engagement. You can also leverage continuity by turning your gamified content into a series to boost engagement.

These Questline Digital interactive games are great examples of how you can gamify energy-related content:

POWER PLAY: Energy Crossword Puzzle: This is a crossword puzzle with energy-inspired themes. In this case, the rules are the same as any crossword puzzle with the player working toward completion.

Who Wants to Be an Energy Expert?: This series of multiple-choice quizzes is presented like a TV gameshow. There are simple rules to follow with additional elements such as a “phone an expert” option that provides additional educational touchpoints.

Hazard Hunt: Home Electrical Safety: This game lets the player search for common hazards found in everyday life. The player navigates each room and hovers over the potential hazard to reveal a useful tip.

Gamification is an increasingly popular tactic to drive engagement and educate customers about energy topics and technology. In the age of “infotainment,” creating a truly engaging customer experience requires great content and a stimulating way to consume it.

Learn how interactive games from Questline Digital’s Content Catalog can power-up your marketing strategy.

Infographic listing ways to increase My Account enrollment

My Account makes your customers’ lives easier. They can set up their payment options, sign up for paperless billing, explore their energy use and more. My Account isn’t just beneficial for customers — it’s an essential tool to help energy utilities achieve long-term customer satisfaction.

Not only does My Account help customers personalize their experience, it also helps them be more digitally connected with your energy utility. However, it’s not always easy to encourage customers to enroll in this convenient service. Try these five proven strategies to increase My Account enrollment.

Promote My Account enrollment in Welcome Series

The best time to promote My Account is at the start of service. We recommend taking advantage of a Welcome Series to introduce the features of My Account to new and moving customers. In 2019, nearly half of all Welcome Series emails were opened, and one in 10 customers clicked through at least one email.

We recommend promoting My Account enrollment throughout Welcome Series, especially in the first and second emails focused on setting up service and billing options. Our benchmarks data shows that the welcome and billing message have the highest customer engagement, with open rates of 43% and 53%, respectively. In these emails, highlight the key benefits of My Account and include a CTA directly to the enrollment page.  

Segment your message

A personalized message has the power to increase the effectiveness of your My Account promotions. Segmentation helps increase enrollment by promoting specific benefits to smaller, targeted audiences.

We recommend segmenting your audience by customers’ needs and interests. For example, business customers are more interested in no-hassle payment options like auto pay that make their busy schedules a little easier.

You can segment your residential customers by homeowners and renters. Homeowners are interested in keeping track of their monthly energy usage. Budget billing or payment assistance programs may be more relevant to a renter audience.

Consider one-click My Account enrollment

A potential roadblock for customers is a complicated, multi-step enrollment process. One-click enrollment features an easy-to-use landing page with customers’ account information dynamically prepopulated in the form. All they need to do is click a button to enroll.

Our energy utility clients have found success with one-click enrollment for various promotions, from paperless billing to rebate programs. For example, we helped Eversource Energy create a one-click enrollment landing page and enrollment confirmation page for their paperless billing program. As a result of this easy enrollment, Eversource experienced the largest annual gain in five years with an increase to 33%.

Add an incentive

Incentives are an effective way to increase My Account enrollment. Questline Digital performance metrics have found that a small reward for every customer who signs up is more effective than a single grand prize. Promotions with an incentive have a 17% higher open rate and 28% higher CTR.

Here are some best practices when choosing a smaller incentive:   

  • Awarding a $5 gift card to all signups converts better than enter-to-win contents of $1,000 or more.
  • Products like LED lightbulbs rank second to gift cards among the best drivers of click-throughs.
  • Thermostats and smart-home device giveaways are also top performers.

While less effective than small rewards, a single grand prize (tickets to a sports game or free electricity for a year) is better than no incentive at all. These prizes will still encourage opens and drive customer interest in your promotional email.

Be sure to mention the incentive in your subject line to increase engagement. In fact, subject lines that clearly state the incentive reach 13% more of their intended audience than subject lines that only imply the offer.

Don’t forget social media

The demographics of energy utility customers are changing — and younger generations are a growing share of the population. To reach millennial and Gen Z customers, you need to be where they are online. With 90.4% of younger generations being active social media users, this is where to find them.

Don’t miss out on reaching younger audiences — share the benefits of My Account through an engaging social media campaign featuring fun videos or imagery. While it’s important to stay true to your brand, social media is the perfect opportunity to show off your brand’s personality.

Opportunities abound for increasing My Account enrollment. Since every energy utility is unique, test out these different tactics to discover which one works best for you. Reach out to Questline Digital for more insights on creating a successful My Account campaign.

Learn how a digital marketing campaign will boost My Account enrollment for your energy utility.

Content marketing is both an art and a science — with the power to build long-term relationships with energy utility customers. In this webinar, Brian Lindamood, Questline Digital’s VP of Marketing & Content Strategy, shares tips to help energy utilities create a winning content marketing strategy.

Building blocks of customer satisfaction 

Instead of just promoting programs or services, content marketing is a strategic approach focused on using high-quality and relevant content that customers want and need. Content marketing positions your energy utility as a trusted resource in customers’ lives.

“Content marketing is the lifeblood of the Internet,” Lindamood says. “Content is what Google finds when it searches your website, what your customers share on social media, what you deliver to customers in emails. Without useful content, that customer relationship becomes transactional and your digital marketing is essentially just sales, not about building a long-term relationship.”

In traditional marketing, there is always a gap between what your company has to say and what your customers want to hear. You can reach a broad audience with a traditional push marketing strategy, especially if you have a large advertising budget. But it’s all too easy for customers to tune out information that doesn’t interest them. Using content in a pull marketing approach, utilities can close that gap by connecting with customers around their interests.

The art and science of content marketing

As an art, content marketing helps to build connections by delivering content that’s informative, entertaining and engaging. The key is finding out your customers’ wants, needs and interests and building content around them.

As a science, content marketing allows you to track the success of any given campaign. You can get measurable results and see how you’re engaging with a particular target audience.

Content can take many different forms, including articles, infographics, videos and social media posts. Energy utility customers are increasingly looking for visual and interactive content. However, text-based articles are still effective for explaining in-depth technical content, especially for a business audience.

There are a wide variety of digital platforms to distribute your content, including:

  • Blogs and websites
  • Mobile apps
  • Social media platforms
  • Email
  • SMS/text
  • CRM/marketing cloud platforms
  • Voice-activated speakers

The 4 Ps of content strategy for energy utilities

How do you turn quality content into an effective content strategy? Your content must have purpose, reach the right people, use the right platforms and deliver measurable performance metrics.

  1. Determine your purpose. Your content must have a goal. For example, is your energy utility looking to drive enrollment into a program or build customer satisfaction?
  2. Identify your target audience. Who are your customers and what are they interested in? Keep in mind, you might have a different message for each customer segment.
  3. Choose the right digital platforms. What platforms will be most effective at reaching your target audience? A successful content strategy typically includes a mix of web, email and social media.
  4. Measure performance. How do you measure your goals? Performance metrics are essential to determine if your content is successful. If there isn’t a way to measure your goals, it’s just content, not a content strategy.

An essential investment 

While it takes time and money to invest in high-quality, relevant content, this investment pays off. Content creates an emotional connection with customers, which builds a relationship with your energy utility over the long haul. Plus, customers are more likely to share engaging content with friends and family on social media. It’s also essential for your content to be professional, accurate and useful, as your customers view your energy utility as an energy expert and helpful resource.
With content marketing, you’re not pushing a message out to your customers. Rather, you’re pulling them in with content that they find valuable and interesting. When it comes to improving customer satisfaction and meeting program goals, content marketing has a big impact.

Learn more about Questline Digital’s proven approach to content marketing for energy utilities.

Questline Digital analytics expert Kinsley Giles digs deep into the performance metrics of nearly 355 million email sends to energy utility customers each year. He provides valuable insights to help utility marketers make effective, data-driven decisions.

The single most important communication between an energy utility and its customers is the monthly bill.

According to Questline Digital’s data, on average two out of three subscribers open every electronic bill. In fact, 92% of subscribers open at least one eBill per year, and 86% of this engaged audience open more than one per year. Billing notifications are one of the most frequent communications, as well as one of the most opened, with a 66% open rate.

With such high engagement, eBill communications are the perfect touchpoint to build stronger connections with customers through content marketing.

Convert customers with content

Electronic bills represent a significant reduction in expenses for energy utilities. However, it can be a challenge to convert paper bill customers who are often resistant to change. Energy utilities are taking advantage of different strategies to move past this hurdle.

As an incremental content channel, eBills should be attuned to your energy utility’s unique brand and messaging strategy. The addition of helpful and engaging content increases the value of eBill communications and encourages customer signups.

Bring value to eBill communications with these tips

1. Be a helpful resource

Instead of simply promoting your energy utility’s programs or services, provide useful information to help solve customer problems or answer their questions. Instead of promotional messages, content should be educational in nature.

2. Add the right content

Whether deploying billing notifications through Questline Digital, a vendor or internal means, your energy utility needs a selection of content assets relevant to this specific touchpoint. For example, include an infographic outlining the reasons for bill fluctuations or a quick video on seasonal energy efficiency tips.

3. Segment your audience

Your customers are most engaged with content that is relevant to their daily lives. Segmentation provides an additional layer of targeting, whether based on customer personas (i.e. homeowner/renter), customer behavior (i.e. purchases or program participation) or situational data (i.e. spike/drop in energy usage).

4. Promote the value of eBill

Introduce customers to the valuable content in eBill notifications through promotional marketing campaigns. These messages should highlight the educational and engaging content enclosed in every eBill.

Build long-term connections with eBill communications

Energy utility customers are looking for content that resonates with their unique needs and interests. With the right content marketing strategy, your eBill communications have the power to build trust and familiarity with customers over the long haul, an outcome not possible with a quick, one-time transaction.

Kinsley Giles is an analytics professional who graduated from Ohio State University. 

Convert more customers to eBills with Questline Digital’s Paperless Billing solution.