Challenger to Watch: Bulb Energy

For making energy simple

“Do you want to save £267?” my partner says. “It’s easy, it'll take two minutes”. It sounds too good to be true and my Nan said to be wary of such offers. “But we’ve always had British Gas” I reply. Instantly realising my argument is not one.

“What if there’s a problem?” I add, now clutching at straws.

After a few minutes of Sunday evening administrative-ping-pong my partner convinces me we should switch to a new and cheaper energy provider. It takes two minutes. We save £267 from our annual bill. Pay no exit fees. Then get £50 cash back through a clever referral programme. Farewell fat cats.

 Photo: Ragged Edge

Photo: Ragged Edge

British Gas is the big, it's probably fair to say, complacent Goliath in UK energy, with a whopping 36% market share in 2016. The Big Six energy companies, which includes British Gas, account for more than 75% of the total market share. It's a market situation commonly known as a six-o-poly (it’s not.)

The UK government vowed to introduce a price cap, coming into effect in 2019, which would limit the most expensive tariffs. With the Big Sixes' profits likely to be hit, a raft of new challengers, with big ambitions and lower overheads, have been emboldened to enter the energy market in recent years.

Bulb, launched in 2016, is just one from this new wave of energy companies, but appears to have the lion's share of momentum.

bulb-membership-growth-630.jpg

The past year alone has seen a 4000% increase in Bulb customers, which now tops 300,000. A staggering 75% of these customers have switched from a Big Six supplier, such as British Gas. That's a lot of administrative ping-pong.

So why, of these fledging energy companies, are Bulb demonstrating such impressive growth?

Bulb supplies 100% renewable electricity and 10% green gas, and keeps its product offer easy for people by offering just one tariff, ensuring its the lowest priced tariff of any of the 100% renewable companies in the UK.

No! Not another brand targeting millennials?

The brand's positioning is built on the idea of 'Positive Energy' according to its agency Ragged Edge, who changed the company's name from Simple Energy to Bulb, and helped create "A new kind of energy brand aimed at millennials."

Wait! No! Not another brand targeting millennials?

Whilst 'millennials' account for nearly 20% of the population, and the term's overuse in marketing circles has made it something of a parody, you would be hard-pressed to find another energy company that has built its brand so specifically for this younger demographic. Fair play I say.

 Bulb outdoor advertising.

Bulb outdoor advertising.

Whilst Bulb's brand idea is based upon 'Positive Energy', that idea is delivered through a narrative or tone of voice of being real and human.

Bulb's handwritten and lower case logo makes the brand feel casual and down-to-earth. Using bright pink as the brand's primary colour feels fresh, and gives Bulb a simple yet effective way to stand out (see Monzo) from the traditional energy brands which appear bland, corporate and boring.

Co-founders Amit Gudka and Hayden Wood feature prominently on Bulb's website and marketing materials, with copy that is both personable and notably written in the first person, appearing to come directly from the founders.

 Co-founders Amit Gudka and Hayden Wood.

Co-founders Amit Gudka and Hayden Wood.

Bulb's customers are referred to as 'members'. It is language that helps reinforce the idea that this is a brand of the people. 'Members' belong and take part, 'customers' are passive and powerless.

In terms of growth, Bulb has a remarkable referral programme which has been responsible for 30% of new signups - including our own. Every time a new Bulb member signs up using another member's referral link, both new and existing members earn £50.

Perhaps ‘rainmaker’ would have been a more fitting term than member?

As existing members are rewarded for every single new member sign-up (rather than the one-off reward companies often offer), they are incentivised to become ongoing ambassadors for the brand. Some have earned up to £1500 for multiple referrals.

A number of shrewd members have since created single page websites to share their referral link, with the aim of reaching as wide an audience as possible. Perhaps 'rainmaker' would have been a more fitting term than member?

Bulb is receiving strong brand advocacy from existing members as a consequence, and members are, in turn, rewarded for helping the business grow.

It's rapid, viral growth and it's genius.

*If you're interested in signing up to Bulb, save us both £50 here.

Editor of The Challenger Project, marketing at eatbigfish. Fan of the underdog. West Ham supporter. All adds up really.