Vicinity logo on a tote bag

If reliability is at the heart of what you do, it’s easy to get trapped into believing the infrastructure and processes that physically make it happen are what matters most to customers. But reliability can be the outcome of more compelling differentiators. In creating its new brand after being sold, Vicinity Energy learned that it’s the resiliency, expertise, compassion, and commitment of its employees that give customers a reason to choose and stay loyal to their new brand.

A fresh start for a trusted brand

Vicinity came into existence after the $1.25 billion sale of the North American district energy assets of a multinational organization based in France. The assets focused on water management, waste management, and energy services built and managed over the past 50 years within North America’s largest energy districts, including Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Kansas.

The new entity needed to quickly establish a strong and differentiated identity. With substantial private equity backing, it was poised to grow rapidly—provided it could communicate a compelling value proposition to its target audiences. Company leaders suspected their customers and prospects—including cities, hospitals, universities, and commercial property owners—might be anxious about the change of ownership. It’s what these customers taught Vicinity about itself that became the foundation of its new brand.

It’s not always what you do, but how you do it

District energy systems are networks of hot- and cold-water pipes, typically buried underground, that are used to provide hot water, chilled water, steam, and electricity to buildings using less energy than individual building boilers and chillers. It’s a beneficial option for cities, commercial property owners, universities, and hospitals—any urban environment or campus that needs efficient, reliable, and sustainable heating and cooling.

The sale of the company’s North America’s assets created an independent leader in the highly competitive district energy marketplace. To realize the benefits of its new status and sole focus on providing best-in-class district energy solutions, the company needed a brand and a name that differentiated it from the competition and conveyed the dynamic nature and huge potential of the district energy model.

Right away, our research revealed surprising results. It was the people behind the power that made the difference. The marketplace was highly interested in sustainability and efficiency, but for entities like hospitals and municipalities, resiliency was paramount: the ability to ensure always-on energy no matter what the situation. Our research further revealed the top reason clients trusted the company to deliver resiliency was, in fact, its people. They viewed the employees as true partners, passionate about what they do, and available 24/7 to provide hands-on, proactive customer service.

And while other users truly appreciate the efficiency, reliability, resilience, and sustainability of the new entity’s energy solutions, they raved about the company’s people, too—their engineering expertise as well as their unwavering commitment to personal service. This human factor became key. When our analysis revealed a competitive field that was surprisingly devoid of humanity, not to mention any communication of what the district energy model ultimately enables for customers, we saw an opportunity to create a strong and differentiated new brand in the marketplace.

Building a people-first brand by connecting the dots

Our brand strategy leaned into the concept of being the “first call” for organizations for whom energy resilience was paramount. Crystalized in a new tagline—“Connect with us. Count on us. Thrive alongside us.”—the brand strategy emphasizes human connection, reliability, and the outcomes of the relationship: reliable energy at a lower cost and with a smaller carbon footprint.

To support the brand strategy, we created a new name for the organization: Vicinity Energy. The name alludes to the category the company plays in—district energy—while suggesting a closeness that underscores the partnership-focused brand. Visually, the brand projects optimism and confidence, combining images of the people of Vicinity with graphic allusions to location.

Supporting messaging demonstrates how the company’s people deliver on the brand promise. For example, unlike competitors, Vicinity only offers district energy solutions; this focus creates unmatched expertise and keeps them on the cutting edge of energy delivery. Another important message, that Vicinity takes the burden of managing energy off the client’s shoulders, makes the brand promise personal. Brand language avoids industry buzzwords to get right to the client benefit. For example, rather than talk about “tailored solutions,” Vicinity connects through an emotional appeal: “When the patient is on the operating table, you need to know that your energy source won’t let you down.”

When you have a clear path, you can move quickly

DeSantis Breindel partnered with Vicinity to develop and activate its new brand within an aggressive timeline—nine weeks from the start of the research phase to launch. Once the verbal and visual brand elements were in place, we created an interim landing page to showcase the new name and brand. We continue to work with the company to fully activate the brand.

The new name and brand have generated significant “buzz” across the energy industry, including several major news stories about the newly launched company in leading consumer and trade publications. The pace of RFPs is accelerating as word of the company’s new status begins to permeate the marketplace. In the words of Bill DiCroce, CEO of Vicinity Energy, “We truly enjoyed the process of rebranding a legacy company with the DeSantis Breindel team. They found clear value proposition themes with our customers, prospects, employees and management to match the excitement and enthusiasm for the new Vicinity Energy brand.”

Together with Vicinity, we created a brand that builds upon the strength of the organization’s employees and communicates the higher order potential of their services to transform energy from a cost-of-doing-business into a source of security and income to support the core mission of client organizations.

To learn more about rebranding post-sale assets into a standalone brand, contact us.

About the author

Seth Margolis

Seth Margolis is a Senior Strategy Director who has spearheaded branding efforts for financial services, professional services and technology companies, as well as for not-for-profit organizations.

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