Toronto Hydro asks customers to choose

There's no easy way of getting consumers to sit up and take notice of their electric utility - short of cutting off their electricity or hitting them with a four-figure monthly bill....

There’s no easy way of getting consumers to sit up and take notice of their electric utility – short of cutting off their electricity or hitting them with a four-figure monthly bill.

But that’s the challenge facing Toronto Hydro, as the Ontario electricity market opens up to competition – a challenge to which the utility has responded with a whole series of marketing initiatives, including a recently launched ad campaign designed to inform consumers about the realities of the new marketplace.

Electricity is "a very low-involvement category," says Hilda Mackow, president and chief operating officer of Toronto Hydro Energy Services, the newly formed retail division of Toronto Hydro. But consumers need to know that, as a result of deregulation, they will be asked to choose their electricity supplier.

For the most part, Mackow says, people aren’t aware that they should actively choose a supplier if they want to benefit from the lowering of prices as a result of competition. So the television and print campaign, with its theme "Welcome to the age of choice," aims to set the record straight.

The advertising, created by Toronto-based Padulo Integrated, builds on several previous efforts, notably a print campaign that ran last October, and a CD-ROM-based information package that was distributed to consumers in January.

Toronto Hydro’s ultimate goal is to become known as an "energy" company. To this end, the utility has spun off two new affiliate companies, both of which received licences from the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) in March.

Toronto Hydro Energy Services, the retail arm headed by Mackow, will oversee production and sale of electricity (and may eventually branch out into gas as well), while Toronto Hydro-Electric Systems, a regulated company, will be responsible for the transmission and distribution of electricity through existing power lines.

Advertising and direct marketing will form a major component of Toronto Hydro Energy Services’ activities. Indeed, a direct marketing campaign has already been launched, targeting older homes where energy efficiency may be a problem.

In the online realm, meanwhile, the company now offers consumers the opportunity to sign up as retail customers via the Web. And there are plans to introduce online bill paying in the near future as well, Mackow says.

New retail marketing campaigns can be expected to kick in as competitors launch their own efforts, she adds.

"Customers will have a choice. That’s why the marketing will be so important – to cut through all the confusion that will be out there. You’re going to see a lot of competition for share of customer."

Rick Padulo, chair and CEO of Padulo, says Toronto Hydro Energy Services has the infrastructure, the heritage and the consumer knowledge necessary to give it a major competitive advantage.

"They are going to be very aggressive, very customer-oriented marketers in all levels of the energy business – residential and business," he says. "The bottom line is that the consumer now has a choice, and we’re going to be out there fighting hard for their business."

This new, deregulated marketplace is a direct consequence of Ontario’s Bill 35, The Energy Competition Act, which the provincial government passed in October 1998. Essentially, the legislation allows business and retail customers to choose their electricity provider, and allows electric utilities to choose the suppliers from which they buy their power.

Several companies have applied for licences to become electricity retailers in the province. Ontario Hydro and Direct Energy are among Toronto Hydro’s key competitors, and Mackow predicts that traditional gas companies will join the fray as well.

"Consumers really want one-stop shopping for all their utilities – gas, electricity, water and telephone," she says. "Eventually, if you could only get one bill, wouldn’t that be great?"

Corner Officer Shifts: Martin Fecko leaves Tangerine

Plus, PointsBet Canada and Thinkific name new marketing leaders as Lole gets a new ecommerce VP.
Corner Office

Martin Fecko departs Tangerine 

After roughly two years of serving as Tangerine’s chief marketing officer, Martin Fecko has a new gig. And this time, the financial services vet will apply his marketing leadership to a new sector, having been named CMO of Dentalcorp.

Fecko will lead the dental network’s end-to-end patient journey, support its overall growth, and work to maximize patient experiences across every touchpoint, the company said in a release.

“Martin’s in-depth expertise in engaging and retaining customers through a digitally enabled experience will be valuable in realizing our vision to be Canada’s most trusted healthcare network,” said Dentalcorp president Guy Amini.

Prior to joining Scotiabank’s digital-only banking brand in late-2019, Fecko was country manager for Intuit Canada and spent 10 years at American Express in consumer and digital marketing.

PointsBet Canada nabs former Bell marketer as it pursues expansion

Dave Rivers has joined PointsBet, an online gaming and sports betting operator, as Canadian VP of marketing.

Rivers joins from Bell, where he was most recently director of brand marketing and sponsorship, responsible for driving the company’s national sponsorship strategy and portfolio. He will report to PointsBet Canada chief commercial officer Nic Sulsky.

According to Sulsky, Rivers will “play a key role as we prepare to launch a business that is unique to our roots here in Canada.”

PointsBet has a significant presence in Australia, where it was founded, and in the U.S. In July, it named Scott Vanderwel, a former SVP at Rogers, as CEO of its Canadian subsidiary, one of several hires aimed at establishing the company’s presence locally.

Thinkific names first CMO among other executive appointments

Vancouver’s Thinkific, a platform for creating, marketing and selling online courses, has appointed Henk Campher as its first chief marketing officer as it invests in marketing to support its growth plans. It has also upped Chris McGuire to the role of chief technology officer and moved former CTO and co-founder Matt Payne into the new role of SVP of innovation.

Co-founder and CEO Greg Smith said Campher and McGuire “will play key roles building high-functioning teams around them and optimizing investment as we continue to carve out an increasingly prominent and differentiated position in the global market.”

Campher joins from Hootsuite, where he was VP of corporate marketing. Before that, he was VP of brand and communications at CRM giant Salesforce.

Lolë names new VP of digital omni-commerce as parent company exits bankruptcy protection

The Montreal-based athletic apparel and accessories retailer has appointed Rob French as VP of digital omni-commerce.

French will lead Lolë’s efforts in consumer insights, supply chain-to-consumer models and online customer journeys. In what is a new role for the company, he will also work to grow the company’s retail brand. He arrives with sixteen years experience in ecommerce, having spent the last few years as chief digital commerce officer at sporting goods retailer Decathlon.

In May 2020, Lolë parent Coalision Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection, citing several years of losses as a result of a downturn in the retail clothing market, increased competition and excess inventory – problems exacerbated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of the filing, Coalision was seeking an investor or purchaser of its assets.

It successfully exited bankruptcy protection last year and is currently rebuilding its executive team, according to a spokesperson.