Two years ago, as part of our commitment to a clean energy future, Publitek began supporting Smart Grid Northwest with digital and event marketing services. As Smart Grid Northwest has evolved to meet its growing potential and new market challenges, Publitek has guided the organization through a successful rebrand, and more recently a change of approach to adapt to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. As a result, Smart Grid Northwest has seen its membership, influence and progress toward a clean, modern electric grid all move forward.

A clean energy organization outgrows its brand

The process started in early 2018 when the Smart Grid Northwest team recognized that the organization was outgrowing its name.

  • “Smart Grid” is too narrowly focused on one aspect of grid modernization: smart electric meters and distribution controls. Its membership was tackling the larger challenge of grid modernization, which combines smart grid technology with distributed renewable energy resources, as well as new business models for a distributed electric grid.
  • “Northwest” does not reflect the expanding member base. While still centered in the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho, the organization has gained members in neighboring regions that share concerns and resources.

The organization needed to move to a new brand that would reflect broader membership and a broader, yet sharply defined, role in the industry.

The first step to a new brand direction

By 2018, the organization had committed to an annual flagship live event every fall. For many of the reasons above, the team decided to use the name GridFWD (pronounced “grid forward”) to reflect the organization’s evolution—a kind of test run before fully committing to a new brand.

The Publitek-led team that designed a new brand for the event. It had to avoid an association with any one kind of grid modernization technology or technique, nor any one kind of stakeholder – state regulators were as welcome as utility planners and grad students. Similarly, the nature of electric grid solutions varies by region, community and availability of resources. Our effort zeroed in on an abstract pattern of triangles, which could be organized any number of ways to show depth and the relationship of industry players, yet still reflect an organized pattern. Triangles are the most stable of geometric shapes, reflecting the reliability and resiliency of electric power as a foundation of the community.

The Publitek team designed the logo and color palette, and wrote all the messaging and descriptions for event activities. We oversaw production for all the materials needed to execute the October event: prospectus, agenda, signage, marketing graphics, slide templates, table drapes, even name tags.

Completing and launching the rebrand

GridFWD 2018 hit all the targets in terms of content, attendance and quality of participants. Having succeeded under the event name, the board of directors agreed to change the name of the organization to Grid Forward. Publitek once again took the lead, working with a team to update the branding for the organization. We altered the triangle shapes to be more distinct from other brands and created a new logo with associated brand guidelines. We took the next step to design and implement a new website, email templates and social media graphics. All this activity happened within five months, to roll out the new brand at the organization’s member meeting in June 2019. In parallel, we brought the GridFWD event brand in sync with the organization brand and promoted and executed communications for GridFWD 2019, which occurred just four months later.

A growing membership, influence and impact

By the end of 2019, Grid Forward had completed a successful transition to a dynamic, high-energy brand look and feel across all its channels, digital and in-person. The flagship GridFWD 2019 event had 50% more attendees than the prior one, including the participation of many regional utility CEOs and thought leaders from across the country. The organization’s membership has continued to grow through this time, with member utilities across the Rocky Mountain states, western Canada, Alaska and Hawaii, active energy organizations participants from Nevada and the U.S. Southwest, and technology and consulting members from all across the U.S. and Canada.

Coda: helping Grid Forward pivot during the crisis

At the start of 2020, Grid Forward was poised to grow its event participation significantly once again, as well as introduce quarterly local events for more frequent collaboration and information sharing. Those plans were scrapped in March as the impact of COVID-19 became clear. Publitek worked with Grid Forward to pivot to virtual platforms for keeping its member base and broader community working and learning together.

  • Monthly invitation-only online “roundtables”
  • Quarterly town halls with a wider audience in a virtual event
  • Monthly lunch social web meetings with a host and small group of no more than 10 participants
  • New podcast series called Grid Forward Chats
  • A virtual annual meeting, including new Grid Innovator Awards and live podcast recording
  • Planning for the first virtual flagship event, GridFWD 2020

As a result, Grid Forward continues to build relationships and welcome organizations as members: the organization recently passed the 100-member mark. Keeping the industry moving forward during the related crises of 2020 is the most rewarding part of its efforts this year, supported by branding and marketing services from Publitek.

If you need to develop or refresh your brand, please reach out to us.