Energy Firm Builds Brand With Home Catalog

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Alliant Energy Resources is attempting to build brand recognition and create an additional source of revenue for its diversified energy services through the mailing of a home-products catalog to over 100,000 customers and prospects in the Midwest.


The Alliant Energy Resources Home Products Catalog worked with Metromail, Lombard, IL, to obtain a targeted list that identified gas and electric utility customers who showed a propensity to buy catalogs. The subset of customers from parent company Alliant Energy, Madison, WI, included customers from Wisconsin, Iowa and parts of Illinois and Minnesota. The 16-page catalog was also inserted into daily newspapers in Iowa City and Ames, IA, and is accessible for online purchases at www.alliantenergycatalog.com.


The catalog offers consumer electronics, safety products and tools but no energy or utility-related services. However, Frank Greb, AER director of mass market development, said such services could be offered in the future depending on consumer reaction to the catalog.


Product selection for the catalog was determined through customer focus groups arranged by what Greb called semi-random calling in Alliant's coverage region. AER chose product suppliers who will serve as marketing partners in the company's mission to provide value-added services to its geographic base.


Greb said that the current catalog will not be promoted or funded by the utility and that AER, Cedar Rapids, IA, is a totally separate venture.


"This is a small step towards building some growth on the diversified side of the business in terms of value-added services to residential customers,'' he said.


In addition to the catalog, AER provides telecommunications, financial services and community development and is in the process of promoting these diversified services through direct marketing. AER has been selling its Security Blanket appliance warranty product to a separately targeted group in Iowa through direct mail and telemarketing for three months.


While establishing responsive customer and prospect lists will be a key driver of its growth, AER will not leverage the Alliant utility customer list with billing inserts or other means.


"First and foremost, our goal is to build a business,'' Greb said. "As part of that business we want to assemble that [non-utility] customer information.''


Design Promotions, Davenport, IA, is handling product fulfillment for AER.
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