Current branding: Business Stream

By The Drum, Administrator

April 10, 2008 | 12 min read

This month, following industry deregulation, the Scottish water market opened to competition for business customers. Scottish Water tasked Glasgow’s Redhouse Lane with creating a distinct identity for its new, independent retail operation. While the cre

Like it or loathe it, everyone has an opinion on a new brand identity. From the layman to the client, from rival businesses to potential customers. That is perhaps what makes such branding projects so vital.Redhouse Lane was appointed by Business Stream – the business-to-business subsidiary of Scottish Water – in the run up to the deregulation of Scotland’s water market for businesses, to create one of the most high profile new corporate identities in Scotland.The resulting brand was always going to have its detractors as well as its admirers, but here Steve Mills, managing director of Redhouse Lane’s Glasgow office, talks The Drum through the rebranding of Business Stream. The market backgroundFollowing deregulation, the Scottish water market opens for retail competition for business customers from April 2008. Scottish Water will retain the assets and infrastructure and will continue to provide the domestic supply, however new entrants to the market were able apply for a license allowing them to pre-contract with customers from 2007 and, from April, supply water and waste services for any of Scotland’s 135,000 businesses. Because of its pre-existing monopoly position, Scottish Water currently has 100 percent of the market. However in advance of the opening it was required by the industry regulator to divest itself of direct control over its business retail division and create a new and distinct retail operation with its own identity and clear separation from the parent body. The new operating company, which is a wholly owned subsidiary but must operate totally independently, was licensed to operate from November 2006. It is now a customer of Scottish Water, responsible for customer business service and billing, purchasing wholesale bulk water and waste water services from Scottish Water and selling these services on to business customers.Registered as Scottish Water Business Stream but trading as ‘Business Stream’ the company was given an interim identity as part of the Scottish Water ‘family’, however this was not wholly appropriate in terms of the obligations placed on the business by the water regulator. There was an urgent need for a new corporate identity. New identityRedhouse Lane was briefed to develop this new identity and a set of associated brand values that would enable the business to compete effectively in the new water market, particularly in the face of potential competitors who could include major companies with extensive experience in the utility industry, including the deregulation of electricity and gas. The requirement was for an identity that would be contemporary and relevant for customers, but with sufficient flexibility to withstand future changes of strategy, including diversification and possible entry to new markets. The big issues included a question mark over the name and its retention; to what degree the Scottish Water parentage should or could remain within the identity and what importance was placed on any potential change by the customer base. Having already been through several previous restructurings in the transition from ‘the council’ through ‘the water board and into ‘Scottish Water’ it was also vital that the workforce not only bought in to any new change, but were actively involved in the genesis and implementation of the new brand. Appraising the situationThe first stage in the design process was a comprehensive 360 degree appraisal of the market and potential competitors and an intensive research and consultancy process which involved one-to-one interviews with directors, non-execs, senior managers, stakeholders, industry regulators, influencers and key accounts; focus groups with staff and telephone interviews with a cross section of customers. What became apparent almost immediately was that there was a need for evolution rather than revolution in any development process and an initial desired rush to radically reshape the name and look might not be in the company’s best interest. Many influencers, especially non-executive directors, considered the brand to be in a transient phase and any identity needed to present a ‘newness’, a requirement to look like not quite the same as before, but with an explanation of that change. The Scottish Water ownership was seen as something of a double-edged sword; while it conveyed what were seen by many as essential benefits of trust, stability, public health reassurance and Scottishness, it was also tarnished from decades of public sector management and the, often negative, perceptions that were associated with many utilities, their service levels, tariffs and inflexible approach. For the Scottish Water board directors and influencers however, the retention of the link was essential, although it also required to be positioned in a way that was not seen by the regulator as giving unfair competitive advantage. Customer and staff feedbackIn talking to customers and key accounts in particular, it was apparent that the name and its application in itself were of relatively low importance. The real key was the requirement for a more commercial and customer oriented mindset and that any change not delivering a corresponding shift in values, service levels and customer centricity would fail. For key accounts there had already been some exposure to the name with consequential growing levels of awareness and there was a belief that yet another name change would simply cause more confusion. Among everyone talked to, there was also enormous antipathy towards the adoption of a ‘fancy’ name – “definitely not a Consignia.” Staff focus groups were held with a mix of internal and customer facing personnel to reflect the broad composition of the overall workforce. It rapidly became clear that their perceptions of their own business were less than flattering; with a distinct lack of self belief, although they still retained a real desire to unite behind a new brand and promise, with a set of brand values which people could stand up behind and which would engender a sense of pride and commitment. There was also a need to combat apathy and a wide-held belief that competition might not happen and any threat was more a psychological one than real. While there was a healthy cynicism over the Scottish Water parent company and its brand identity, there was also a strong attachment to some of the core colours within its palette, particularly blue and purple, which were seen as both Scottish and reflecting water. Among both staff and customers there was a belief that because of the intrinsically natural product delivered and the growing pressure for business to become more ethically aware and environmentally friendly, the company should be able to demonstrate its environmental credentials through both its presentation and the services delivered, with a view that any possible identity should include the colour green to demonstrate this commitment. The task then was to create an identity which would signal the change to a modern, customer-centric company, reflecting the transformation of the brand internally and through the tone of voice and execution demonstrate that the newly-transformed Business Stream would be acting in a customer, business and environmentally friendly way. TeamworkA brand development team was created within Business Stream, including senior managers from different departments and initial results were considered in detail before making recommendations to the board. The first of these was that the name be retained. Three different internal design teams were briefed to develop first stage alternatives with a requirement that no idea be excluded and alternatives from the sublime to the more radical still be considered. From these initial selections, three preferred routes were then taken to the next stage before being presented to the directors, with a recommendation for the final contender. More coloursThe brand colour palette was refined to retain the core Scottish Water colours but enlarged to include additional colours that carried relevant connotations, with a rationale for each. These primary colours will act as the main accents in all communication and publications. A secondary palette of complementary colours and tones was developed to support these core colours and create different levels of signposting and differentiation where needed. At this developmental stage a variety of type fonts and treatments were considered, all of which were selected for their clean, modern, legible cut, before the final selection of Rotis for the name. To retain some linkage to the parent company the SW logo ‘ripples’ were developed into a single ‘swoosh’ which was executed as a series of bubbles, intended to reflect the organic nature of the company and its product, while creating a bright, slightly surreal but contemporary graphic image with the flexibility to be developed. The decision having been made to retain some mention of the Scottish Water ownership within the brand identity, it was felt that name would best operate as an underpinning statement, offering the guarantee of heritage, public ownership and financial stability. A treatment was agreed with the parent board which it is envisaged will also be used in the same style and position for any future brand development or new business launch by Scottish Water. Placed beneath the Business Stream name, it can also be removed should any future strategic development require alternative descriptors or a change of service offering. A new strapline to support the brand was desired and alternatives were developed and evaluated by the branding team before a shortlist of three was tested across key customers to ascertain whether any claims made were liked, credible and supportable. The selected line was: Making water work for you. Developing a set of valuesWhile the design process was being initiated, a series of workshops were held to develop and fine tune a set of brand values and actions that would flow from the operational change and reflect the proposed new ethos. Each of these values was allocated one of the primary colours to help underpin and re-emphasise it: Dependable, Knowledgeable, Responsive, Effortless and Progressive (see above left). Developing the brand A series of staff presentations were held to explain the development process, feedback research and other results and to take everyone along in the process. The finally agreed identity, together with details of implementation across all areas of internal and external communication and a proposed plan for roll-out, was presented to the board in September 2007. The following six weeks involved a frenetic level of design, copywriting, planning and production activity. The implementation schedule included every touch point for business stream both internally and externally; from a suite of brochures and leaflets to promotional material, vans, forms and stationery to all areas of new media. The intranet, the web site and screen were both redesigned and rewritten in a new, plain spoken and fresh tone of voice, with the design and bubbles activated in a clear and consistent style. PowerPoint and all other interactive templates were designed and produced. As well as brand guidelines, full tone of voice guidelines were developed, detailing how the new customer-centric company would deal with every aspect of communication. The launchFollowing approval, the brand and its development plan were launched internally to all staff on the 7 November. Overnight that night, the rebranding of all internal signage was executed. The bubble graphics were activated across meeting room glass panels and as a running frieze on all external windows. Brand value and mission statement displays were erected in all areas and each member of staff returning to work the following day not only found the display material but a personal kit of branded everyday promotional items awaiting them on their desks. A redesigned intranet ‘Inflo’ went live that morning and branded screen savers were loaded onto all PCs. Two weeks later, at a press conference, the brand was launched externally to coincide with the launch of the new web site. The immediate resultsInternally, there was an immediate and positive shift in attitudes anecdotally. The first formal piece of research conducted in January has seen team morale and behaviours showing a significant uplift; satisfaction of leadership, communications and management of change are all seen as particular strengths, with 97 percent understanding and supporting the brand values and a real boost in motivation and positive engagement at 56 percent approval, a top quartile figure for UK business.Externally, MRUK has been retained to carry out a quarterly customer satisfaction tracking survey, the first of which was held in October 2007 and, whilst immediate levels of unprompted brand recognition were, as expected pre-launch, low, Business Stream is already beginning to be seen as professional, respectable, helpful, friendly, reliable and honest. Changes to dateSo far, the brand has enabled Business Stream to drive transformational change through the business.•Employee engagement is 51 percent, with over 95 percent of employees aware of and understanding the brand values.• Brand awareness of Business Stream has gone from 0 - 18 percent (before DM and advertising).• Brand awareness of Scottish Water Business Stream has gone up from 4 - 10 percent (before DM and advertising).• Recall rates on DM work is above 85 percent.• Customer satisfaction is up. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Business Stream has launched a new integrated campaign with collateral designed by Elmwood. The campaign’s aim is to raise awareness of the brand and its services amongst its existing customers, by telling the brand’s story through the theme of Tales of the Unexpected.Tales of the Unexpected is a series of ‘surprising’ stories illustrating how critical water is to businesses of all shapes and sizes and how shrewd water management is fundamental to everyday business life. In preparation for market de-regulation on 1 April 2008, Business Stream became a stand-alone, independently-managed company in the Scottish Water group in November 2006. As a result, and unusually, some Business Stream customers are unsure as to which company provides their water services and many are unaware of the full range of services on offer. The integrated campaign developed by Elmwood will rollout across National newspapers, trade press and business titles and will be supported by a microsite, a brochure, corporate video and company presentation.

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