British Gas is launching a nationwide push to inject more warmth in the brand that also marks the latest milestone in its ongoing effort to bring consistency between its campaign and customer experiences.
With more than 200 million pieces of communications, creating a throughline across all touchpoints is no easy task. It’s why British Gas’ marketing and communications director Margaret Jobling believes her first campaign since joining the business from Birds Eye last year has to evolve rather than revolutionise the company’s long-running 'Planet Home' marketing strategy with its 'No Place Like Home' ads.
“The scale and volume of our communications makes [linking them together] trickier,” she said. “It’s not because it’s hard to do but because there’s a lot of it to do. We’ve got a clear plan to tackle this systematically and ensure that we’re delivering the right tone of voice across all our touchpoints.”
Jobling will be hoping the tweaks are enough change peoples’ perceptions of a brand she admits may have played it safe with its advertising in recent years. “We felt it was getting a little boring,” added Jobling and so the latest campaign dials up the emotion to feel “warmer and highly relevant”.
And nothing says warm like animated animals. The CHI&Partners-created ad features furry residents of the British countryside as they bed in for the night, showcasing the fact that whoever you are - fuzzy, furry or feathered - your home is your haven.
The concept builds on the 'Your home is your world' from previous ads, while updating the brand’s animated style to try and instill what British Gas hopes is a friendlier tone. It’s a shift manufactured to also acknowledge how fragmented the company’s customer base is becoming as the growing difficulty to own a home means its no longer dealing with just homeowners and businesses.
Trying to market to a millennial is a “very different opportunity to trying to market to a family, especially when it comes to what home means to them,” said Jobling. It’s why the energy firm is making a beeline for the connected home space. “Connectivity isn’t just about how we innovate through products but also how we can segment and target customers,” added Jobling.
Some £500m will be pumped into British Gas’ connected homes business over the next five years, which will try and drive adoption of its Hive products as well as establish whatever it has in store for the Internet of Things startup – AlertMe – it purchased at the start of the year.
Social, mobile and content will be called on to contribute more to building loyalty across a broader customer base. Of the three areas of focus, content is the one British Gas has high hopes for given its influence over the customer experience. It has already launched online editorial title "The Source" to produce content that’s going to boost social sentiment as well as hired an editorial team to ensure the posts, videos and articles are likely to be shared.
To support the plan, British Gas' Channel 4 sponsorship will focus less on property and more on homes themselves, pushing the brand alongside shows such as Location, Location, Location; Grand Designs and George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces.
“We’re looking at how we can generate content that’s going to help us drive social reputation and influence,” said Jobling. “We’re confidently and very topically looking at how we digitise customer journeys. It’s about working out how we develop the right content strategy for what people want to see because they want to talk to use on their terms. We’re continually looking a how we invent and innovate in that space.”
British Gas’ marketing strategy will need to be robust enough to handle potential changes over the next year that could impose tougher restrictions on competition. The Competition and Markets Authority plans to publish its final report on the need for market reform by the end of the year after its initial investigation revealed that the energy companies have been overcharging bill payers.
When asked by The Drum about the potential impact of the imminent report, Jobling attempted to downplay the negativity it may have caused.
“We try to stay really close to what our customers are telling us they want. The most important thing for us is what we’re seeing from them and working out how we stay true to what we’re about,” she added.
Over the last month there have been more than 18,000 twitter mentions of “British Gas”, according to BrandWatch. Significant spikes in conversation occurred on 15 July (announcement of a five per cent price cut) and 30 July (announcement of 6,000 redundancies). Of all mentions in the period, around five per cent are demonstrably negative (almost 1,000 mentions), only two per cent positive.
“Our two recent price cuts are an example of our ongoing commitment to offer competitively priced products. No Place Like Home encompasses this and everything else that British Gas does to ensure we are keeping our customers’ homes warm and working – from leading the nationwide roll-out of smart meters, to launching Hive Active Heating 2 and a range of connected home products," said Jobling.