ADVERTISING & PROMOTION: British Gas under pressure’

It must be one of the toughest public image and marketing challenges of the decade. Turning around the image of British Gas, which has consistently grabbed headlines with accusations of inefficiency and incompetence.

It must be one of the toughest public image and marketing challenges of

the decade. Turning around the image of British Gas, which has

consistently grabbed headlines with accusations of inefficiency and


But with the deregulation of the energy markets, British Gas is all too

aware that it will have to do something about that image to help it win

the confidence and cash of consumers.

Last week Marketing revealed that British Gas executive director Roy

Gardener is hunting for a group marketing director to take on the job of

representing the company to its consumers.

In the same week British Gas announced it was to demerge its operation,

rebranding its consumer supply company Centrica and its exploration and

production operation BG.

But Centrica, which was developed by brand consultants Interbrand, will

not be used in the company’s consumer marketing. The name British Gas

will remain, along with the current Mrs Merton campaign through BMP DDB.

Successfully re-marketing British Gas is a pressing issue. The company

will have to take on growing competition from newly licensed gas

suppliers, having been savaged by the national press, which labelled the

company’s senior executives ‘fat cats’.

The company has been the subject of attacks from the press and the

public and knows it has to improve its image, having consistently

appeared at the bottom of the national newspaper coverage survey

Presswatch for over a year.

But most observers believe the company must address issues more

fundamental than its name. Keith Courtney, creative director of K

Advertising, says the company is wise to keep British Gas as its public

face, but will have to take drastic action to win over consumers.

‘If I was pitching for British Gas, I would say get your internal

systems right before you do any advertising. Then I would launch a

campaign in the form of a public debate which says ‘we know we were bad,

but we have changed’ and make sure consumers are satisfied with the

service,’ he says ‘I think there is danger in changing the name because

the British public is so cynical. I think a new name is all right for a

new product, but changing British Gas is dubious because the public will

think there has been no change in the company.’

Moray MacLennan, joint chief executive at M&C Saatchi, agrees that

British Gas needs to review its internal procedures before re-marketing

itself. ‘It is a question of changing the company culture rather than

the image. They need to change the attitude of the people inside, then

they can start to repackage and represent,’ he says.

The move by British Gas to recruit a senior marketer appears to be

evidence that this process is at least under way.


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