British Gas distances itself from the big six as it talks up role as a service provider

British Gas is launching a campaign to promote the government’s smart meter initiative, which aims to provide more accurate and transparent energy bills, and hopes to distance itself from its role within the big six energy brands.

The campaign promotes the government’s smart meter initiative. It sees British Gas’ mascot penguin Wilbur return to introduce a new plan called FreeTime, which gives customers with smart meters free electricity between 9am and 5pm on Saturdays or Sundays.

The multi-media campaign, which launches on Sunday (3 July), will run across TV, radio, press, digital and social media.

Margaret Jobling, director of brand marketing at British Gas, told Marketing Week that the company is “leading the way” with its smart meter campaign, and aims to take away a “pain point” for the utilities sector.

“Customers feel like they have no visibility in how they use electricity. Smart meters allow for much more control and accurate billing. There used to be a bit of a bill shock, but now we’re helping customers understand how their behaviour can impact their bill,” she said.

Besides driving more smart meters into homes, the brand hopes the campaign will lead consumers to think differently about British Gas and see it as “more modern and dynamic”. To do this, the brand is heavily focusing on its technological investments, including its wireless thermostat and app Hive.

“It’s about making the brand more modern to consumers. Trust in our British heritage is fantastic equity, but we need to make it relevant. We don’t want to be part of the big six – we don’t want to be seen as a utilities company but a service provider in our own right,” she said.

“The more we can innovate, particularly in the tech space, the better. The benefit we have with our scale is that we can humanise technology and get it into people’s homes.”

Margaret Jobling, director of brand marketing, British Gas

Jobling has been in her role at British Gas for 18 months and was previously marketing director at Birds Eye UK. She has had to battle various challenges, including a data breach in November last year and consumer complaints after company profits rose 31% year on year to £574m in February. As a result, the brand’s focus has shifted to making a more personal connection with consumers.

“From a focus perspective we’ve changed a lot, where we’re looking to reward existing customers. From an execution point of view, we want to add more emotion and become more engaging,” she commented.

Going forward, Jobling predicts a wider change in the service industry, where data will become increasingly important and brands will seek to take a more personal approach.

She concluded: “Everything will be programmatic. We need to become more targeted, smarter and play a different game – the idea that he who shouts the loudest is the most successful is gone. It’s all about being personalised and building [the business] up from a data perspective.”

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