British Gas, BT, M&S: 5 things that mattered this week and why

Catch up on all the week’s major marketing news including British Gas sending Wilbur the Penguin off to a retirement home in the Antarctic, BT’s strategy for its FA sponsorship and M&S putting the focus on denim.

British Gas says goodbye to Wilbur the penguin as it overhauls brand positioning

A tear or two were shed this week as British Gas said goodbye to its brand mascot of five years Wilbur the penguin, who is off to spend his retirement in the Antarctic. But as marketing director Jill Dougan so succinctly put it: “When your boiler breaks down you don’t need a penguin, you need one of our engineers.”

While the benefits of a boiler engineer over a penguin are clear (and vice versa), Wilbur brought some much needed saliency and personality to British Gas, a utilities company that struggles, as most do, to be much loved. But British Gas felt it needed something more that reflected customers’ lives.

Its new campaign is centred around a new positioning, ‘Here to solve’. It wants to show it is more than an energy supplier by promoting products and services such as HomeCare cover and boiler installation.

So far so dull. But this campaign from British Gas breathes real life into its brand promise. Created by The&Partnership, working alongside other WPP agencies as part of British Gas’s ‘Nucleus’ model, they have created something that really gets to the heart of family life by using the ‘point-of-view’ shot and fast pace.

The aim is to drive reappraisal and consideration. Those are tough to shift but early signs are British Gas is on to a winner. SV

READ MORE: British Gas says goodbye to Wilbur the penguin as it overhauls brand positioning

BT kicks off 4-3-3 strategy for FA sponsorship

Everybody likes a play on words, especially the strategy team over at BT it seems, which has come up with 4-3-3 to best describe how its sponsorship of the four Home Nations’ football associations will come to life.

It is more than six months since BT announced its sponsorship of the English FA and three months since the other three came on board. And it is clear that time has been spent on more than coming up with a football-related name for its strategy (almost as much as went into the headline on the piece…)

This is a partnership with real legs. Yes, there will be BT logos appearing on football shirts but this is much more than a badging exercise. There are some real and lofty goals here to change access to sport, sports broadcasting and digital skills.

BT wants to attract 100,000 more volunteer coaches, half of them women, through a new online football course. It wants to shine a light on different parts of the sport through showing women’s football and para football on BT Sport, commissioning documentaries, and getting more women and disabled people behind the camera. It wants to use access to grassroots clubs to offer digital skills training to people that might not be interested in a corporate message in BT but are interested in football.

But perhaps most spectacularly of all, it wants to invent a new form of the sport for those that might not be able to use their bodies but that can use their minds.

It’s all well and good for BT’s CEO Marc Allera to talk up these ambitions at a press conference. The proof will be in whether it hits these targets. But the company seems optimistic and has already begun work.

If it can get even halfway to most of these goals, it will indeed have left a legacy in football that goes beyond a boost for the brand. SV

READ MORE: ‘We have to be a brand that does not just tells’: BT kicks off FA sponsorship strategy

M&S bigs up denim in latest clothing ad

Denim is the latest product category to get some much-needed love from Marks & Spencer’s marketing budget, with the retailer’s best-selling category finally getting its first standalone TV ad.

The latest work from new(ish) agency ODD, ‘Start a Love Affair With Denim’ follows customer feedback that the dancing in its ‘Go Jumpers’ Christmas campaign helped them engage with the brand.

The TV ad, set to Donna Summers’s ‘I Feel Love’, is certainly “upbeat and optimistic” and this campaign does have more of a ‘fashion’ feel.

The quality is of a much higher standard than we have seen in the past and the products and styling are certainly less ‘mumsy’ and ‘frumpy’, which is all a step in the right direction to earning the attention of that family-aged customer.

It’s a solid effort from M&S and does show the retailer in a more modern light. But one can’t help but feel that the premise of the campaign – trying to get people to “fall in love with denim” – and then loosely aligning that with Valentine’s Day, is a bit tired and gimmicky.

And, as one Twitter user pointed out, why do the stills look like a promo for a new ITV crime drama? EH

READ MORE: M&S launches first TV ad for ‘killer’ denim category

Ryanair’s new environmental positioning backfires

As brands all scrabble to pitch themselves as the most environmentally-friendly brand, Ryanair was hoping it could come out on top with its new slogan: ‘Europe’s Lowest Fares, Lowest Emissions Airline’.

However, the ASA does not agree and this week the UK’s advertising watchdog banned the ads for being “misleading”.

The evidence is a bit complex. Essentially, Ryanair has a number of metrics for measuring emissions – like seating density – which the ASA said the majority of consumers wouldn’t understand. Ryanair also submitted evidence from 2011 to prove its credentials, which the ASA argued was more than a little bit old.

Ryanair defended the campaign saying: “We are both disappointed and surprised that the ASA has issued this ruling given that Ryanair fully complied with advertising regulations, engaging with regulators and providing documentation that fulfilled all the substantiations needed.”

It’s a real blow to Ryanair, which is positioning itself to be the airline of the environmentally conscious. The new tagline was the beginning of a campaign aiming to show it as more than just the cheapest way to travel.

This differentiator no longer works, and whether Ryanair can or will try to up its environmental evidence so it can keep the tagline or try a different tack, remains to be seen. This is a lesson for all brands that sustainability claims need to be backed up. MF

READ MORE: Ryanair ‘disappointed’ after its ‘misleading’ low emission tagline banned

Social contribution is improving trust in brands

This might not come as a surprise, but the numbers are in and they show advertising’s social contribution is an important driver of positive public sentiment towards advertising.

According to the Advertising Association’s Advertising Pays 8 report, 46% of the public already feel that advertising has a positive impact on society and 42% of adults believe advertising can help make the world a better place.

But they also feel brands could do more. And while the overall public view is that companies seem to be making more of an effort to have a positive social contribution, only 10% of consumers believe this to be genuine.

With numerous cases of ‘greenwashing’, ‘wokewashing’ and brands being called out for contradicting their so-called purpose or simply doing things that are destroying the world, it is no wonder that trust in advertising is at an all-time low.

The onus is on marketers to demonstrate their commitment to doing responsible marketing and give people reason to believe their motives are genuine and go beyond commercial gain. They should probably get a move on or it won’t be long before it is beyond repair. EH

READ MORE: Brands urged to do more to prove their social contribution

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