How Scottish Water transformed from an anonymous supplier to a trusted brand

Scottish Water boosted trust in the brand by associating with issues that matter to consumers and adapting at pace to the challenges of the pandemic.

Scottish Water, which serves 2.5 million homes and businesses, faced a major challenge as it needed to transform how it manages its 100km network of pipes and sewers in response to its infrastructure ageing, Scotland’s population shifting and climate change. It realised the only way it could do this was to build trust, a job achieved through the right mix of perseverance and creativity.

Working with agency Always Be Content, Scottish Water set about turning itself into a recognisable brand, a difficult task for water straight out the tap. To do so the team set about linking the utilities company with adjacent issues consumers cared about, installing over 50 branded hi-tech public fountains as a way to nudge behaviours away from single-use plastic – and associate this with Scottish Water.

The pandemic shifted out of home demand for water, but brand simply pivoted its approach, instead encouraging the public to ‘top up from the tap’ with a bold and visually striking campaign, supported by resources on health, hygiene and water use.

This messaging, combining personal wellbeing with water conservation, resonated with the public, and turned Scottish Water into a calm and reassuring source of advice and information. According to a survey, 75% agreed Scottish Water was providing a critical service in the fight against Covid-19, 91% said they trusted the company to keep water flowing and 93% saw its work as vital. Even more significant, 83% agreed Scottish water was world-class, compared to 60% pre-pandemic.

Original and agilely executed, the campaign exceeded its aims of boosting public trust in the utilities company, which is why Scottish Water claims the 2021 Marketing Week Masters award for Utilities.



Case study: Patagonia’s ‘Don’t buy this jacket’ campaign

Josie Allchin

Outdoor clothing manufacturer Patagonia was founded by climbing enthusiast Yvon Chouinard in 1973 and is using a marketing strategy which could be thought of as being part nudge, part shock tactics. The company initially made climbing equipment but changed its philosophy to focus on environmentally-sound products after Chouinard realised his climbing tools were causing damage to rocky cliff faces.