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When a brand makes a promise: British Gas, integration and ‘Doing the Right Thing’

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Increasingly, brands are making direct promises to their customers and putting the customer experience at the heart of the brand strategy. Rather than making boasts — think of British Airways, the ‘World's Favourite Airline’ or BMW, the ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ — more progressive marketers, particularly in service sectors, try to express their brand as a promise. Norwich Union will ‘Quote You Happy’. BT ‘Gives More Power to You’. Tesco ensures ‘Every Little Helps’.Often expressed as advertising straplines, these brand promises nonetheless go beyond advertising and are potentially very powerful ways to differentiate in crowded, competitive markets. The fact that an increasing number of brands feel the need to make a promise to customers, and not just boast, is a good thing. The brand visionaries, who set out to define why customers should buy their products not just now but also tomorrow, are contributing to the long-term health of their brands, not simply exploiting the equity earned in the past.In recent times British Gas has embraced this new way of thinking. With the increased onset of market competition following deregulation, British Gas was faced with a need to demonstrate how it was different from and better than its competitors. Given that its core products are commodities, it decided that the answer lay not in the products themselves, but in how it delivered those products. British Gas had to launch a new brand promise to customers.That promise, ‘Doing the Right Thing’, set a new benchmark for how British Gas and its employees act. The idea's strength is that it is a decision-making tool, where doing the right thing for customers takes priority within the business. This brand promise is in its infancy, but already major changes are taking place within the organisation, influencing long-term strategy and the everyday actions of staff. Slowly, customers are experiencing a change in how British Gas serves them. Over the next five years one will see the brand transform, becoming genuinely customer-focused; an organisation that delivers real benefits and differentiates the brand in the energy sector and beyond.This is the story of how British Gas and its agencies — EHS Brann, Clemmow Hornby and Inge and WWAV Rapp Collins — worked as one team to launch ‘Doing the Right Thing’. Together they are working to create an integrated customer experience that will give the brand a lasting advantage over its competitors.Journal of Direct Data and Digital Marketing Practice (2005) 7, 146–154; doi:10.1057/palgrave.dddmp.4340518
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 October 2005

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