A rebrand "isn't something that any organisation does lightly", says Gas Networks Ireland's communications manager Louise Browne. But the organisation previously known as Bord Gáis Networks didn't have a choice.
When the Government sold Bord Gáis Energy to Centrica for €1.1 billion, the Bord Gáis name went with it, obliging the remaining gas network business to find a new one. This rebranding project has an estimated cost of €2.9 million, more than half of which is allocated to advertising a safety message to consumers.
"This is something that was thrust upon us, and we are trying to make the best of it," says Browne. Because it is Gas Networks Ireland that is responsible for managing the safety of the whole network, it is important that its rebranding is a high-profile one.
“We don’t want the name change to compromise safety in any way. We don’t want confusion out there as to who people should call when they smell gas.”
In marketing terms, the organisation, which is part of the Ervia group, finds itself in an unusual position. It is trying to bring with it the positive associations that have been generated by the Bord Gáis name over the decades. But, at the same time, it must operate in an environment in which Bord Gáis is "still out there" as the name of the Centrica-owned gas supply business.
“We’re trying to make sure that confusion is minimised,” says Browne.
Infrequent contact with customers makes it a challenge for it to develop its own standalone profile, she says, while another complicating factor was the requirement to have a second, Irish name – Líonraí Gáis Éireann – and logo.
Gas Networks Ireland is now in the throes of its eight-week advertising campaign, created by Rothco and planned by media agency Carat.
But the advertisements are just one part of the process. The organisation’s IT system, personal protective equipment, stationery and signage has all had to change, while the network’s 13,000 feet of pipeline has 26,000 safety signs and 10,000 marker posts. “All of these have to be rebranded.”
Browne says the organisation has kept costs down as much as possible, with the pipeline set to be rebranded as part of other maintenance projects and a letter to householders informing them of the name change sent out by gas suppliers as part of their regular communications with customers.
By timing the advertising campaign for January and February, it also took advantage of lower TV spot prices. At the end of the eight weeks, Gas Networks Ireland will commission market research to test consumers’ understanding of its role.
“We’re not a sexy brand, but it is really important that people understand what we do. Safety is in our DNA, and that is why we are making the name change so public.”