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Branding is a hot topic in the petroleum industry right now. As the public becomes more and more sensitized to the importance of green living, petrol products are becoming less popular and less socially acceptable. Anyone who can afford to live without fossil fuel sources of energy is switching over as quickly as possible. This means that it is essential that petroleum companies rebrand themselves less as industry giants and more as companies dedicated to protecting the planet while responding to customer needs. In other words, they have to act like a small business.

British Gas is making a move in this direction by forming a consumer panel. This panel will mainly help determine the new direction of the company. This comes in the wake of the company’s public announcement that they are making moves to cut energy costs for their customers. While the company has not yet announced the size of its panel or exactly how it will affect policy, this is definitely a branding move in the right direction. A friendlier image is something that can benefit almost every business, large or small.

This is not the only move toward a more people friendly brand. First, customers who do not wish to join the panel can also interact with British Gas via the company website. A new feature on the site, called ‘British Gas Living Room’, invites customers to learn how they can save energy and thus reduce their bill over the long and expensive winter months. Second, in response to complaints, the company plans to stop estimating energy usage and instead allow customers to email or text their meter readings. This will end the common criticism that people are being charged for power they don’t actually use.

How will these moves toward customer friendliness work out for British Gas? While they are not as effective as appealing to the public’s ecological sensibility, this branding may help the company in the long run. People are more likely to feel loyal to an organization in which they have had a decision making role. Members of the customer panel will likely feel ‘bought in’ to the company. This has immense potential to start positive buzz, which is the most effective method of marketing available.

If you feel that your brand is moving further and further away from the needs and wants of your customer base, a customer panel may be your best option. This will allow you to get feedback from the people who matter most to your business while giving you invaluable guidance on where to take your company in the future. This is not just a good branding move, but an excellent general business move as well. Giving your customers exactly what they demand is one way to ensure your company’s viability both today and well into the future. A customer panel is one of the easiest ways to get the unbiased information you need. British Gas is intelligent in soliciting the opinion of the people buying their product.

Mash Bonigala

Mash B. is the Founder & Creative Director of Logo Design Works. Since 1998, Mash has helped thousands of businesses express their brand messages through creative and award winning logo designs.