Can former adman Will Orr steer British Gas towards a new ‘green’ identity?

This one has trouble written all over it: remember oil giant BP’s switch to its new ‘greener than thou’ corporate identity and the consequent series of oil spills and explosions culminating in the Deepwater Horizon environmental disaster?

Readers with much longer memories will remember newly-privatised BT (which then enjoyed a monopoly market share) receiving ridicule and outright hostility in equal measure in the 1980s when in spent £500m on a new corporate identity featuring a rather fey herald?

Now Centrica-owned British Gas, one of the six UK energy providers castigated by Labour leader Ed Miliband last week for ripping off the British public, is switching to a new, ‘greener’ and more supposedly customer-friendly corporate identity. And the man charged with this thankless task is newly-promoted marketing director Will Orr who was CEO of London ad agency WCRS until summer 2010.

Orr says: “British Gas has seen a great deal of positive change in recent years. Perceptions are changing, too, but there is still more to do. That is why we are evolving our visual identity.

“My brief is to make sure all elements of our marketing deliver the company’s strategy to be a modern, customer-led company.’

Orr says the company won’t be spending zillions on an overnight rebrand (wisely, considering that much of this will happen when pensioners and others struggle to pay their British Gas bills as the temperature drops) but will be done gradually.

Presumably it will look something like its existing ‘Generation Green’ programme for schools (left). It’s being handled by ad agency CHI and design outfit Crayon.

Anyway it’s quite a challenge for British Gas and Orr. Many people will say that that the company should just cut its bills if it wants to be a good guy.

But Orr is used to trouble. As one of countless CEOs to come and go at WCRS he’s used to a bit of trouble and strife.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.