David Clarke, Scottish Power PLC Marketing Director

Article excerpt

Power to the people

In the next couple of weeks a slick TV campaign will attempt to persuade consumers from Kent to Kinloss to switch their gas and electricity suppliers from their local operators to one based in Glasgow: Scottish Power.

The [pounds]8m TV and poster push is critically important because it signals the start of the great scramble by the UK's regional operators to ask the nation to break with a lifetime of tradition and shop around for their domestic power.

It's a tall order and one that Scottish Power's marketing director, David Clarke, is excited about. "I'm one of the luckiest people around at the moment. How many marketing directors get the chance to brand a FTSE top 50 company from scratch?"

Scottish Power is one of four key firms (along with British Gas, Powergen and National Power) that are emerging as national players in the wake of gas and electricity deregulation. Scottish Power's target is a market share of 15% in electricity and 9% in gas.

The tabloid image of utilities is fat-cat directors and companies that cut off consumers at the drop of a hat. Clarke says the reality is improving services and cutting prices, but to overcome the negativity he has asked Battle Bogle Hegarty to perform its own special brand of corporate alchemy on Scottish Power (the agency created the ads for chemical company Monsanto). The ads, complete with 0800 numbers, will encourage us to become 'ScottishPowered'.

But power companies in the past have had a bad press and Clarke and other senior managers at Scottish Power know the importance of creating a positive brand image.

The company's PR concerns are illustrated by the fact that it has delayed the launch campaign for a couple of weeks following the major storms which swept through Scotland in the Christmas period, bringing down scores of power lines. Scottish Power decided it was best not to extol its own virtues when 100,000 of its customers were without electricity.

One of the new campaign's central themes will be what a good corporate citizen Scottish Power is. Instead of sticking to the traditional, and perhaps safer, areas of service and price, Clarke has chosen to focus on communicating the company's values of working with the community by way of training programmes for unemployed youths or minimising the damage that utilities inflict on the environment.

"We're not fabricating things out of thin air. This isn't some marketing illusion," he protests. …