Water, Case study, Welsh Water

Welsh Water won the 2017 Utility Week Marketing Initiative of the Year Award for its "For Wales. Not for Profit" initiative. Utility Week takes a look at this initiative and the criteria the company met to win the award.

  • Category title:  Marketing Initiative of the Year
  • Category sponsor: CGI
  • Award winner: Welsh Water
  • Title of project/initiative: For Wales. Not for Profit
  • Annual company turnover: £750 million
  • Number of directly-employed staff: Not for profit
  • Entry criteria:
  1. Quality of entry (clear, evidence based)
  2. Clear goals set for the project that were met or exceeded
  3. Measurable benefits for the business
  4. Effective and clear communication with a targeted group of customers
  5. Evidence of creativity

The For Wales. Not for Profit campaign was a major awareness-building campaign created by Welsh Water which happened in two parts. These were:

  • A summer public engagement campaign
  • An autumn-spring Let’s Stop the Block campaign

Both shared the over-arching aim of building awareness of the company’s model and trust, with individual calls to action for each phase to deliver additional benefits including consultation engagement and Stop the Block awareness.

WHAT WAS THE SCALE OF THE PROJECT?

The “Have your Say 2016” summer campaign, was the most ambitious and innovative the company has undertaken. It was its first multi-media campaign to include TV advertising.

The summer engagement element of the project was highly ambitious, giving customers a significant level of responsibility in terms of deciding where the money it made should be spent.

WHAT WAS THE TARGET GROUP?

The target group for the initiative was all 3 million customers within the company’s operating area.

The key campaign objectives were measured primarily through a quarterly YouGov online tracker of a 1000+ sample in Wales. The questions tracked:

  • Model awareness: What kind of company are we? Not-for-profit, Gov, shareholder-owned.
  • Trust
  • Value for money
  • Awareness of campaign ads
  • Awareness of the causes of sewer blockages

WHY THIS APPROACH?

The company said asking people to take part in consultations can be a challenge therefore “innovation and creativity” would be needed in order to help them do this more effectively.

Its approach was to use multiple channels, namely a website, chatbot, focus groups, stakeholder sessions and events – to make sure that people were able to have their say as easily as possible.

For this initiative it decided to take its consultation to people at events they were attending and on the social media channels they were using as opposed to hoping the people will go to them.

A multi-billion pound business plan can be difficult to explain so story-telling and engaging videos and graphics were used to make the consultation tangible to people’s everyday lives.

WHAT WERE THE KPIs FOR THIS INITIATIVE?

In the first 12 months of the campaign the company wanted to:

  • Increase awareness of its not-for-profit model by 5 per cent
  • Increase customer trust by 3 per cent
  • Increase perceptions of good value for money by 3 per cent
  • Achieve 5000 customer consultation responses (Phase 1 – summer 2016)
  • Increase awareness of what causes blockages (phase 2 and 3 – autumn and winter 2016)

HOW WAS CREATIVITY DEMONSTRATED?

The first task was to develop an accessible and engaging positioning for the not-for-profit message. Welsh Water says it recognises “not-for-profit” is quite a “corporate” phrase which begs the question; if not for profit, then what for? The company says its campaign needed to show customers and colleagues why it does what it does and stresses not for the benefit of shareholders, but for everyone.

“If not for profit, then for work. Welsh water is the life force behind some of Wales’s very best products and produce. If not for profit, then for play. We are custodians of some of Wales’ most beautiful landscapes. If not for profit, then for living. For clean water delivered to our homes, and for waste water seamlessly taken away. If not for profit, then for Wales.”

Any financial surplus is reinvested for the benefit of the communities Welsh Water serves which means the first phase of the campaign was designed to build trust among customers by giving them the chance to have their say. A media campaign was launched through TV, Radio and digital advertising and a major outreach events programme.

The campaign launch was marked with receptions at the National Assembly for Wales and in Westminster. Each AM and each MP was gifted a personalized bottle as in invitation to create a “positive feeling and buzz” among the key political stakeholders at the start of the campaign.

TV, radio and social media advertisements were created to invite customers to have their say. The adverts starred Welsh Water employees and their families, not wielding wrenches and pulling pipes, but living life. The company said it took a similar approach with its 30 second radio and bite-sized digital adverts: showing how water touches so many parts of customer’s lives.

The company converted a shipping container into a Dŵr Bar and took it show across the operating area to give 400,000+ people the chance to engage with them.  The Dŵr Bar, fitted with Wales’ biggest bottle rack, screens, six iPads and a garden was a huge draw for the thirsty festival-goers.

The innovative voting website made it easy for customers to have their say and included a section from them to provide contact details to engage with Welsh Water further on topics that interest them.

The company says it targeted national and local media to gain extra coverage for their consultation, which in term helped them communicate their not-for-profit and trust messages.

The second part of the brand builder focused on behavioural change. Continuing the creative approach of phase one the company delivered a TV, radio and digital campaign which ran in two bursts: October 2016 and February 2017. This was supplemented with PR coverage throughout the period.

Despite the unappealing subject matter, the creative remained positive and people focussed, reaffirming that being not-for-profit means the focus was on making customers and their environment healthier, above all else, and inviting people to help the company do their bit to help stop the block.

Who was involved?

Welsh Water says Have Your Say was a truly company-wide effort and a great example of how its people pull together from all parts of the business to deliver a better service.

The Communications and Customer Strategy team led the main engagement and creative elements of the campaign, working closely with the strategy, planning and regulation teams who have overall responsibility for creating the PR19 plan.

The summer events saw hundreds of people from across the business take part. It provided an invaluable opportunity for people from across the company to discuss its service with the 3 million people it serves.

Were there any hurdles along the way?

The company says creating brand new innovations such as a consultation chatbot and using technology “will inevitably test you a little”, but the entire projects went smoothly on the whole. It says it worked with a lot of trusted companies to develop the campaign and technology and having expertise on hand certainly helped.

In total 15 events were held throughout the summer.

HOW HAS THE INITIATIVE HELPED ACHIEVED THE COMPANY’S BROADER MARKETING OBJECTIVES?

This was the first TV advertising campaign undertaken by Welsh Water. It exceeded the company’s targets in a very short time frame, raised the profile of the company as a not-for-profit and created a sense of pride among its employees.

HEADLINE FIGURES AGAINST OBJECTIVES

  • 21 per cent increase in not-for-profit awareness (target 5 per cent)
  • 10 per cent increase in trust (target 3 per cent)
  • 6 per cent increase in perception of good value for money (target 3 per cent)
  • 12,052 customer consultation responses (target 5000)
  • Greater awareness of what causes blockages from 90 per cent to 95 per cent (second phase)

Welsh Water says the scheme has also given it greater credibility and increased trust (both internally and externally). The success of these first phases have meant they were able to push the creative boundaries further during summer 2017.

As part of its summer 2017 campaign Welsh Water launched the third phase of their brand-builder. It included an industry-first Facebook (and world first bilingual) chatbot, a vlogger and Facebook Live series and engagement campaign which delivered a record 21,000 consultation responses for the company’s PR19 consultation.

What the judges said

The judges said this was “a campaign that increased customer understanding to build trust and effective partnership between a business and its community”.

Morgan Lloyd, head of brand and marketing at Welsh Water

“As the only not-for-profit water company in Wales or England, Welsh Water likes to do things differently.

“Over the past two years we’ve been focusing heavily on involving customers in our decision making, and raising awareness of our work through engaging and innovative marketing campaigns – all with the aim of building customer trust.

“Welsh Water’s latest campaign, Have your Say, was the most ambitious to date, gathering the views of over 20,000 people to help us plan for the future and deliver an even better service for customers.”


The Utility Week Awards are held in association with CGI and Capgemini.

The 2018 Utility Week Awards have now launched.

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