When British Gas asked us to think about their tone of voice guidelines in 2021, they weren’t starting from nothing. They did have a set of rules for writing for their brand – but they were mostly sitting in unopened PDFs and dusty drawers.  Over the years, new sub-brands and campaigns had popped up, with their own tones. As a result, the brand’s voice had become a little complicated – and so tended to be ignored.

British Gas asked us to refine them into something that would get all their writers and agencies talking from the same hymn sheet. So we got to work, spending a lot of time thinking about what British Gas represented to its customers, and how people wanted their utility providers to sound.

We felt that in a market that was filling up with disruptors, British Gas needed to be the grown up in the room – explaining things simply, honestly and with minimal fuss. And they needed a voice that could work on everything, from television adverts to the small print on the back of your bill.

The end result was a tone built on three pillars: human, truthful and brilliantly simple. We made sure that this was not just about advertising copy – in fact, we avoided using the word copy at all. This was a voice for all communication coming out of the brand.

How did better words make better work?

Towards the end of the project, communications suddenly became much more important for British Gas. The energy crisis came with a lot of new things for them to explain to their customers from the price cap, to the government’s fuel payments, to soaring bills.

We worked with British Gas to bring that tone to all their communications, using behavioural science to create user-friendly writing, and bring a calming consistency to all their writing. In a time of huge uncertainty, having a clear, human and simple way of talking to customers turned into a huge advantage.

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