• Transform magazine
  • January 18, 2020


Wolff Olins creates buzz for Hive market expansion

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Evocative of the bustling activity of modern family life, ‘Hive’ was chosen as the perfect name for British Gas' modern smart home system. Digital and remotely-enabled, Hive enables users to regulate abodes from their mobile device, or through sensors, in a more environmentally-friendly way. With consumers increasingly searching for a more personalised experience, Hive’s popularity has seen it expand into the North American market. Its recent brand update, carried out in conjunction with global brand strategists Wolff Olins, indicates the company’s commitment to disrupting the North American home energy market – with customers as its focus.

By activating heating and water systems remotely, Hive  ensures homes are optimised to be more energy efficient and claims to save the customer money. These attributes make the concept more personal and intimate than other home energy products or services – a relationship on which Wolff Olins focused to ensure Hive’s offering stands out in a market increasingly led by smart-enabled products.

Rosie Isbell, design director at Wolff Olins, says, “We needed to help the Hive brand be human in a tech-heavy and confusing market. All while creating a design system that could be stretched across their entire experience. We worked closely together to help them implement the new identity at speed and get it out to consumers as quickly as possible.”

Speed was certainly integral. A £500m investment by British Gas’ parent company, Centrica, saw Hive introduced across seven North American markets in the US and Canada, – Atlanta, Denver, Dallas, Houston, Seattle Washington D.C., and Vancouver. Creating a focused, personal yet disruptive brand, to which consumers feel an instant connection, was therefore imperative. And, as Nicky Mackrell, global brand and marketing director at Centrica Connected Home, says, getting consumers used to the idea of full-service smart home solutions required Wolff Olins to deliver a strong brand direction.

“The current understanding of connected home services and capabilities is really mixed, but we are at a tipping point,” explains Mackrell. “As we move from one-off devices to full solutions and services, we need exciting, adaptable ways to communicate the real-life benefits that having a connected home brings to daily life.”

Hive’s renewed brand position, which focuses on real-life uses of the smart home system, is also reflected through its wider marketing collateral and advertising platforms. The visual identity update, including its logo, emphasises the shape and patterns of the beehive behind the product name; a brighter orange indicates the product’s main service provision. Its integrated campaign launch, ‘Let’s get living,’ follows the company’s introduction of a starter pack of subscription-based smart home products. Hive Welcome Home is customised according to market and focuses on the benefits of Hive – rather than the device itself, about which Centrica is keen to dispel myths.

Mackrell continues, “The new website, and ‘Let’s get living’ advertising and digital campaigns, all show how quickly we’ve been able to bring the brand to life. I knew we could rely on Wolff Olins to create something beautiful, but it’s the flexibility and applicability of the system that has meant other agency partners could make it real at the pace we needed to stay ahead.”

Figures suggest that over 450,000 Hive products were sold in 2016, three times the amount sold in 2015. The appetite for functional, affordable and accessible smart home solutions which are not just for the tech-savvy does not, therefore, appear to be waning. Wolff Olins has delivered an intelligent and integrated brand campaign for what could be considered a sceptical North American market – its human touch could make all the difference in uptake across the region.

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