• Transform magazine
  • November 23, 2020

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Five minutes with Rob Andrews

Rob Andrews BW

Rob Andrews, head of media at Ordnance Survey, UK's national mapping agency, shares with Transform magazine his experience leading the company's biggest ever brand repositioning to shift perception from 'paper maps for Scouts' to 'providing essential global data and location insights.' Among other things, Andrews discusses the challenges of being one of the most well-known but least understood brands and how and the team have worked to shift public perception from a trusted national treasure to a global tech company.

What are the challenges of being one of the most well-known but least understood brands?

Being nearly 230 years old is both an opportunity and challenge; many brands would love to have the recognition and heritage which Ordnance Survey (OS) has. We are most well-known for paper maps, yet they only account for 5% of our revenue, so this is often the starting point for conversations, however, being a global technology company there is so much more that we want to say.

We work with thousands of customers around the world, underpinning public services , supporting utility companies and helping develop future markets such as smart cities, driverless cars and underground networks.

How are you working to shift public perception from a reliable, trusted national treasure to a ‘dynamic, global technology company?

We are not going to change our brand perception overnight and it is vital that customers first, understand what OS does and second, recognise how our data and our expertise can help their businesses see a better place, which is the basis of our new brand purpose.

With every customer contact, whether paper map or multi-million pound international deal, we want to demonstrate how we are supporting and helping find solutions that deliver positive impact. Last year, for example, we transformed the way customers access and work with OS data through new data platform and APIs, offering new consumer products and co-creating new propositions with customers, such as roadside asset maps, underground asset maps, etc. We are also developing new international propositions which are vital in ensuring that we are identified as reliable and trustworthy, while demonstrating innovation and customer value.

How has OS’ social media strategy help advance the brand on a digital level?

Our social media strategy has helped us to grow and target different OS audiences, from developers accessing open data to international mapping agencies understanding how location can deliver economic and societal impacts (SDGs), in a way we couldn’t have done previously. It is an important channel for reaching and engaging with customers, as well as a fantastic tool to listen to the customer, measure sentiment, gather insight and respond appropriately and instantly.

Social channels play an important part in helping to change brand perception; people following us for outdoor maps can now begin to see what OS does in business and government. There is a huge proportion of people who know OS and use it at weekends but could also benefit from OS’ data in their day jobs during the week. This is where we want to start building the connection between work and play.

What will be OS’ new brand purpose? How does it differ from the previous one?

Our new purpose - “Show the world how to get to a better place” - is supported by a new strategy and set of brand values. Our key value of 'think customer' means looking at everything from the website experience – to make it less product and more customer focused – to our app, our tone of voice and our communications.

We want everyone to think of OS as the innovative company that uses location data insights and transforms them into products and services that will influence policies and programmes to increase wellbeing and prosperity in global society. We want everyone to feel proud and inspired by the confidence that OS instils in citizens, governments and businesses to make the highest quality decisions on a daily basis.

How has OS responded to the Covid-19 emergency? What kind of new functions has it implemented?

Experts and analysts from Ordnance Survey formed an Emergency Response Team to help the NHS, emergency services and local authorities in their response to the pandemic.

Precise location data plays a crucial role in helping government departments, and a vast network of services, make the best possible decisions possible in the crisis. Over the last nine months OS has supported over 200 customers across Great Britain, providing insight with accurate location data, which included setting up a dedicated Covid-19 phone hotline for emergency planners.

Since February, the use of Ordnance Survey’s (OS) digital mapping and outdoor adventure planning tool and app OS Maps increased by 78% despite the nation entering lockdown.

In addition to OS Maps, Ordnance Survey and Natural England have created an online tool to help the UK public stay safe when returning to outdoor activities. www.getoutside.co.uk/covid is a one-stop-shop for up-to-date information on what to do and where to safely go outdoors across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The online tool offers practical information and advice, broken down by county for all four nations, on taking part in 24 different outdoor activities post Covid-19, from canoeing to rock-climbing through to fishing and camping.