Innovation Through Expansion: Wood’s Next Chapter

The U.K. energy services firm’s 2017 acquisition of rival Amec Foster has created a raft of exciting opportunities and challenges for the company’s marketing department, not least of which is presenting a new, unified brand to the group’s huge customer base. Overseeing it all is creative services director Paul Shanks.

Innovation Through Expansion: Wood’s Next Chapter

by CMO by Adobe EMEA Staff

Posted on 03-05-2019

Since its creation in 1912 as a marine engineering business and subsequent transition to energy services in the 1970s, U.K.-based Wood has grown through acquisition. In 2017, the firm’s £2.2 billion (US$2.9 billion) purchase of rival Amec Foster Wheeler was the largest in scale, doubling the size of the company and bringing in a considerable number of new skill sets to offer engineering, project, and technical services to industrial, energy, process, and utility markets.

These wholesale changes for Wood has created a raft of exciting opportunities and challenges for the company’s marketing department, not least of which is presenting a new, unified brand to the group’s huge customer base.

Overseeing it all is creative services director Paul Shanks. In this exclusive interview with, Shanks explained how Wood is embracing, communicating, and making key hires in support of its new identity. Wood’s acquisition of Amec saw the company grow from 30,000 to 60,000 employees. How has such a seismic change affected the way you now approach marketing?

Shanks: The change has impacted us in a few different ways. The biggest practical change was the process of bringing two teams together, with the mix of different tools and processes that confluence entails.

On a more strategic level, the breadth of services and the number of markets in which we operate now is expanded—one of the key rationales for the acquisition. The business is taking a capability-approach, rather than market-oriented approach—what we’re calling “sector-agnostic.” Our capabilities now include disparate and, in some cases, quite niche services, so just getting to know and understand all of them has been a challenge in itself. We’re now in the process of planning how to cross-sell and upsell our services to new and existing clients.

It’s quite a task to create personalised experiences for customers in such distinct markets all on one website. Someone from a renewables business, for example, doesn’t want to land on our home page and see an oil rig. They want to see a wind farm or solar energy technology.

For a company of our size, it’s important that customers don’t start to perceive us as a “jack of all trades, master of none.” In fact, we still have incredibly specialised expertise. It’s just that our breadth of capabilities has expanded.

We need to communicate to our customers that they’re not losing any of that specialism within their market; they are, in fact, gaining access to other services that we’re bringing across, on top of the expertise that we’ve always offered. What are you doing to communicate your increased capabilities to the marketplace?

Shanks: By focusing on real-world examples of how we’re bringing together the new brand’s disparate capabilities to create innovative solutions, we want to demonstrate the tangible benefits our union offers customers.

Our Sweden windfarm project is a great example. We’re working with forestry operators to re-landscape forests using lidar, a surveying method that works on the principle of radar, but using light from a laser as its medium. We use that data to create 360-degree 3D models, which can predict how different forest plantations will affect the performance of nearby windfarms.

This project demonstrates beautifully how we can help the communities we’re working in and also boost productivity for customers. The mapping has created a 5% increase in windfarm output. We’re capturing 360-degree footage of the project so we can create immersive VR experiences for our audience. Have these changes translated into a significant shift in branding?

Shanks: From a brand name perspective, the transition for Wood Group has been fairly minimal in our traditional markets, but for Amec Foster Wheeler, it’s more of a change.

In terms of our brand personality, it’s almost the opposite. Wood Group was more conservative and traditional, while Amec Foster Wheeler was a bolder and more confident brand. We’ve moved the positioning quite significantly from Wood Group’s previous brand, creating something that really helps showcase a step-change in how we are approaching everything from project execution to risk.

There has been a period of transition to go through. There’s always a balancing act between referring back to legacy brands for recognition and continuity while not becoming caught up in perpetuating the existence of those legacy brands.

We’ve also done a lot of work to establish exactly what our new brand identity is. As an organisation, we wanted to avoid a top-down process of values being dictated to the business. To that end, we gathered 7,000 responses to a brand values survey, conducted 98 senior leadership interviews, and completed 30 workshops across 10 countries internally, in addition to [conducting] 20 customer workshops. The biggest learning from this, perhaps not surprisingly, is that engagement and collaboration leads to ownership and adoption. By making our people part of the process, they really bought into the project, accepting it and embracing it.

We’ve used all of those insights to form a strong brand identity. We’re now beginning the next stage, articulating that personality and values to existing and potential customers everywhere. I understand that your team will place increased emphasis on content performance and optimisation in 2019. How are you making that intention a reality?

Shanks: It’s not something that we’ve traditionally focused on because we’ve operated from a position of strength in our markets and haven’t had to market heavily to win work. I think, with the benefit of hindsight, we’ve tended to measure our performance but not follow through with the all-important analysis element. We would, for example, establish the number of shares a social media post would garner but not dig down into the insights that could provide or perform A/B testing to refine our approach.

We’re adding new personnel to the team to afford people the time to focus on these important tasks, rather than time-poor members of the team trying to fit it in around their other duties. We know that we can’t carry on doing the same thing and hope to get different results. As part of the transformation, Wood has appointed the company’s first-ever chief technology officer (CTO) and chief communications and marketing officer (CCMO). How are they helping to drive change?

Shanks: CTO Darren Martin’s job is to identify and leverage the full range of capabilities within the company and find new pathways in which to combine the technology and expertise we have to better serve our customers.

He’s doing a lot of travelling to see what our colleagues all over the globe are doing and how that could interact with other services we offer. We want to know how we can adapt proven solutions in a different market or by using a different type of technology. It’s an exciting role, and he’s a very busy man.

Our CCMO, Paula Murphy, is elevating our focus on marketing and thought leadership to a new level, ensuring we are raising the profile of our capabilities across global energy and industrial markets.

Her initial work has been structuring our team to ensure we have the right mix of capability as well as setting a strong strategic direction that aligns to our business’ goals. I’m very excited about the journey we’re on and where we will be in the next few years.

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