Getting into the Right Shell

16 Oct,2014


By Shobhana Nair


With over 17 years in the areas of marketing strategy and brand building, she started her career in 1996 as a Sales Manager for oral and healthcare, with experience of working on diverse product categories and enabling equity development of brands like Pantene, Olay, Vicks, Gillette, Pampers, Whisper, Ariel, Tide, Gillette amongst others.


She has been Director for Global Male Grooming, P&G and Asia Pacific Head for Consumer and Market Knowledge. Tripathy has also been extremely active in spearheading partnerships and strategic alliances with suppliers across creative, BTL activation, market research, database management, analytics and media.


Her current role at Shell Lubricants as the Chief Marketing Officer involves business building, organization excellence,growing brand equity and optimizing investments. She is also the architect of Shell Lubricant’s digital marketing and social media footprints.


An engineer in electronics and communications from the National Institute of Technology Kurukshetra, Mansi Tripathy has done an MBA in Marketing from the SP Jain Institute of Management & Research, Mumbai.


Excerpts from an interview.


The oil and lubricants space is unique from the branding perspective as even though people may be aware of a brand, the challenge is of its availability at petrol pumps, service centres etc. From the marketing point of view, how do you grapple with the issue of supply?

At Shell, we make a concerted effort to retain control over our brand throughout the value chain to ensure that the end-consumer always enjoys a consistent experience in terms of quality, availability and pricing. Therefore, we engage with influencers across the whole value chain and have designed special programmes benefitting each of those touchpoints.


For lubricants, the value chain comprises consumers, mechanics on whom consumers depend upon for getting their work done, the retailer who decides which products will be placed and finally the distributor who works towards profit maximization.


We are focusing our efforts in building stronger relationships and engagement with each touch point in a way that meets their needs as well as helps them understand why Shell is a better product. This will automatically ensure that our product receives better acceptance and push across the value chain supplemented by direct sales through our retail outlets.


Some of the programmes that we have implemented include first-of-its-kind “demo kits” in the industry which demonstrate the role of lubricant in front of your eyes and display advantages over key competitors. We are very happy to have created these tools that are now placed with over 10,000 retailers at a very affordable price.


Further Shell has developed a very insightful programme for mechanics to reward them for their loyalty by not only offering gifts but connecting to their emotional needs of ‘training’, ‘insurance’ and ‘experiences that money cannot buy’. We currently have 50,000+ mechanics across the length and breadth of India enrolled into this program.


For our retailers we have devolved the Shell Superstar loyalty programme, where the more they buy, the more they approve with Shell. This is also working well in terms of its reception in the market. It is a continuous two way communication where they can log on to our websites and talk to us rather than a one-off engagement.


Apart from these marketing efforts, to ensure availability in our select target geographies, we also have a strong and ever evolving network of distributors in place, which in turn is supplemented by our go-to-market strategy and distributor value propositions. The retail (petrol pumps) arm of our Shell corporate business also helps us in widening this reach.


What’s your typical media mix for adspends: Above-the-line (ATL) and point-of-purchase Below-the-line (BTL) activity, outdoor and digital?

For each of our brands we have a different target audience hence the marketing mix is a function of which medium has the right receptivity and touch points with our target audience. ATL, Digital, PR, In-store, BTL activations, and reaching out to our influencers i.e. trade and mechanics are all core pillars of communicating our brand advantage. To further add, the choice of medium is also a function of which parameter in the brand funnel we are trying to influence and thus what effectiveness can a medium deliver. For example, we are using digital specifically to generate trials for our premium portfolio. Over the last two years, we have witnessed a steady increase in our loyalty, equity parameters which gives us lot of confidence.


Specifically, how do you deploy social media in your promotional campaigns?

Although ever powerful, the digital medium has been conventionally an underutilized medium in the lubricants industry. The medium plays an important role as we are trying to focus on communities that are interested in our products and are passionate about this category. Digital strategy is not an option anymore and has to be part of the core way of communicating and co-creating brands with consumers.


For e.g. for the biking sector we found this insight that bikers usually go out in groups for a long bike ride either during summer holidays or long vacations. That’s the time they are most careful about the fact that their bike is in the perfect riding condition and are searching for a lot of information around what to do, where to do and where to stop. This helped kick start the Shell Advance Yyayyy campaign and even though the campaign was TVC based, we extended it to digital as well. Similarly with Shell Helix Ultra #Mycar campaign where we are inviting people to share their stories about their car, we decided not to keep this as a one-time activity but an ongoing process to engage with our consumers. Winners of this campaign were sent to witness the Belgium grand prix. We also have forums wherein, we guide on and encourage technical discussions/queries around our consumers’ vehicles overall, not limiting ourselves to just the lubricant space. There are some call to action campaigns that we have been running on our Advance brand for bikers to initiate trials for our premium products in the portfolio. On the B2B front, we are trying to reach out to influencers and customers through providing relevant information through various platforms.


And how does this compare with the status in more digitally active geographies?

The campaign elements are similar; however the level of investment is a function of digital penetration in the market.


With the mobile phone becoming ubiquitous and the smartphone penetration increasing, do you as a senior marketer see the mobile phone becoming the new primary media vehicle for a certain variety of brands (especiall the male-skewed brands?)

The smartphone market is growing and proving to be important for advertisers. With data and handset prices becoming more affordable, people are increasingly accessing data with mobile devices. Easy-to-download-and-use apps have also propelled significant interest amongst India’s growing youth population to switch to smartphones. The audience is predominantly young with 82% of the mobile audience being male in the 18-24 age group. Keeping this in mind, Shell has devised Shell miGarage mobile app for iPhone and Android users that allows consumers to find the best lubricants for their vehicle or equipment amongst a list of recommendations.


A large chunk of our consumer and influencer target audience is on non-smart mobile phone users. We reach out to 40,000+ mechanics across the country via our mechanic loyalty/CRM program. We also have brands such as Rimula in our portfolio which are meant for Indian truckers and farmers; we reach out to them via text or voice messaging initiatives to engage with them regularly on our brand initiatives or product promotions.


This interview first appeared in ‘dna of brands’ as part of the dna issue dated October 6, 2014


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