Interview: Digital accounts for 70% of our B2B ad budget: Gareth Flood, Shell Lubricants

Sneha Yadav
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Taking the conversation of 'Power Of Partnerships' ahead in the industry, Shell Lubricant's launched a campaign with a similar thought. CMO, Gareth Flood gets talking to Social samosa to share some more insights behind the campaign and the company's social media strategy. 

Shell Global Lubricants, touted as the  most diversified international oil and gas company in India's energy sector recently launched its flagship worldwide campaign – ‘POWER OF PARTNERSHIPS’ with India being the first leg of the launch and campaign activations.

Highlighting the message of forging strong alliances, the company has developed ‘The Batmaker’ brand film, featuring Ram Bhandari, a celebrity bat-maker/bat-doctor, who has made bats for cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, MS Dhoni and Rahul Dravid, to name a few. The video demonstrates the importance of striking the right partnerships across situations to brew a solution for success; just as the cricketers’ bats were instrumental to their own success. 

Gareth Flood, Chief Marketing Officer, Shell Lubricants India Cluster sheds some more light on the insight behind the campaign, digital activations, social media strategy, road ahead for Shell Lubricants and  more.


The reason and expectations behind Shell’s renewed focus towards being recognized as more ‘consumer centric’

Our focus is to deliver better value to our customers and partners by offering them unique solutions which help them reduce unplanned equipment downtime and save on unavoidable maintenance costs. Through our products, we provide them access to technical expertise, state-of-the-art technology and quality research.

To keep growing, you need to put the customer first. Customer-centricity means that we know our customer needs, meet them with our services and products and measure customer attention and satisfaction to complete the loop.  

Insight behind the ‘Power of Partnerships’ campaign

We had undertaken a global study to understand the current lubrication practices in the B2B sectors. The overwhelming insight was that there is a burning need for trusted third-party advice and support to achieve business goals.

The ‘Power of Partnerships’ campaign draws upon this insight and uses a batmaker’s analogy to explain how Shell works with its partners. We bring together people, resources and knowledge under one umbrella to help the industry achieve operational efficiency, reduce costs and achieve business success. Through this campaign, we aim to tell our customers that we offer them industry knowledge, technical expertise and a relationship which will help them overcome efficiency challenges and be a trusted partner in their growth story.

We will help our customers face their daily maintenance challenges by offering them support and helping them adapt to new technologies, thereby reducing their Total cost of Ownership.

Please shed some light on the Conceptualisation and Exceution of the campaign. Is any agency involved?

Last year, we launched the “Together, Anything is Possible” campaign. The idea behind the campaign was to showcase Shell Lubricants as a solutions provider and partner for its stakeholders – an entity that collaborates to find end-to-end solutions for challenges and brings in significant value addition.

The overwhelming response to the campaign made us realise that our mission to lead the industry in tackling the problem of “Total Cost of Ownership” (TCO) and join hands to move towards Industry 4.0 had just begun. In November 2017, the team came together to conceptualize the ‘Power of Partnerships’ campaign. The idea was to establish an emotional connect with customers and partners and support them in their journey towards lower operational cost. With cooperation from our global team and our PR agency Edelman, we executed a global study which focused on understanding the implication of TCO in the manufacturing and construction industry. The report not only provided a backbone to our campaign, but also reiterated our belief that the future lies with enhanced partnerships and mutual knowledge sharing.

Also Read: Interview: Brands should focus more on storytelling rather than merely selling the product: Rajeev Juneja, Mankind Pharma

With this thought in mind, we worked with our creative agency Iris in conceptualizing the idea of the ">Bat Doctor video- a video featuring Ram Bhandari, the celebrity Bat Doctor, communicating the importance of strong partnerships as vital to achieving success. This story to us was an analogy of Shell, which also acts as a hidden partner to the companies that it works with, helping them continually improve their performance. While the agency IRIS supported us with the creatives, video creation and logistics, our media agency Mediacom joined us with their recommendations and support with financial media partnerships.

The campaign was launched on 15th May 2018 at ITC Grand Hotel, Mumbai in the presence of senior Shell Leadership including Mr. Troy Chapman, Vice President, Global B2B and OEM Marketing, Shell Lubricants. The teams along with the guidance of Shell worked in sync with each other to flesh out the campaign as one of the most successful B2B Marketing campaigns of the year.

Any Digital activations to take the idea beyond?

In the first phase of the campaign, we looked at promoting the film amongst our TG across various platforms. In the second phase, we will look at creating customized sector-based content to bring out the Power of Partnership in each of the sectors.

In addition to this, we also captured customer testimonials and amplified them across our digital channels.

Further, we aim to leverage our industry knowledge, people and expertise, and strong relationships to help deliver value to our customers, whether they’re facing challenges with equipment maintenance in the present-day or looking to find Shell alternatives to other products.

We do it through an intuitive AI-enabled chatbot called LubeChat. This is an interactive and integrated digital platform designed to offer solutions to valued customers and potential customers like maintenance heads, service engineers and procurement managers.

Give us an idea about your social media strategy? How has digital as a platform made you connect to the consumers?

We are very strong believers of the digital medium and it is in fact one of our key focus areas. We have been able to connect with our consumers both in the B2B space as well as B2C space through social and digital media and through digital solutions such as LubeChat.

Customers today are used to spending more and more time on their phones, even when the TV may be playing in the background. They are consuming more content, watching more videos and always looking for answers on Google.

Given this scenario, we make sure we are present at all the possible touchpoints that they may access. We show them video content like the Bat Doctor video, encourage them to access LubeChat for their questions and share customer testimonials for them to get a sense of what Shell brings to the table.

Details of ‘the Batmaker’ brand film - Why cricket, why Ram, the who’s and whys of the target audience and the anthology of cricket with Shell operations?

Our primary focus through this video is to communicate to our customers that collaborative approach to knowledge sharing is important to help the industry overcome efficiency challenges. Cricket is a widely loved sport in India, and is a strong demonstration of partnership, collaboration and shared purpose. There are many elements at play determining a cricketer’s success on the field – expert mentorship, quality of the equipment, partnership on the field and the playing environment. All these elements can help harness strengths and abilities and contribute to achieving the common goal. ‘The Power of Partnerships’- a B2B campaign came packaged in a consumer-friendly format enabling everyone to understand its key message of forging and harnessing cross industry collaborations. Using a consumer film with a unique concept – a new approach in the Indian B2B marketing space, was expected to help drive Immense emotional connect.

After several rounds of discussion and careful evaluation, we decided that to develop a video communicating the importance of strong partnerships is vital to achieving success. We decided to join hands with Ram Bhandari, a celebrity Bat Doctor to provide him with a platform to share his story as well as ours. Drawing inspiration from the various partnerships active on the cricket field, we hoped to inspire our target audience through this film and inculcate a sense of shared purpose to achieve business objectives. Our creative agency, IRIS joined us with their full support. They captured our vision in a storyboard and converted it into reality in December 2017, when the final shoot was completed.

As a lubricant company, how difficult it is to achieve the desired objective/response through communication? How digital offers that extra edge?

One challenge is obviously the diversity. It becomes a challenge when you have to roll out a country-wide communication because for some places one has to localise the content due to the diversity in the language and cultures. However, through effective communication and by putting across the right kind of messages, we have been successful in achieving the set goals to a large extent.  

With most of our target customers present on social media and other digital platforms, it makes communication easier for us. Since we are constantly trying to reach out to niche audience through our campaigns, we will not be using mediums like TV.

The best way to reach them is either through advocacy, using influencers; or through the Digital channel. Digital is the most important medium for us, accounting for nearly 70% of our total B2B business.

Currently, digital has become essential for the B2C sector also.

Investment plans and details - Swift move towards digital marketing

Investment is an important aspect of business and we continuously strive to improve our offerings. India is a focus market for the Shell group, and our increasing investment in the country through businesses and infrastructure investments are a testament to the fact. We will continually improve our offerings to Indian consumers through innovative propositions, a larger social impact and footprint in the community and by bringing the best of technology to the Indian consumer.

This also reflects in our investment in expanding our presence in the digital medium.

We have plans to spend 70% of our B2B and 25% of our B2C advertising budget on digital. Digital accounts for nearly 70% of our B2B business budgets and the rest is spent on BTL activities. For B2C as well.

Digital is becoming increasingly important. In order to increase our share in the Indian B2C lubricants’ market from the existing 5% to 15%, we are also sprucing up our investments in social media properties. As a company, we have been investing billion dollars per year on research and development. Alongside, we have plans of launching some new products in the motorcycle category and have been constantly trying to reach out to our customers through the digital platform.

What have been the market trends/sentiments that you have observed in India relating to oil and lubricant industry?

Consumer trends are ever changing. People are immensely passionate for and possessive of their vehicles. Similarly, B2B operators and other industrial stakeholders are very particular about extending the life of their equipment but lack proper awareness and knowledge about maintaining them with effective lubrication. With changing consumer psyche and behavior, Shell is propelled to shift towards online and e-commerce platforms following rise in digital literacy.

Road Ahead for Shell Lubricants India

In the last 5-6 years, Shell Lubricants has significantly grown in India from a low 2% market share to a growing 5% in 2018. Shell has a 11 per cent share in the global lubricants market. India is the third-largest market for lubricants, where Shell has close to a five per cent share. Internal processes, systems, customer satisfaction and revenue streams have also dramatically improved demonstrating a renewed focus on building relationships with OEMs and customers to optimize their TCO. The growth rate for Shell Lubricants in India has been around 20% in the last few years and is expected to increase significantly over the next few years.

Apart from focusing on providing the best to its customers, Shell is growing strong in the technology sphere. Shell also aims at growing India as a talent hub by focusing on people, their capabilities and by investing quite a hefty sum for the same. This will give Shell a lot of edge vis-à-vis competition.

Strategically, Shell intends to provide the best product at a price point. With a shift to energy and fuel efficiency, Shell Lubricants will play an important role in reducing friction and fuel consumption, thereby reducing the carbon footprints. So, we’ve invested heavily in Shell Lubricants as a dedicated company back here in India. While we are already number one globally, it’s our ambition to be number 1 in India.

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