Now is probably not the very best of times to roll out a new branded gasoline. Consumers, with tight budgets and job fears, are perhaps more likely to spend a little extra on something more tangible -- premium chocolate, perhaps -- than premium gasoline, even one designed to rid engines of gunk.
So when Shell rolled out Nitrogen-Enriched Gasolines this year, a big part of the challenge was convincing consumers that they actually need fuel with nitrogen added. Shell has actually been doing anti-gunk messages since 2007 under its "Passionate Experts" campaign.
The company continued the theme for the new cross-grade fuel with a national ad campaign via its AOR, JWT, Houston, to talk up the fact that the new fuel is designed to scour the engine of carbon fouling. And it went to the auto-enthusiast press to do teach-ins explaining how the new fuels are designed to work with modern engines.
Shell did things to jump-start consumer interest, like offer free gasoline to consumers in various markets, and get "Dr. FuelGood" (Sam Memmolo of the "Two Guys Garage" TV show) talking up the anti-gunk message. And now Shell has inked a 15-month multiplatform deal with Hachette Filipacchi publications Car and Driver, Road & Track and Cycle World. Marketing Daily spoke with Karen Wildman, Shell North American brand and communications manager, who says the efforts are ultimately about education.
Q: Why Hachette Filipacchi for the deal?
A: It was a good match. If you look at their readers, they are passionate; it's a really good source for us in terms of reaching auto and motorcycle influencers. They are testing vehicles, and vehicles need fuel, and that's where the relationship started, with Shell as a fuels provider. In discussions, we saw it was a great opportunity to extend it into marketing.
Q: The deal also includes advertising in the magazines. Will it just be focused on Nitrogen Enriched Gasolines?
A: What we will do is work with the three magazines to determine when it's most appropriate to run a credit-card ad, Shell Saver cards ad, or our Nitrogen Fuels ad.
Q: Are you relying more on partnerships around auto sports and auto enthusiasts? What other partnerships is Shell doing this year to promote nitrogen-enriched fuel?
A: We haven't done anything to this extent because it was truly first about the fuels, and then it became a much bigger opportunity for all of us. One of the things we do look for is areas where we can do more than just place an ad or run a radio spot. We would like to coordinate through all media outlets to reach audiences, where the opportunity exists. We are using motor sports [sponsorships] for our lubricants business [Pennzoil and Quaker State]. But for fuels we have a relationship with Ferrari's F1 program, and globally, with Ducati [racing].
And we have a relationship with Harley-Davidson, who recommends premium gasoline for their motorcycles; so Shell V-Power was a natural tie-in for that. We are working with Harley-Davidson around biker events, like the 105th anniversary of Harley-Davidson last year, and we are the exclusive fuel of [Harley-Davidson's] ride planner Web site. We also have access to reader panels within H.O.G. (Harley Owner's Group) magazine.
Q: This must be a tough time to try to get consumers to stop thinking of gasoline as a commodity, where the cheapest is the best.
A: I think now, more than ever, we need to educate consumers that there really is a difference in the fuel they use. They are looking at lowering their cost, but should also look at the fact that the car is their biggest investment or second-biggest and they want to protect it. We have to provide education so that consumers can make the choice that's right for them.