Shyam Balasubramanian
Jun 30, 2017

Smoothing the journey

Shyam Balasubramanian, regional marketing director at Castrol, explains how the brand is driving to do more than demonstrate technical leadership.

Shyam Balasubramanian
Shyam Balasubramanian

The central marketing message for Castrol has been our pioneering technology leadership. Over the last 100 years Castrol has been at the forefront of new product development. Our recent innovations include Castrol Magnatec Stop-Start, which protects engines in congested traffic, and Nexcel, a cartridge that reduces the time needed for an oil change from 20 minutes to 90 seconds.

Innovation helps us make bold statements about our technical capability, often communicated through a mix of digital communities, advocacy, sponsorships and traditional mass media.

Meeting motorists’ needs

That’s all very well, but on a day-to-day basis we need to convince consumers and customers that our brands meet their needs and provide better value than anyone else. Lubricants, of course, are an essential part of every kind of mobility but they can be a challenging category to communicate.

As brand guardians we need to engage people with real causes and social purpose. We need to talk about Castrol’s purpose of “keeping the world moving” rather than simply talking about our scientific processes or technical wins.

This purpose remains the same whether we are talking to garages, fleet customers, trucking companies or car drivers. Our marketing changes depending on the structure of the market, and each strand of our B2C, B2B and B2B2C communication can learn from each other.

B2C can learn about how to communicate “value” better from B2B, and B2B can learn about design and aesthetics from B2C. Both can learn about advocacy from B2B2C. The goal is to tie the whole chain together, with Castrol and all our partners working together to give the consumer better value and ensure they have a better brand experience.

We also need to be mindful that in the future such traditional models may get replaced by high touch H2H (human to human) or high tech M2M (machine to machine) messaging.

A great lubricant touches all parts of the engine it protects and that’s been our principle in building relationships with consumers, customers and contractors. This is not just a marketing role but one that permeates all parts of the company.

We use the phrase “Castrol magic” to describe the incredible discretionary effort that our people put in every day. That effort has helped us create a differentiated brand which is #1 or #2 in most markets in Asia.

The business has been built on people going well beyond their job descriptions to meet consumer and customer needs. I can recall our sales people in Australia sitting for hours with fleets to solve their problems. Or a marketing colleague made more than 200 calls to customers to sell-in a new product because of her passion for the brand. Or when the entire leadership team in Vietnam went out to sell Castrol products to help them understand what they meant to customers.

The brand’s DNA of “passion, excitement and performance” is built on enrolling people, through high-impact engagement, inside and outside the company.

Changing marketing for the better

Such employee passion has been a key part of our B2C work and our marketing efforts have historically used sports sponsorships such as Formula 1 Teams and the World Rally championship that allow us not only to provide great proof of product performance but also leverage consumer passion.

Sport brings three things to the table: reach, consumer/customer/employee engagement and talkability/shareability, with the latter key in the digital world. This is particularly powerful with our trade customers who are typically and naturally more obsessed with motor sports than the average consumer.

Delivering on our purpose of keeping the world moving—as demonstrated above—is something that goes well beyond the marketing team.

Marketing shouldn’t only help businesses show consumers how they are changing for the better but also help them become better business people. This requires us to move beyond our traditional role as purist brand gurus, become proactive and show how the brand purpose is delivering greater ROI.

This also means being honest when results bring bad news. We build the credibility of marketing by acknowledging and, critically, understanding why an initiative has failed.

We can’t wait for other functions to ask us how we are contributing to growth—we need to ask ourselves first and demonstrate our role.

Such credibility is vital as the innovations that we use to drive our messages and persuade consumers to engage whether they are H2H or M2M will impact on other parts of our business as well, be it the sales function or the supply chain.

Shyam Balasubramanian is Asia-Pacific regional marketing director at Castrol.

This article is part of a series by leading marketers on how marketing and brands can be a force for good. The series is contributed by the WFA in the framework of Project Reconnect, an initiative it leads which aims to improve perceptions of the marketing industry. Follow Project Reconnect @WFAReconnect and www.project-reconnect.com.

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