Shell focuses on the human benefits of energy

Shell is talking up its sustainability initiatives for the first time in a bid to encourage entrepreneurs to consider innovating in the energy sector.

Shell wants to boost the standing of the oil and gas sector through its first “mass reach” campaign focused at sustainability, as it loos to encourage more entrepreneurs to consider innovating in the energy sector rather than trying to come up with the next Facebook or Twitter.

The oil brand has launched the next stage of its #makethefuture campaign, which involves a long-term collaboration with seven entrepreneurs to develop cleaner energy solutions.

The partnership began with the installation of solar panels in the Santa Marta favela in Rio de Janeiro, and had the support of six global artists, including UK singer Pixie Lott and Jennifer Hudson, who recorded a music video to promote the launch. So far the video has racked up nearly 50 million views across Facebook and YouTube.

Malena Cutuli, group head of integrated brand communications and capability at Shell, told Marketing Week that the campaign aims to highlight some of the work it has been doing around sustainability, as it previously hadn’t talked about it on a mass scale.

According to the company it spends nearly $1.3bn (£1.06bn) a year on research and development, “more than any other international energy company”.

“It is important that we are seen as part of the solution [to clean energy] and not part of the problem.”

Malena Cutuli, group head of integrated brand communications and capability, Shell

“And that’s what we’re trying to do, by getting more people engaged in the energy sector and working together to develop cleaner energy solutions,” she said.

“We will need to find interesting ways to communicate this so it resonates with people, particularly with younger audiences that we are focusing on. But it can be difficult, as it’s easier for young people to feel attracted to the virtual world. They often want to develop the next Facebook or Twitter of the world, but the idea is that we encourage increasingly more people to go into this sector.”

Battling negative perceptions

One of the problems with attracting entrepreneurs to the energy sector is that oil and gas companies don’t tend to have the best reputation among consumers, and Shell is not isolated from this problem. YouGov BrandIndex shows that Shell is placed 10th on a list of 25 petrol and oil brands in terms of its ‘index’ ranking, only just above competitors such as Esso, BP and Total. Index measures the public’s perception of brands on a daily basis across a range of measures, including value, quality and satisfaction.

Top of the sector are brands such as Sainsbury’s Petrol and Tesco Petrol.

Cutuli acknowledges that the campaign is aimed at improving brand perception. She hopes that the “non-corporate” approach will have a bigger impact due to its standout within the sector.

She concluded: “A lot of energy companies talk about what they do and their own innovations from a functional point of view. But we are talking from a human benefit point of view; it’s giving them a much more human angle for the brand. It’s not necessarily the approach you expect a brand like us to have.”

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Tom Fishburne is founder of Marketoon Studios. Follow his work at marketoonist.com or on Twitter @tomfishburne See more of the Marketoonist here

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