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Marketer: Castrol Agencies: Ogilvy & Mather and MindShare, Shanghai, China

Castrol fights local brands for new Chinese car owners by marketing technology and heritage

[shanghai, china] As more Chinese buy their first passenger cars, demand is growing for the products that keep those vehicles running. U.K. motor oil and lubricant company Castrol has launched a corporate brand campaign in China, already the No. 2 consumer of lubricants after the U.S., to try to wrest market share away from local companies that dominate the market.

In a change from Castrol's earlier product-focused ads, the new strategy reflects the company's heritage. An emotional approach and an emphasis on "liquid engineering" technology are combined to try to gain traction with consumers unfamiliar with the brand and its history. Created for China, the campaign tested so well it will run in 18 countries.

But Castrol's focus is firmly on China's lubricant market, dominated by two local players, Sinopec's Great Wall brand and PetroChina's KunLun. Foreign companies such as Castrol, Esso, Shell, Mobil, BP and Petronas have just one-fifth of the market, though that's changing. Lube imports grew 53% in June 2006 over June 2005.

To raise brand awareness among China's many first-time car owners, the "Green Road" campaign mixes archive footage with new film to describe Castrol's journey in advancing lubricant technology. More than 100 years old, the brand has been associated with milestones including the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic and Amy Johnson's solo flight from England to Australia.

The tagline is "It's more than just oil. It's liquid engineering." Other work includes print, outdoor and point-of-sale.

"[Male consumers] are prepared to pay a premium for a brand that knows its stuff," said Yanti Harris, regional account director, Ogilvy & Mather, Singapore. "Changing the oil in their vehicle is a way that men show they care."
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