Castrol employs emotion to reach new car owners

Ads will run in Asia & Middle East

By Published on .

SHANGHAI--As more Chinese buy their first passenger car, 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 the local manufacturers 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 are intended to gain traction with consumers unfamiliar with the brand and its history. Although created for China by Ogilvy & Mather’s Shanghai office, the campaign tested so well in the mainland that Castrol has decided to run it in 18 markets in Asia and the Middle East. Media buying is handled by MindShare, and planning is done locally by different agencies.

But the company’s focus is firmly on China's lubricant market, now dominated by two local players, Sinopec's Great Wall brand and KunLun, PetroChina's flagship lube brand. Foreign companies like Castrol as well as Esso, Shell, Mobil, BP and Petronas control just one-fifth of the market.

That is changing. Lube imports reached 23,598 tons in June, a 53% increase from June 2005, and up 12.76% from the previous month. The total lube market is expected to grow by 10% annually for the next five years, largely through growth in imports, according to a Kline Group report issued last month.

To raise its brand awareness among China’s many first-time car owners, Castrol’s new “Green Road” campaign describes the company’s journey in advancing lubricant technology. More than 100 years old, the brand has been associated with key milestones and sporting events throughout history, such as the world’s first non-stop flight across the Atlantic and Amy Johnson’s solo flight from England to Australia.

Mixing archive footage with film from a shooting in New Zealand, the emotionally-driven commercial depicts the transition from old to new as a journey along a green road. The spot ends with the tagline, “It’s more than just oil. It’s liquid engineering.” It is supported with print, outdoor and point-of-sale ads.

The ad is aimed at male consumers “who are prepared to pay a premium for a brand that knows its stuff, men that have a relationship with their vehicle, changing the oil in their vehicle is a way that men show they care,” said Yanti Harris, regional account director, Ogilvy & Mather, Singapore.

The work created for China was tested globally along with other concepts developed by Ogilvy offices for different markets, said Mr. Harris. The Green Trail ad “resonated well with markets outside of China, so Castrol decided that it had the potential for much wider use. Ogilvy’s Singapore office was then given the task of producing the China concept into one that could be used in more markets.”

The campaign is also airing in Vietnam, Indonesia and several markets in the Middle East, and will roll out in the rest of Asia through early 2007.

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