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Brand stories: Shell on growth, trends, and building for the future

What does the next level of growth look like for Shell? And what will success look like in the future? In this interview, Chris Hayek, Shell’s Global Head of Connections, tells MediaCom’s Alastair Bannerman about his brand’s growth plans…

ALASTAIR BANNERMAN: What does the next level of growth look like for Shell?

CHRIS HAYEK: Shell has been around for more than 100 years, so we are looking at growth in terms of “where do we start playing where perhaps we haven’t played before?”. Emerging markets will be an important part of that response. We’re also looking for new ways to disrupt. Disruption happens when new companies come into a market, take a look at an industry that has been around for a hundred years, and say: “We can do this differently”. So, we’re going to have to grow as a disruptor also.

ALASTAIR: What are the top three challenges you need to meet in order to get there?

CHRIS: First and foremost, in order to get growth, we’ve got to prove growth. That means proving the relationship between what media can provide and, ultimately, our return on investment. More and more, our organisation is asking: “what is the actual return that media is providing?”. In the past, we’ve been able to sort of hide that, but the ability to measure is becoming important – whether it’s through digital, attribution or geotargeting, online to offline.

Secondly, when we look at new markets, we need to understand how media ecosystems are different from the western world. We’re used to Facebook, YouTube and Google, but in China, it’s completely different – from a media standpoint, from a partner standpoint, and also from an experience standpoint.

In terms of our brand, we want people to start seeing Shell in a different light. Most people see us as a fuels retailer, but we want them to see us as a retailer that sells fuels. So, we want to be the largest seller of Coca-Cola or Red Bull, for example. If we want to be a retailer that sells fuels, looking at other successful brands, particularly in the retail space, is a critical component for us.

ALASTAIR: What does success look like for Shell in 2019 and beyond?

CHRIS: If I had to pin success on one thing, it’s transformation. At Shell, we need to do things differently; we need to coach our local markets, do better briefing, and push ourselves into innovative digital. On the agency side, that transformation is about improving our understanding of intent to purchase and predictive analytics.

At MediaCom specifically, it’s about using Cultural Connections (its consumer research programme, of which we are now becoming a strategic partner), to help us get a better understanding of consumers around the world.

The final thing is about automation. Automation is about looking at where can we do menial tasks more efficiently. So, for Shell, can we look at some of our smaller markets, and allow them to be more self-sufficient? Can we automate some of the non-value admin things that MediaCom has to do (and that we have expected our agencies to do in the past) and reinvest their time into strategy and digital innovation?

“Automation is about looking at where can we do menial tasks more efficiently. So, for Shell, can we look at some of our smaller markets, and allow them to be more self-sufficient?”
Chris Hayek, Global Head of Connections, Shell

ALASTAIR: How can MediaCom help you achieve your growth ambitions?

CHRIS: Data, as we all know, is the new oil. So, working with MediaCom’s data scientists and data analysts is important. We also want to ensure that the sum of our agency partners within GroupM and WPP is more than the sum of their parts. That might mean, for example, Wunderman and MediaCom coming together, looking at our first-party data and our loyalty data, and using it to create lookalikes or help us understand intent to purchase. We’re looking forward to seeing those results will in 2019.

ALASTAIR: What industry trends are impacting brands like Shell right now?

CHRIS: The first trend is geolocation. We’ve been able to do things like partner with Waze (the GPS navigation software app) to make Shell locations display when people are looking for directions in their car. We’re enjoying being able to do this at scale.

The second trend is e-commerce. Interestingly, MediaCom showed us that more searches for our products are actually done on e-commerce than in Google. That’s amazing. In 2017, and partly in 2018, we thought platforms like Amazon and Alibaba were just places to advertise our products; they were sales channels. But, now, we’re starting to realise they’re media channels. I see amazing growth from our potential spends there, although we know we’ll have to overcome new challenges in these spaces.

ALASTAIR: What are your industry predictions for 2019 and beyond?

CHRIS: Recent current events have shown that in digital and social, brand safety and data security continues to be paramount. I think we are only scratching the surface. I think we’ll probably see some big potential legislative offerings or changes coming that will affect what we can do with data, how we use it, and how we communicate with consumers. I think that will start in 2019 and go into 2020 and beyond.

ALASTAIR: What will you do differently in the year ahead?

CHRIS: I want to keep my foot on the gas for transformation. Transformation can only be considered a success when those on the ground see it and feel the difference. When our local marketing managers and even our sales managers can articulate the change they have seen in the impact of media, then we will have delivered that promise of transformation.

Chris Hayek, Global Head of Connections, Shell; Alastair Bannerman, Global Category & Client President, MediaCom

Above:  (L) Chris Hayek, Global Head of Connections, Shell; (R) Alastair Bannerman, Global Category & Client President, Shell

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