Chris Hayek is director of global brand management for Shell Lubricants. He leads the global team that manages brand strategies for the Pennzoil, Quaker State, and Formula Shell brands.

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In 2014, Shell launched a campaign called “Born from Natural Gas” for a first-of-its-kind motor oil made from natural gas: Pennzoil Platinum with PurePlus Technology. This “motor oil reimagined” is the first true innovation in the product category in more than 35 years.

To launch the product, Shell worked with JWT Atlanta to produce a TV commercial shot on real vapor clouds—the first time an ad had been produced that way.

The company also partnered with Nintendo to create an experiential marketing campaign around the game Mario Kart, constructing a race track at tech conference SXSW Interactive, and inviting participants to experience Mario Kart in real life, racing around the track to collect icons and power up. (I did this myself at SXSW 2014, and although I finished in the "granny" category I had a good time!)

I invited Chris to Marketing Smarts to talk about Shell's integrated approach to launching Pennzoil Platinum; the role of gamification, PR, and event marketing; and how a huge consumer brand measures marketing success.

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:

Demonstrate how your innovation benefits your customers or clients (02:47): "If there's no perceived benefit to the consumer, it really doesn't count as an innovation. So we can do all the great stuff we can in the world, but if the consumer's not really that involved in the category—or they just don't see it because it's not sensory—where you can smell it, taste it, feel the difference—it makes it much more difficult.... We look specifically at how we [can] communicate innovation through programs, what I would call 'the experience.' So, when consumers get their oil changed with Pennzoil or Quaker State, we look for programs such as a warranty program. For Quaker State, as an example, if you use Quaker State throughout the life of the engine, if you get [to] 300,000 miles, we'll actually pay you the Kelley Blue Book value of the car in cash and you keep the car. We try and do programs where we reward people for staying with Quaker State and saying that 'we're going to go on this journey with you.' That's one way we do it, through those types of programs."

Use experiential marketing to amplify the impact of every marketing piece you create (06:21): "Five-six years ago, you would create a spot and you were done. You'd just run it on ABC or one of the networks. Now, you look at it in terms of 'how does it integrate,' and 'how do I amplify?' We...really wanted to turn [what] was different with Pennzoil Platinum PurePlus Technology into the visual effect. But now, what digital and social gives you the opportunity to do is...amplify that.... We always talk about the difficulty of people with DVRs skipping through commercials. Things like YouTube and [experiences] like Mario Kart allow us to amplify where consumers will want to come and see it...and tell other people 'look how cool this ad is,' or 'look how cool this program is.' So, that's where digital and social have really exploded for us over the last five years.... Companies that are typically consumer product companies, like Pepsi and Nike, have discovered this a long time ago, but for us it's probably been the last one or two years that we're now looking and saying 'how do I get people more involved with motor oil that only think about it really two times a month: when they're about to change it and...right after they've changed it?'"

Engage in partnerships, but not one-sided partnerships (10:18): "What we didn't want to do is 'let's just go sponsor Mario Kart and do everything that Mario Kart does.' If you create a brand and you want to partner with somebody, what we said was 'we want to be integrated into the story as much as Mario Kart.' So, the people at Mario Kart were kind enough to allow us to customize we did icons around Complete Protection: the Wear Protection icon, the Extreme Temperatures. We did all the five benefits of Pennzoil Platinum with PurePlus Technology, and [driving over those icons] made your kart go faster.... It was a great example of a partnership. You have to make sure that the partner you have doesn't overtake the message."

Go outside typical industry channels to achieve greater reach (14:01): "Our measurements really many stories were going to be placed. And most importantly as part of that, too, we wanted to make sure the stories weren't just your typical automotive magazines. We wanted to be outside of that, so more people who may not see Pennzoil all the time would see it in different places. We were one of the front pages on, we were in magazines like Wired. All these different places where you wouldn't expect Pennzoil to be: 90 percent of our articles placed were placed outside of the automotive industry, so that was a big win for us. Our goal was about 40 or 50 percent.... In terms of impressions, we thought we'd get maybe 500 million, we ended up with a billion.... The biggest thing we wanted to see was to get people to start asking for [Pennzoil Platinum].... Everything we wanted to do, we pretty much overachieved."

To learn more about Pennzoil Platinum with PurePlus Technology, visit or follow the hashtag #MotorOilReimagined on Twitter.

Chris and I talked about much more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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