Royal Dutch-Shell is one of the oldest oil exploration and marketing company in the world. It is world’s fifth largest company by revenue.
Shell started its operations in the Indian sub-continent in 1928 as Burmah Shell Oil Storage and Distributing Company. At the time of creation of Pakistan in 1947, it continued its operations in Pakistan but was renamed Burmah Shell Oil Distribution Company of Pakistan. In 1970, it was renamed Pakistan Burmah Shell (PBS) after 51% of its shares were transferred to Pakistani investors. In 1993, it was renamed Shell Pakistan Limited after 51% of its shares were acquired by Shell. It is currently the largest international Oil Marketing Company in Pakistan
Gas stations in Pakistan—locally called petrol pumps—were historically more functional and not much was spent on the facilities and modernization. Couple of old filling points with old mechanical meters were arranged on a concrete or brick forecourt. There used to be no facilities or shop, not even a public accessible washroom. Most of them just had an old, small cabin for the staff.
When PBS became Shell Pakistan, it also continued with the same frugal and shabby outlook. The philosophy: if gas and diesel can be filled easily, there’s no need to invest more on anything.
This change during the late 1990s. Shell launched its RVI (Retail Visual Identity) program in 1997 with the ambition to re-brand at least 500 of its gas station with the new outlook in a period of 5 years.
The floor plan, design, equipment, facia, monolith and pole signs, color schemes, engineering, dispenser technology, staff liveries, transportation vehicles everything was re-branded. The design and support team was based in Shell House Karachi to coordinate with Shell Global’s design team as well the people working in the field. The country was divided into 6 regions looked after by 6 Project Engineers who led teams of site engineers, contractors, vendors, maintenance crew and other staff. Work started simultaneously in all the six regions and they competed against each other on project timelines. Multiple teams worked on independent projects with a positive competition spirit. On one occasion in Karachi, the whole re-branding was done overnight.
The results were stunning. The shabby looked changed to gleaming new gas stations with all the modern facilities of international standard. The Shell shops located on some of the major gas stations turned into mini superstores that were open 24/7. People even started doing their daily shopping there as they were open at convenient times. At one gas station in Karachi, the dealer installed children swings and slides in an empty area and it became a family spot. At one major gas station on the main national highway, the dealer made an aviary and small zoo with gazelles and other fauna.
The objective was to make these gas stations more people friendly with all facilities and amenities. It worked. Shell became the biggest oil marketing company in Pakistan. In addition, the public image of Shell improved to such an extent that Shell became synonymous with service, cleanliness and friendliness. Other gas marketing companies had to follow.
This is how Shell used clever PR to improve its public image as well as enhancing its market share.