Shell Gets Aggressive in Digital & Social Media Engagement

HOUSTON -- Royal Dutch Shell plc is striving to boost its brand globally with an aggressive digital and social media audience engagement strategy.

In a recent interview with the Houston Business Journal, David Bunch, vice president of marketing for Shell Retail and chairman of Shell Brands International, talked about the oil company's renewed focus on digital marketing. Bunch is based in London and leads a global team in 70 countries that develops all of Shell's convenience store and loyalty programs across its 43,000 locations worldwide.

Whereas in the past, Shell had a one-way dialogue with its audience centered around its key tenets of "trust, innovation and quality," the use of social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, has changed the conversation.

"What technology has done is provide a unique … way to enable a two-way conversation. It's real time," Bunch told the Journal.

Opening the doors to audience interaction, though, also has its challenges, he said, pointing to branding attacks from environmental groups like Greenpeace. In 2012, the environmental activist group launched a fake Shell website to call attention to endangered species. The site featured parody ads that used Shell's iconic logo and slogan, "Let's Go."

Bunch admitted that "social media is a platform that you can't control," but allowing adversaries to express their opinions is critical, he told the news outlet.

He also noted that Shell has avoided massive environmental disasters like BP's 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The key, he said, is to prioritize the environment and security around Shell's projects.

"Our approach is one of transparency, education and engagement. ... We have a strong brand amongst our peer groups, but also a strong brand amongst global brands," Bunch said. "The thing about brand-building is it takes time and consistency and effort."

Shell has the largest retail gasoline network in the United States with more than 14,700 branded sites coast to coast and a presence in all 50 states, according to the company. Motiva Enterprises LLC, a 50/50 joint venture between Shell and Saudi Refining Inc., supplies more than 8,600 of these sites. Shell Oil Products US supplies more than 6,000 sites.

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