Castrol bets big on live events in today's attention deficit marketplace

In an exclusive interview with EE, Kedar Apte, VP Marketing, Castrol spoke about the 100 year old lubricant brand, its brand communication, web-series 'Girl in the City', its digital marketing startegies and more.


The UK headquartered company, which operates in over 46 countries, was founded by Charles “Cheers” Wakefield under the name of ‘CC Wakefield & Company’ in 1899. It entered the Indian market in 1910. The 2019 first quarter results for Castrol India indicate revenue up by5% to INR 976 crore and profit up by 3% to INR 267 crore. Businessworld caught up with Kedar Apte, VP Marketing at CASTROL to understand how one of India’s oldest brands stays relevant.

JS: At Castrol, how do you ensure that the brand communication is unique and engages audiences?

KA: The brand ‘Castrol’, is over 100 years old and the clear market leader of the sector. If you look at the brand pyramid, we do not operate at the brand awareness level, but at a much higher level of the pyramid where we are trying to create brand loyalty. The point where we excel is our deep understanding of the customer. I will give you an example, instead of just talking about what engine oil does for improving engine life, we went a step ahead and developed a campaign called ‘truck aasan’, which focused on the health of truck drivers. It gave them tips on how to stay fit through yoga and alleviate health issues due to difficult driving conditions. This single thought informed all our activations for the campaign. With this campaign we were trying to go beyond the product and establish a deep connect with the consumer. 

Every year we support a cause, and through our campaigns try to affect change. These campaigns resonate with consumers because we are not just talking about how we are better in terms of our engine oil, but are talking about causes that matters to them and to society as a whole.

JS: Tell me about the ‘Girl in the City’ web series- how did it come about?

KA: We found that in India there is a new two-wheeler bought every two seconds and women make up a significant portion of the two-wheeler consumer segment. Further, there has been an increase in purchase of gearless scooters. We used these observations to create a connect with the women consumer segment and, ‘Girl in the City’ was born. The story shows young women taking charge of their life, and becoming independent. The protagonist, Meera is a small town girl who moves to the big city, her scooter is more than mobility for her – it is a key element of her independence. One can see her interacting with mechanics about her scooter and the engine oil taking charge! 

Another key factor of this web series was that we kept all the episodes short (maximum of 10-15 mins) given the short attention span people have these days.

JS: How was the web series received?

KA: Very well. People could identify with her. One key factor for the success of the web series was the fact that the brand integration was subtle. I have to say, Meera became very popular, her Facebook page would get a number of friend requests and people would want to interact with her. The series had a reach of 57 million.

JS: What are the methods you use to create digital engagement for the brand? Also, what are the challenges the brand faces when trying to digitally engage with consumers?

KA: Digital is integral to our marketing plans but there are a few challenge we face. The category of lubricants is a low involvement category and not very popular. I mean, it is not the same as chocolates or other popular categories and this definitely presents a challenge. For whatever we do on digital, we know that the attention span of the consumer is very short. That is why we did not take the route of normal banner advertising because often it gets ignored. Instead, what we did was to integrate our product into India’s most loved sport – Cricket. For instance, based on the premise that Castrol protects the engine , we developed a campaign with Akash Chopra. Titled Akashvaani, here he talks about Castrol Active Protector of the Match and posts videos every-day. This integration has worked well for us, with Castrol Akashvaani we were able to hit 25 million views just during the World-Cup.

JS: Do brands need to re-evaluate their use of influencers? 

KA: That’s a great question. About ten years back when the media reach was limited, the consumer journey was very linear. Now that sources of information have risen, the use of influencers has increased

For our category, there are two kinds of influencers. The first are bikers, since there are biking routes across every city, bikers are a big source of credibility. We created a directory of different bike routes across cities and organised a road trip, which included a number of passionate bikers. Along the way they met bikers from biking clubs of the city they were passing through. If they required oil change, this was done at Castrol bike-points we had created at various places. We amplified this property on our digital platform, so that even normal consumers could enjoy that biking experience. The second category of influencers important to us are mechanics. Consumers usually rely on mechanics to help them pick the best engine oil for their vehicles. We regularly educate mechanics about our product and also provide training on various aspects so that their knowledge in their field is up to date.

For example, we have approximately twenty dedicated cars that are sent out to mechanics daily to help educate them about changes in engines, technology and of course, our product. Further, we wanted to give respect to and celebrate the profession of mechanics. Therefore, three years back we started this journey of locating the best mechanics of the country for a talent show titled ‘Castrol Super Mechanics’, this was something like the Indian Idol. We got a great response, as many as 127,000 mechanics participated. The campaign reached out to over 300 million people across the country and garnered ad valuation of over 200 crores through earned media. In addition to the knowledge they received through the training provided as a part of the show, they got celebrity and were seen as heroes of their localities.

JS: What are the new trends in digital marketing?

KA: According to me one big trend is purpose-driven marketing

While everyone is keen on purpose–driven marketing what one needs to keep in mind is that the consumers attention span has shrunk further. What this means for digital engagement is that you need to say your bit in 16 to 19 second videos. Further, what you say has to be meaningful and moving. Having short edits and telling an original story could present a challenge but it is the need of the hour. 

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