Digital transformation is a bit of a headache to read or write about.

That’s because discussion of organisational change often strays into the abstract, which, as anyone who has ever looked at twenty Kandinskys in a row can attest, is pretty boring.

That’s why I find Shell really interesting. At a recent event at the IAB, Shell’s global media manager spoke about the transformation of the company, but he did so in refreshingly simple terms.

Americo Sanchez Silva outlined some things Shell has done in digital recently that it hasn’t done before. This encouraged me to think of digital transformation as a war of attrition.

You need to know where your company can improve and then go ahead and do it.

Don’t get me wrong, I still understand that discussions about management, processes, skills, the board, culture etc. are all important, especially for such a large multinational company under one brand as Shell. However, sometimes it’s good to look at the wood, as well as the trees.

The numbers on Shell

  • Revenue $451bn
  • CAPEX $44bn
  • Income $17bn
  • 70 countries
  • 43,000 retail stations (twice the number of McDonalds’)
  • 92,000 employees
  • R&D: $1.3bn
  • 10m daily transactions
  • >3m barrels of oil produced every day

All of this is under the one Shell brand.

The audience

Shell’s audiences consist of consumers, industrial customers, partners and resource holders. Working with this last group can be termed B2G, or business to government.

How is Shell doing digital better than it was

1. Smarter use of data

Americo gave one example, that of search marketing. Shell now targets key terms combined with first and second party data. This is done using Google’s remarketing for search, or RLSAs (remarketing lists for search ads).

This has increased clickthrough rate of returning customers to 5.48%, compared to 1.65% for new customers.

2. Emotional content using integrated B2C and B2B

Pennzoil is a lubricant made from natural gas and not oil. That makes it an incredible innovative new product from Shell.

However, it doesn’t sound very interesting. So, the aim when creating content around this product, to hit B2C (represents 30% of the lubricant market in the US) and the larger B2B market, is to make entertaining, exciting and informative content.

So, Shell partnered up and aimed to break the land speed record (for a road-legal car).

Breaking Barriers is a film, presented by Tim McGraw and John Hennessy, about the Venom GT and its land speed record attempt.

Not only was this great content created (check it out below), but there was a five step process for getting it out there.

First, content was shown at the New York International Auto Show then teasers were seeded on the web. This was followed by previews of the film and the documentary in full airing on the National Geographic Documentary channel. Finally the film was fully launched on social media to maximise sharing.

All this allowed Shell to create emotional territory (Americo’s words) to discuss the natural gas-made lubricant in the right context.

3. Build a community

Digital creates a challenge for corporate communications. Half of the business is in natural gas and this is a message that it wants to get across to as wide an audience as possible.

A report was produced, Scenario 2050, which initially was fairly dry. So Shell worked with Wired magazine to make the report more interesting and shareable.

The results were a hit on Facebook and LinkedIn, the latter becoming an important network for Shell over the past year. Shell now has 1m followers on the network, has seen 2.6m impressions, 12,000 clicks, 1.82% amplification rate.

The brand continues to work with publishers to create content and use it to build communities online.

Conclusion

Digital transformation is a hairy beast, so it doesn’t hurt to look simply at marketing output and benchmark where you are.

Yes, there’s lots more to do, but Shell rightly points to international teams that are increasingly better at communicating and marketing to varied audiences all underneath its one huge brand.

Ben Davis

Published 8 October, 2014 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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