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Speaking Sustainably

Shell enlists A-list celebrity cast to #makethefuture

Old school oil and gas company; innovative marketing approach.

With fossil fuels in the crosshairs of environmentally minded consumers, business decision-makers and lawmakers, you might expect oil and gas companies to be defensive, running ad campaigns reminding us how dependent we still are on them.

Shell is taking quite a different approach.

In a new video, Shell tells us how they’ll #makethefuture. And they do it in a way that’s not braggadocious — in fact, they do it in a way that’s extremely clever, visually appealing and culturally attuned.

And as of this writing, it had 7.6 million views on YouTube and 45 million views on Facebook. I’m not sure I can think of another time when that many people volunteered to watch an ad from an oil and gas company.

So how’d they do it? Some excellent strategies anybody can use to drive engagement in a low engagement category (although expensive strategies, admittedly):

  • It’s playful and fun to watch. You want to see what quirky depiction of the future of energy will pop up next. That also makes it highly shareable.
  • It features several pop stars — and not just stars who are famous here. So if you love Jennifer Hudson, Luan Santana, Pixie Lott, Yemi Alade, Steve Aoki or Tan WeiWei, you’ll want to watch it. And if you like American Authors’ "Best Day of my Life," you’ll want to watch it. Again, this all makes it highly shareable — and it also emotionally connects your love for these pop stars or this song to the Shell brand.
  • They’ve been using this video as preroll on YouTube (a paid media placement), and are probably doing paid promotion on Facebook as well — here’s a snapshot of some video comments:

"The best commercial I’ve ever seen!"
"I saw this on an ad and I couldn’t skip it. So good!"
"The first time I’ve looped a commercial for 2 hours. Wow."
"So glad I didn’t skip the ad"
"It all started with a fb ad that literally stole my heart. I love this song and love this version of it even more"

  • It looks like they tagged all of the entertainers in their Facebook post, so the video shows up in the newsfeeds of fans — which is a great way to organically boost overall impressions.

It’s worth a watch. And it’s worth trying a similar approach with your marketing efforts — and you can try a similar, clever, emotionally connecting approach without having to write checks to pop stars. You might not get as many Facebook and YouTube views, but you’ll do well. Making your case in a fun, unexpected way always drives more engagement than making your case in a rational, straightforward way. Hats off to you, Shell.

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Shelton Group

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