Old school energy company; innovative marketing approach

Old school energy 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 6.3 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 (though 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 of the 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.


Suzanne Shelton

About Suzanne Shelton

Suzanne Shelton is President and CEO of Shelton Group, the nation's leading marketing agency focused exclusively on energy and the environment. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of the industry, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights in her writing, research, and client work. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz.com, and she speaks at over 20 conferences a year, including ACEEE, AESP, Greenbiz Forum, and Sustainable Brands.

View all posts by Suzanne Shelton →


  1. Congratulations to Shell for the best green washing marketing campaign ever done in the oil industry.Dean Aragon brought his amazing experience from Unilever and made this successful campaign. Shell took on board the learning from the failed BP Beyond Petroleum campaign,got some influencers in board to reach the younger generation and made it acceptable for the oil industry to keep polluting and destroying the planet.
    This multi-millon campaign took place after shell made 4000 people redundant but the company managed to get a song in the charts, well done. It’s a shame that the marketing industry rewards such type of activity though as the company is still making 90% of its revenue from fossil fuel.

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