Responding to a changing marketing environment

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Lubricating oil is the vital component of every internal combustion engine. From a small passenger vehicle to a Formula 1 racing car, from a heavy-duty truck to a cargo ship, from a lawn mower to a Supercar designed to go faster than any other on the planet, there is a Castrol lubricant designed specifically for the job.

In fact, Castrol's products play a major part in our everyday lives, supplying oils, transmission fluids, antifreeze, coolants, greases and brake fluids to suit differing local needs all around the world. They offer the benefit of more than a century of engineering excellence to help people and businesses get the best from their machines.

Castrol is a member of the BP Group and is the lubricant arm of a truly global petroleum company. It is also an iconic British brand that has permeated virtually every facet of the global market.

Building on Castrol's heritage

On the 19th March 1899, Charles 'Cheers' Wakefield set up an oil company in England. Ten years later, he produced a new lubricant that would revolutionise transport in the first half of the twentieth century. He called the new oil Castrol. To this day this name is synonymous with premium quality, high performance and leading edge technology in lubrication. (see positioning map below).

The success of Castrol owes much to the original philosophy of its founder. Charles Wakefield drew on the help and encouragement of his customers in developing his new Castrol Oils because he had the foresight to see that working in partnership was the best way to achieve success for both parties.

This case study shows how Castrol continues with this tradition of having a marketing focus so that it is best placed to meet the challenges of a dynamic global marketing environment. By identifying market trends Castrol is able to build on its specialist expertise as a dedicated producer of oils to apply the latest technical developments to giving customers the best possible product.

The changing marketing environment

All businesses operate within an environment of change. One of the most important aspects of change is change in the market place as customers become more demanding.

Marketing is the process which involves identifying existing customer needs and requirements and with anticipating future changes. It is therefore a dynamic discipline. The marketing environment for most, if not all, products changes regularly. The challenge facing the marketer is, therefore, to find out as much as possible about this changing environment so that the business can respond in a appropriate way. This remains true for any company regardless of the industry, from a bottle of car oil to a Fast Moving Consumer Good (FMCG) such as a bar of chocolate or a packet of soap powder.

Because Castrol products are designed to complement high quality engines the company works closely with Original Engine Manufacturers (OEMs) such as BMW, VW/Audi, Ford, Jaguar and Toyota to develop high quality lubricants that are tailored to meeting the requirements of modern engines.

Castrol's marketing research therefore involves finding out detailed information from both the OEM's and motor vehicle users. The desired result of the research is to produce and supply the best quality high technology oils to meet the needs of modern engines.

The marketing environment in which Castrol operates is constantly changing because:

  • New engines are continually being developed by the engine manufacturers with new specifications and requirements.
  • Government regulations regularly change. For example in recent years UK and European regulations increasingly require engines to be cleaner and to help to create a cleaner environment.
  • The world is becoming wealthier, and increasingly modern consumers require more sophisticated motoring products. More and more consumers are buying more luxurious and sophisticated vehicles. To complement this purchase they require the best quality oils.

Castrol's response to these changes is to provide oils which are technically superior to anything else on the market, and which are market focused.

Market segmentation

Castrol operates in a tough competitive world in which winning businesses are those which best understand the needs of the market. Castrol knows that the route to success lies in providing the best products for different segments of the market. One way that the market is segmented is by product category - motor cars, motor cycles, trucks, leisure boats, and aircraft.

Another way is to segment according to geographical region. Although Castrol is a global supplier of products enabling it to maximise economies of scale (i.e. lower production costs), it also recognises the importance of understanding the specific needs of customers in distinct regional and local markets. The Castrol organisation is therefore divided up into a number of geographical markets.

These different areas are characterised by groups of consumers with different needs, for example:

  • Incomes in the United States are higher than in Western Europe and cars are typically larger. Here Castrol will supply the oils that are required by the car manufacturers that supply to North American markets.
  • Roads and climate are different in Central Africa than in Northern Europe. For example, in Central Africa, motor vehicles may have to contend with bumpy roads, blazing heat and tropical thunderstorms.
  • In Northern Europe car engines have to be designed for frozen winter conditions.

Another type of segmentation is by the type of vehicle user.

  • A young affluent city worker may want to purchase a car (and hence car engine) that is a status symbol.
  • In contrast, a first time driver, or young person may want a car which represents their growing independence.
  • A young family may want a car which enables them to transport a growing family in a safe and comfortable way.

Castrol needs to carry out research to find out the best types of oils to suit the vehicles for these different market segments. This involves close partnership with the Original Engine Manufacturers to provide the high-tech oils to meet the needs of high quality engines.

Castrol's guiding principle is to provide the oils that give users peace of mind in different contexts. For example, the purchaser of a high specification car will want to know that the engine can cope with a range of challenges - from long distance driving, city driving, and even in some cases to racing (Castrol has been the number one oil of choice for racing driving for many years). A young mother who takes her children to playgroup will want the peace of mind of knowing that her car will not break down - so having the right oil is a key consideration of safe motoring.

A constantly evolving product portfolio

The challenge facing Castrol today is to provide the right products in the right markets.

Castrol is therefore continually adjusting its product portfolioin line with new technological developments. This is best illustrated by means of a number of examples.

Increased emphasis on synthetic oils

Everyone knows that oils have a mineral base and that crude oil is extracted from the ground or from under the sea. However, modern high performance engine oils have an important synthetic content i.e. additional ingredients that improve performance.

High quality oils involve increasing quantities of man made ingredients rather than crude content. The proportion of high quality additives is continually increasing and Castrol is at the leading edge of this development because of its emphasis on research into new technology. Castrol provides the best possible solutions to meet the needs of different market segments.

New oils at Castrol are technology-driven

In the past the emphasis was on developing oils that protected vehicle engines. Today Castrol focuses on bringing to market products that improve engine performance and lengthen the life of the engine.

By pioneering new technology even at the molecular level, Castrol has introduced a new generation of engine protection. For example, GTX Magnatec uses 'Unique Molecular Attraction' or UMA technology. UMA molecules are attracted to the metal surfaces of the engine and form a protective layer. This protective layer means that Magnatec starts protecting as soon as the engine starts from cold and continues to protect while the engine warms up. There are products also specifically designed for diesel engines, such as GTD Magnatec as well as engines with high mileages (75,000 miles) such as GTX High Mileage.

Research into emissions

Castrol is also proud of its research into environmental solutions. The company invests heavily into producing oils that reduce harmful emissions through fuel economy technology.

Products fit for purpose

Castrol provides a full range of product SKUs, i.e. an item that you would see for sale on a store shelf. For example, Castrol GTX Magnatec comes in a 4.5 litre bottle that is used for a complete oil change by a specialist garage, as well as a 1 litre bottle which enables knowledgeable motorists to 'top up' their engine oil as required.

In line with market changes, Castrol has not only focused on updating the product portfolio, but also the way the organisation goes to market, i.e. the commercial strategy. To offer better products to consumers, it is important that Castrol becomes more marketing driven, i.e. that it creates product offerings that meet the needs and desires of consumers.

To do this, Castrol has recruited marketeers from traditional FMCG companies to bring different perspectives and ways of working. For example, the gathering of 'Consumer Market Research' from which 'Customer and Consumer Insights' can be derived.

This helps an organisation get closer to consumers and understand the unique needs and desires across different geographies and cultures. Castrol wants to ensure that everything the company does is tailored to meeting the needs of its many types of consumers across the globe.

Conclusion

Castrol has long been known and appreciated for technically advanced automotive lubricants. Their huge involvement in the motor industry reaches right across the spectrum from testing products in the harsh arena of motor racing to providing the vital lubricants that consumers all buy for their cars.

The key to this is that they have a real understanding of the driver's relationship and involvement with their car - from those desiring top performance, to those seeking reassurance and reliability. You'll find that Castrol plays a major part in satisfying everyday motoring needs, supplying engine and gear oils, transmission lubricants, brake and clutch fluids, antifreeze, coolants and greases - all formulated to meet differing local requirements and conditions.

Castrol's 'Winning Formula' is a combination of technological superiority, excellent marketing and sales strategies and constantly adapting to changes in market and consumer needs.