BRANDING PSO AS THE PREFERRED CHOICE OF CUSTOMERS

By Romana Aziz Khan
Mar 25 - 31, 2002

Companies spend millions building a corporate branding identity. It's no wonder, then, that once they've established a brand, their next obsession is protecting it.

Branding is the reputation and image of a company, which is conveyed via names, logos, advertisements and word-of-mouth. Corporate branding used to focus on logo and name, but today it has a broader meaning. "It's the promise and how you communicate it."

Effective brand management requires taking a long-term view of marketing decisions. Managing brands for the long run involves reinforcing brands or, if necessary, revitalizing brands. Reinforcing brands involves ensuring innovation in product design, manufacturing, and merchandising and ensuring relevance in user and usage imagery. Another critical consideration in reinforcing brands is the consistency of the marketing support that the brand receives, both in terms of the amount and nature of that support. Revitalizing a brand, on the other hand, requires either that lost sources of brand equity are recaptured ("a back to basics" approach) or that new sources of brand equity are identified and established. Two general approaches are possible:

1. Expanding the depth and/or breadth of brand awareness by improving brand recall and recognition of consumers during purchase or consumption settings;

2. Improving the strength, favourability, and uniqueness of brand associations making up the brand image (either in terms of existing or new brand associations).

The classic brand manager dealt with simple brand structures in part because he or she was faced with a relatively simple environment and simple business strategies. Today, the situation is far different. Brand managers now face market fragmentation, channel dynamics, global realities, and business environments that have drastically changed their task. Besides, today's customer has variety of choices available to him. His level of loyalty is low, and he does not settle for anything less than the best. He goes to whoever offers him the maximum value for his money. So, it's essential to understand the consumer dynamics and present to them a package that ideally fits into their lifestyles.

When PSO started revamping its outlets some two years ago, the situation in the market was intense. Competition was fierce between the Oil Marketing Companies and it was difficult to carve a niche for ourselves primarily because the product line offered by all the three major players in the oil sector was almost the same. Differentiation was possible only in one area; i.e. how we positioned ourselves against our competitors in terms of services offered and how aggressively and successfully we were able to market them.

We took some bold marketing initiatives and moved towards BTL activities along with heavy advertising in conventional media like Print and on TV. We explored and utilized unique branding opportunities and invested heavily in marketing and promotional activities.

As part of aggressive advertising, we were the first ones to introduce the concept of mobile hoardings in Karachi. We branded small metro buses and large metro buses in Karachi and Daewoo buses in Lahore in 2001. We also put up our logo on top of one our petrol stations in Islamabad, the height of which is 80 feet. This is the tallest tower in Pakistan, which not only presents a spectacular view but also acts as a guide for the passing by vehicles.

PSO is the sole marketer of the world-renowned Castrol products. The products are packaged here in Pakistan. They come in attractive packaging and sizes to fit different needs of different vehicles. These products are adequately advertised and promoted by us keeping in view the local market needs and preferences.

Hoardings and billboards present a permanent tool for the reinforcement of brand image. We have put up spectacular hoardings in major towns and cities of Pakistan. The designs revolve around corporate as well as product and service specific themes.

We offer the maximum number of customer services at our stations. Our state-of-the-art New Vision outlets are equipped to cater to the needs of today's generation. We run corporate campaigns from time-to-time highlighting the fact that PSO is much more than just fuel. We have the country's first and only automatic car wash plant. We offer facilities like fax and E-mail at our Business Centers, well-equipped Convenience Stores and the latest addition to this host of services has been the provision of Internet facility at our stations across Pakistan. This facility is also provided at stations located in places like Gilgit and Skardu. This is a major scientific breakthrough and we pride ourselves in being able to contribute to bridging the gap between the urban and rural lifestyles.

We keep our customers abreast of our various activities and accomplishments. This is done through various means like advertisements, press releases, commercials, brochures, etc.

PSO can also pride itself in running the most effective and volume generating sales promotion programs around the year. We ran the ever popular Scratch a Match 1 in 2000 and Scratch a Match-2 in 2001, which was not only extremely popular with the masses but also helped us to snatch market share and give us huge incremental sales. Specific sales promotion campaigns for various lubricants are also run from time-to-time, which make us the favoured choice of our customers.

We invest heavily in BTL activities, especially in sponsorship of events like golf and squash tournaments. The most recent example of sponsorship being that of the 9th SAF Games whereby we are one of the title sponsors.

PSO, being a socially responsive organization, strives to be as beneficial to the society as possible. We have put up directional signs at all the major streets of Karachi and now are putting them up in Lahore and Islamabad as well. This helps people in locating the areas they are looking for. We also donate generously to welfare needy and charitable organizations with cash and kind.

The worst threats to a company's corporate branding image come from within. Brands suffer when there is a major disconnect between what's promised and what's delivered. "That's a self-inflicted wound". That is why our Mobile Quality Testing Units conduct thorough regular checks at petrol stations to ensure that our customers get accurate quantity and superior quality of products.

By undertaking all the steps mentioned above, we strive round-the-clock to brand PSO as the preferred choice of customers.