Shell Protects Brand via Net

Two years ago, oil giant Shell started seeing inconsistencies in how its valued seashell logo and other images were being used in different advertising promotions and Web sites around the world.

In some instances, Shell field offices had stopped using the 10-pound books that spelled out the rules for presenting the brand. Instead, field workers created their own manuals to work with local advertising agencies. The result:

Consistency was sacrificed while each new project typically added tens of thousands of dollars in new costs, Shell officials said.

In response, Shell's global standards group last summer created a "One Brand" corporate initiative. The effort centers on a Web-based system that distributes thousands of brand standards that can easily be updated and customized by marketing staffers and advertising agencies, according to Simon Saville, Shell's London-based global brand standards manager.

Saville's group publishes images, templates, tools and usage guidelines on an intranet and an extranet Web site that is accessible by Shell marketing personnel and some of its biggest design agencies.

Shell chose Promptu Corp., a San Jose-based developer of marketing-centered extranets, to host and support the extranet. Analysts described Promptu as part of a small but growing group of Internet integrators that specialize in building extranets for use with partners in a new realm called partner relationship management. The field has grown in the past year, as larger companies see the need to buy a packaged application or service to help them manage extranets with partners.

"What Promptu does is very significant because you can change your brand or other marketing materials and get it out instantly with minimum effort worldwide," said Bob Thompson, founder of Front Line Solutions, a consultancy in Burlingame, California.

Prior to its One Brand launch, Shell was spending US$250,000 annually to produce its printed branding manuals. Promptu's fee for hosting and supporting the extranet is less than half that amount, Saville said. Promptu provides its eMarketing system as either a subscription service, starting at $12,000 per month for software, hardware and technical support, or as a license, which typically costs $150,000 for the first application.

But cost savings are only part of the benefits Shell is getting out of using the extranet. For instance, it's faster and easier for Shell to manage and alter its logo and brands via the extranet, Saville said. Workers in Shell's advertising departments can more easily handle the details of creating print advertisements, such as selecting the correct print size for billboards and newspaper ads or determining how the logo needs to be positioned. Also, the extranet has instructions for the proper way to post information to more than 40 public Web sites.

The online branding standards "are a great job aid for me," said Eydie Pengelly, manager of marketing communications at Shell Chemicals in Houston.

Pengelly works with design companies that can access the brand standards via Shell's password-protected extranet to get the precise specifications for promotional materials.

For example, a Shell engineer who needed to make a PowerPoint presentation was directed to the site for an image of the Pecten (shell) that was created by Shell specifications. The online standards will also allow Shell Chemicals to standardize materials such as stationery with other divisions, so there is a clear message that all the divisions are part of a whole, Pengelly said.

A $5 Billion Name

"The more clarity you bring to the brand, the more you help the customer decide," said Saville. The Shell oil products brand is valued at $5 billion, according to written statements from Shell.

Pengelly and other field marketing staffers at Shell plan to eventually use the Promptu system to create customized packages of information that can be e-mailed to customers, dealers or smaller design agencies that don't have access to the extranet, Saville said.

Saville said it's difficult to place a value on the Promptu service, but he said it has "definitely helped our business." It has saved thousands of dollars because local designers no longer have to start anew with their own designs, he said. And telecommuters who work for Shell or its design partners worldwide can no longer argue that they don't have access to design standards.

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