High octane mixture

Exxon and Mobil have recently merged, creating the largest oil company in the world. Design consultancies are set to make a killing as rival companies rebrand.

<b>Oil Corporations ranked by turnover</b>
  <b>Company</b> <b>Market Capitalisation</b> <b>Output(millions of barrels per day)</b>
1 Exxon Mobil $278bn (£173bn) 2.53m bpd
2 Royal Dutch/Shell $220bn (£138bn) 2.33m bpd
3 BP Amoco+Arco $216bn (£135bn) 2.66m bpd
4 TotalFina Elf $99bn (£62bn) 1.48m bpd
5 Chevron $63bn (£39bn) 1.07m bpd
6 ENI $49bn (£31bn) 0.65m bpd
7 Texaco $37bn (£23bn) 0.83m bpd
8 Repsol $25bn (£16bn) 0.72m bpd
*Reuters News Service Sep 13 1999

Oil Corporations ranked by turnover

It is only every couple of decades that oil corporations get the identity treatment, but early signs indicate 2000 could be a bumper year.

There are arguably only a handful of consultancies with the global presence to make a convincing case in an oil company branding pitch. Those that strike it rich know it is always worth big bucks.

Few oil companies will admit they are reviewing their identities, but there is enough movement in the US design sector to suggest they are not idle.

This year’s Exxon Mobil merger created the largest oil group in the world. A new identity was launched last month, designed by Lippincott & Margulies of New York, according to a US spokesman for the company. At the same time, Exxon Mobil Corporation announced the new global structure for the group.

Former Mobil chairman and current vice-chairman of Exxon Mobil, Lou Noto, said at the time that retaining the existing brands would be central to future strategy.

“We will retain the Exxon, Esso and Mobil brands, which are among the most recognised and trusted in the world. Those brands are complemented by Exxon Mobil’s strong retail operations, which are located in key established markets as well as in high growth markets around the globe,” said Noto.

On this side of the world, the implications for the merger are not yet known, according to an Esso UK spokesman. “In the UK we will continue to use the familiar Esso brand at our service stations. It is too early to say what other changes may occur,” he says.

More imminent is the fate of BP Amoco, itself only just merged and taking the number two slot in the worldwide oil market.

It is now waiting for a ruling on its proposals to merge with Atlantic Richfield (Arco). Reports suggest Landor Associates in California would handle any rebranding work which, it is said, would include a complete rebranding of 30 000 petrol stations worldwide.

BP Amoco’s spokesman is unable to confirm the appointment of a consultancy for the group, but explains the whole issue of branding is under review. Of the current branding, he says: “it’s very obviously an interim identity.” Whether a name change is likely is not yet known.

Landor Associates’ US spokesman is unable to comment on the project. What is not certain is whether Landor would be permitted by both clients to juggle working with BP Amoco with existing work for Shell.

In Landor’s defence, many would argue that the lack of global branding players inevitably requires those which do work with global competitors simultaneously to respect Chinese walls. But others would say it would be an enlightened oil corporation indeed that was prepared to work under such circumstances.

Shell’s corporate identity, last updated in 1971 by Raymond Loewy & Partners, is also thought to be up for review as part of a wider brand review. Shell global standards brand manager Simon Saville told Design Week in a recent interview that there are currently no plans to update the marque. It has actually been through about seven evolutionary redesigns since its creation 100 years ago.

Until now, all the changes to the classic Shell symbol have retained red and yellow as its corporate colours, while modifications to the logo itself have evolved very gradually (see Corporate Identity by Wally Olins, Thames and Hudson, 1989). But Shell’s recent partnership with Royal Dutch, plus its intention to address environmental concerns, indicates an imminent review would be timely.

It is interesting to speculate just how far the group might go to clean up its image, in the light of a somewhat bleak report on its public perception produced recently by Fishburn Hedges. If it does change its identity, insiders are tipping the colour green as the favourite to make an appearance.

Another huge merger in the sector involves Total Oil, Petrolfina, and Elf. In the summer, Total began a merger process with Petrolfina, forming TotalFina. Last month it got the go ahead to be joined by Elf in February.

C Eye is currently working with two French strategy and research companies on a report and feasibility study for a worldwide programme to look into the international branding of the newly merged group, called TotalFina Elf Group. TotalFina Elf has now set up an executive committee, chaired by Thierry Desmarest, to determine all future brand strategy.

C Eye business development director Mark Pinder says: “In the short term, individual identities will be kept, long term, however, nothing has been ruled out, with the project looking into name generation and the possibility of dropping brand identities.”

The implementation of oil corporation identities is a mammoth job. When applied to petrol stations, products, vehicle liveries, shops and general marketing material, these are truly some of the biggest projects a design group could wish for. This spate of recent mergers suggests such projects are at least being considered, if not finalised. The biggest jobs will certainly be for those clients which replace existing single brands with a unified global marque. Be assured the giants are watching each other anxiously. If manoeuvre is matched by manoeuvre it will be an interesting 12 months, especially if you are in the green paint trade.

<b>Oil Corporations ranked by turnover</b>
  <b>Company</b> <b>Market Capitalisation</b> <b>Output(millions of barrels per day)</b>
1 Exxon Mobil $278bn (£173bn) 2.53m bpd
2 Royal Dutch/Shell $220bn (£138bn) 2.33m bpd
3 BP Amoco+Arco $216bn (£135bn) 2.66m bpd
4 TotalFina Elf $99bn (£62bn) 1.48m bpd
5 Chevron $63bn (£39bn) 1.07m bpd
6 ENI $49bn (£31bn) 0.65m bpd
7 Texaco $37bn (£23bn) 0.83m bpd
8 Repsol $25bn (£16bn) 0.72m bpd
*Reuters News Service Sep 13 1999

Oil Corporations ranked by turnover

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