British Petroleum and ExxonMobile both sell the same thing – Gasoline. Both are strong and globally recognized brands with 19.3% and 6.6% of the California market share respectively (I couldn’t find national stats).
For a few years now, BP has been undertaking a massive green marketing campaign, aggressively showcasing its investment in renewable resources, and going so far as to refer to itself as “Beyond Petroleum”. It also showcases environmental issues prominently on its website. ExxonMobile, on the other hand, has made very little effort to brand itself as anything other than a petroleum company, has publicly refused to accept renewables, and maintains a much more basic website with little obvious environmental messaging.
The question: Which marketing strategy will pay off in terms of market share? Is either more honest?
BP is clearly banking that their strategy will differentiate them from other oil companies and assuage people’s fears that their motoring is hurting the environment. In the California market, they are up against many other firms, notably ChevronTexaco and Shell who have both stepped up “Green” campaigns of one sort or another. BP wants to be seen as the “Greenest” and despite some calls that they are greenwashing, seems to be at least making a cursory gesture to do a little solar installation here and there. They certainly look green.
On the other side, what is ExxonMoble banking on? Critics say they have their heads in the sand, but could they be marketing themselves toward that segment of the market that takes a more resigned approach to climate change and pollution? – The self described pragmatists that would rather buy their gas at the one company that goes against a marketing tide of debatable authenticity? Perhaps they’re just trying to be honest – an oil company is an oil company in some regard, and it’s possible that ExxonMobile’s frankness on the issue may resonate with some consumers.
Still, it seems like a somewhat high risk decision by ExxonMobile because all the other major gas companies are embarking on some kind of “green” campaign – so they wouldn’t have much to lose. Additionally, Exxon (before Mobile) is still suffering the ill effects of the Valdez disaster. Perhaps they just don’t see any chance of ever reclaiming the “green” thinking customer at all.
To really answer these questions, we’d probably need to look at more than simple “market share” numbers, but it’s certainly something to watch pan out.