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An insight into Castrol India’s love for purpose-driven marketing

After establishing the brand in India, the engine oil and lubricant company has driven its communication on purpose-driven advertising for 2-3 years, which has not just fetched brand affinity but also fulfilled business objectives. caught up with Kedar Apte, Vice-President, Marketing, to understand the nitty-gritty of purpose-driven marketing

Kedar Apte

After establishing the brand well in the mind of consumers in India, engine oil and lubricant oil brand Castrol India has moved up in the pyramid of communication from functional to purpose-driven advertising. With this step, the brand not just yields returns on investments from marketing activities in terms of fetching recall and building affinity but also fulfils business objectives.

“Until 2-3 years back, we were talking to the consumers on the functional proposition on how the product works. For example, Castrol Activ is a brand that provides continuous protection to the bike. So, eight years back, we created these characters called ‘Castrol Actibond’ that clung to the engine all the time. When the consumers see the TVC, they would know how Castrol Activ as a lubricant works. Now we have been immensely successful in the last few years in building a strong proposition. We are the market leaders and consumers understand that our product is the best. That’s when we decided to take a leap from building a strong, rationale proposition protection to a higher order emotional affinity with the consumers,” said Kedar Apte, Vice-President, Marketing, Castrol India.


But Apte also pointed out that a brand cannot change its course of communication in a day from functional to purpose-driven. It should follow a process of first establishing the brand proposition and offerings through functional advertising and then move on to an emotional one.

He said, “Sometimes there is a risk that the consumers may see it as a gimmick and that’s why when you do it for the first time, you should really listen to your consumers and should do a bit of testing as well on how the consumers are pursuing it. This year, every day, there is at least one brand that is coming up with election-related advertising. If you see Tata Tea doing this, then it’s alright as they have been doing it for years through their ‘Jaago Re’ campaign. But suddenly if a brand changes course just one month before the election, then a consumer may not be fooled.”

Castrol started its journey in the purpose-driven mode with the campaign ‘Protect what you love’, wherein the first initiative, a few bikers prevented deforestation. In the second initiative, the brand inspired people to clean up beaches and create playing fields out of dumping grounds.

In their latest campaign, with India’s General Election in progress, Castrol India launched #NonStopDemocracy — an initiative that inspires people to Give a Ride, Help Cast a Vote. The campaign focuses on people pledging at to help a fellow voter reach their polling booth to cast a vote.

In the past couple of years, Castrol India has focused on purpose-driven marketing through all their campaigns, including ‘Truck Aasana’ — an initiative introduced specially created ‘Yoga Aasanas’ for truck drivers by Castrol.

Apte added, “We are also the market leader and a market leader has a lot of responsibility and advertising has the power to shape thoughts and make a change.”

Explaining his point about why purpose-driven marketing should not be done as a gimmick, Apte said, “If we would have done this election campaign just because we are near elections then we wouldn’t have been so much credible. But since we have been doing purpose-driven marketing for years, people understand what the brand stands for. The brand has to really believe in the purpose. It cannot be done as a gimmick for one season and then you come back again talking about the product. You have to be very consistent and believe in one purpose.”

A brand must only climb up the ladder of advertising from functional to emotional when it has only established what the product stands for.

“For example, in bikes when we have already established our proposition, we are now doing purpose-driven marketing. But when it comes to cars, we still talk about how Castrol magnetic has the best start and stop protection,” said Apte.

He said that every campaign has to believe in three things: attention, branding and communication. If it only does the third one, that is communicating the message of encouraging people to vote. But if it is not well-branded then the consumers may not even remember the name of the brand and that’s not going to be effective.

Another important aspect that discussed with Apte was that can purpose-driven marketing also drive business goals? A lot of marketers in their part have argued that there is no point doing purpose-driven advertising if it doesn’t help the brand achieve sales numbers.

To which, Apte argued, “A lot of marketing gurus agree that the brands which are purpose-driven tend to outperform the brands that are not. Having said that, there is a stage in the life of a brand where you have established yourself, you again have to see what it is doing for the brand. In this category, if the brand has built an emotional affinity and is on top of the mind of the consumers, it does result in purchases. As for brands, it is not only changing society for the good, but it is not just selling the brand.”

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