Brand!t Marketing



The venerable Pennzoil brand was in decline, losing sales and market share to several competitors, most notably Castrol.

Work Plan

The issue was first analyzed to determine why. The competitive landscape was reviewed to assess the go-to-market strategy of all major motor oil brands. Additionally, consumer research was conducted to determine strong and weak perceptions among both Pennzoil users and nonusers versus competition.

The results were both alarming and obvious. Pennzoil was not well received by motor oil users, particularly those under 50 years of age. In fact, Pennzoil did not fare well as a second or third choice purchase.

What became obvious was that the Pennzoil was being outspent by brands half the size, by default relegating the brand to 'less than industry leader' status. What was less obvious, but surfaced as well, was that Pennzoil's positioning was not delivering what consumers or even retail "recommenders" were now looking for in a motor oil, newness, technologically advanced, or even a contemporary image. Pennzoil was old and stodgy — for old cars.


To resurrect this once-respected brand, a three-fold strategy was initiated:

  1. Positioning, message, packaging and all other support elements were designed to reclaim the leadership role, projecting an innovative, technologically advanced and more contemporary image.
  2. A differentiating message was crafted that made something of a simple generic molecule, by naming, and thus claiming the molecule as proprietary: the exclusive "PennStar Molecule" was born, and "Works Like Liquid Ball Bearings" was support copy that was immediately relevant to the target consumer.
  3. Media, previously spent at identical levels in 54 spot markets, was now strategically planned to consider category development index, brand development index, market share, market profitability and sales trend. Other marketing support was put through a similar test.
  4. Advertising message was placed in high profile media vehicles that the consumer target regularly watched, read or listened to, and which reflected their lifestyle.


In less than 8 months the brand's sales and market share declines bottomed-out. Within the next 12 months Pennzoil was increasing its lead over #2 Castrol, regaining its status as the industry leader with consumers and retailers alike.