CASE STUDY: SUNOCO
David beats big oil Goliath
Sunoco had an incredible product to sell: ultra-high octane gasoline that was also ultra-clean. What they didn’t have was budget. In the fight against big-oil competitors, it would need to be brain over brawn.
I helped them tap the tension between high performance and clean - two contrary brand attributes. This tension was the foundation of a campaign that was simple, cost-effective, durable and powerful.
Fresh thinking at the pump
Sunoco didn’t have big oil budgets. So instead of TV commercials and sports sponsorships, we went back to the basics – the gas station. Specifically, we did pump topper ads – small posters on top of the gas pumps.
Using Sunoco yellow and blue, we created a license plate poster that would fit over each pump. It was a consistent, branded template that would be constantly refreshed with new mean and green brand messages.
Our campaign started with seven headlines. This became seven new headlines a month. After six months, Sunoco staffers started submitting lines of their own. They proudly owned the campaign.
Hundreds of headlines later, the campaign took on a life of its own. We even created an auto show car with over 150 license plate ads on it.
The campaign had stopping power. Not only did drivers get a new headline every week for a year. But we distance tested sign legibility, and discovered they could be read across two lanes of traffic.
Sunoco continued to run, and expand the campaign for years.