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Havoline
 

Havoline - striking oil


  Havoline
striking oil
by Robin D. Rusch
June 11, 2001

Havoline has been around for nearly a hundred years (since 1904) under the New York-based Havemeyer Oil Company. Over the century, it’s been bought by Texaco and undergone many revisions to its oil formula and product line. But in 2000, a decision was made to revise its packaging as well and research got underway in the Americas and Europe to devise a new package and label that would promote Havoline as a number one choice.

Preliminary studies showed that the public

 
 

associated Havoline with quality performance and an extensive history.

However, their perception of the brand was mired with mid-range automotive products like Mobil, Exxon, Shell and BP. Havoline needed a new identity to raise it to a higher price point with other premium brands such as Castrol, Valvoline, Pennzoil and Quaker State.

The team focused on the packaging and label as a way to attract consumers and raise Havoline’s shelf presence. An analysis of the packaging revealed that the current bottle was too generic in shape and the all-black color was not dynamic enough to attract consumers on a shelf full of similar product.

As for the label, the consensus was that it was too cluttered and static. In the previous decade, the positioning for Havoline concentrated on its ability to protect against problems associated with oils and engines. Indeed the benefit copy on the label stated that the oil would protect against starting friction, heat stress and engine deposits – an approach that was deemed too negative for attracting consumers.

To gauge the value and relevance of the different elements comprising the existing label, Havoline supplied focus group participants with bits of label from its own and competitor products and encouraged them to build a label for Havoline. The participants easily got the colors, and the Texaco and Havoline names but often picked sub brands like Exxon’s Superflo and left off the Formula 3 copy entirely. Havoline decided that the Formula 3 was irrelevant, and as Gib Wheatley, Automotive Marketing Engineer at Havoline, noted “The name ‘Texaco Havoline Formula 3 SAE Motor Oil’ was too much to absorb.”

The result of all this was to strip down to a clean, dynamic label in red, yellow and black. The benefit copy and Formula 3 specification have been removed and replaced with an illustration of the product’s use, creating a tighter look. Even the logo underwent a makeover to instill it with more movement and vitality.

The packaging itself is a meatier, easy-to-grip bottle with a chunky cap that can easily be removed even if the user is wearing heavy gloves or there is slippery residue from previous use.

The new label and packaging has already rolled out in South American markets. The US has unveiled the new label and expects the new packaging, which began in May on the West Coast, to filter through nationwide by the third quarter. The UK intends to roll out by July, with Benelux following the month after, Spain and Greece by fourth quarter and Scandinavia in time for the New Year. (The Asian division of Havoline recently underwent a rebrand and does not at this time intend to incorporate the new identity into its products.) Each region will use the new package as a template for shape and format and can employ local language when necessary.

As with any change to a well-known product, customer feedback is a given. So far Wheatley says the new logo hasn’t inspired any complaints but the removal of Formula 3 did prove to be a little traumatic for loyal customers who were surprised by the new label. Still, he doesn’t regret the removal as he felt there was no value added by the specification, and after nine months of the new label, the public appears to be adjusting just fine… and Havoline appears ready to strike it rich.

 
     
  

Robin D. Rusch lives and works in New York City.

  
     
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