Sunday, May 15, 2011

Gulf Oil – Unexpectedly contemplative

While barreling up I-91 last month, I noticed that my tank was low and pulled off at an unfamiliar exit in search of gas. So many stations to choose from... but price dictated that I try the one marked Gulf. Ah yes, Gulf – a brand I knew as a kid in Texas but haven't thought about as an adult among Yankees. Gulf Oil... what do they stand for?

I glanced up from the pump handle and there it was next to the bulging orange logo: "Life... one mile at a time."

Life... one mile at a time... Hmm... Something to think about while I stood there blankly squeezing the lever and watching the dollars stream out of my account. A rich idea, I thought. Open-ended with relevant implications.

"One mile at a time" reminds you of "one day at a time" – the universal mantra of people coping with a chronic challenge. One mile... then another mile... then another... then another... then another... then another... Life itself is a chronic challenge, is it not? One of these miles might bring danger. A bad bump or blow-out. A pink slip. And another one of these miles might bring joy... an unexpected encounter with exhilaration. A new baby.

I decided – standing there at the Gulf pump – that I like this line. I like it not despite the fact that it issued from the jaws of a global oil monster – but because of it. These guys could have bragged about anything – like "beyond petroleum." Instead, they muse, "Let's be open about life. Let's drive along the road from childhood to old age ready for what the highway brings. Let's calm down and take it one mile at a time."

There's pragmatism in this. Fatalism perhaps. Stoicism - but not cynicism. I replaced the pump handle and waved to the dim figure behind the dirty pane of glass... and he waved back.

Now, you may think I'm a sap, and if you prefer something more predictably corporate, then you can certainly have this:



Anonymous said...

Gee, I miss the old days, when you'd "put a tiger in your tank," and just enjoy the ride. That might have been a product reference -- high octane, perhaps -- but it was, in essence, permission to jam down on the accelerator and burn rubber. A different kind of philosophy, perhaps for a simpler time. When gas was just gas. The middle east was Baltimore. And five bucks got you a fill-up and a collectible glass.

Anonymous said...

There really is a Saturday Night Live skit somewhere with all the oil companies taglines. I was at the Citgo pump (price dictates as well) the other day--their tagline "There at every turn" is supported by a lot of socialist messaging--at the pump--about helping people in their communities, etc.

brandsinger said...

Thanks Anonymous 1 and Anonymous 2 for your reactions and reflections.

I think Gulf is trying to humanize its big-oil brand with a disarmingly philosophical message. Exxon doesn't care if you love them or not. BP is a wounded brand. As for Citgo - a fascinating case... worth a case study by someone with a high-octane brain.


rajiv said...

Gulf promotion says a lot about how important marketing can be. It certainly brings a reality check into its ad.

brandsinger said...

Thanks, Rajiv.
Marketing is indeed important -- perhaps it is the crowning achievement of our civilization -- unfortunately!

iriske said...

I do charge the marketing part.

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safemeds said...

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