The Parables of Petrol

April 14, 2007 Blog 9 comments

Thanks to my new toy, my latest posts tend to be picture heavy. This one revolves around the Singapore Petroleum Company (SPC) petrol station at Havelock Road.

Those active in share investing would know that homegrown SPC has been doing extraordinary well in the local bourse. Most notable amongst their achievements was the ability to fend themselves against much larger foreign competitors like Shell, Exxon-Mobil and British Petroleum (BP).

SPC’s biggest coup was in purchasing all 28 BP stations in Singapore. It broke away from convention by maintaining an attractive price-based discount instead of offering customers loyalty points which can be redeemed for products and services. This subsequently led the other petrol giants to follow suit.
Perhaps the following observations could give us some clues to their success?

Percentage Discounts
The first thing one notices is the prominent price discounts offered at the petrol kiosks.

SPC Card
To enjoy that discount, I had to whip up my SPC&U card. Don’t leave home and drive your car without it!

SPC Totem
The SPC totem pole, almost an iconic branding structure in itself with the latest updated price discounts and freebies. Yippee! Today’s deal is 12% off for petrol.

SPC Front View
I proceeded to pump my car with the regular 95 Octane petrol at full tank. The service attendant uncle was attentive, polite and customer oriented.

Choices Convenience Store
I next walked into the Choices convenience store cum cashier counter to pay my gas dues. Its fascinating to see how many different items you can get here, from groceries and car accessories right down to video CDs and novels. Before I could finish my transaction, the friendly cashier tried to upsell the special promotion for the day which was mango pudding.

The petrol kiosk convenience store market is so hot that NTUC Fairprice has tied up with Mobil and Esso in an alliance to eventually operate all 74 of their convenience store outlets.

Tyre Change & Quick Service
Next to the convenience store is the quick service station, which is another regular feature on most petrol kiosks. Just behind it is where manual car washing services are provided.

Car Wash 1
My wife recently got a $2 car wash coupon which I thought I should make use of. Thus, I drove my car through the manual car wash, for it to be soaked, sudded and sponged by these sprightly young men in blue overalls….

…followed by a nice shower and spray. I occasionally feel a tinge of sadness in my heart when I see how hard these guys have to work for so little money. At $6 per wash, which typically takes about 20 minutes from start to finish, I wonder how much they bring home.

Vacuuming Car
As the interior was getting a mite too grimy for our liking, I opted for the vacuuming option. The nice boys asked me to take a seat while waiting for the job to be done. Instead, I roamed around looking suspicious and taking pictures.

Michelin Man
I couldn’t resist snapping a shot of the Michelin man. This is probably the world’s most famous tyre mascot and a brand ambassador par excellence.

Michelin Branding
More brand oriented images of the Michelin man, this time on the shutters of the quick service station.

By Walter
Founder of Cooler Insights, I am a geek marketer with almost 24 years of senior management experience in marketing, public relations and strategic planning. Since becoming an entrepreneur 5 years ago, my team and I have helped 58 companies and over 2,200 trainees in digital marketing, focusing on content, social media and brand storytelling.


  1. Woah, which car do you own, Walter? The C200 3-door sports coupe, the sports car (which I can’t identify), the Nissan or all three? Hmm… do you own that petrol station as well? LOL.

  2. Cool man!
    Lub your new toy! 🙂

    Like me, you oso SPC shareholder huh! Yeah!!! 🙂 *laffing all the way to the bank…..*

    Nice post. I shall recommend a token of appreciation for you at the next AGM!

  3. oooh 12%! that’s good! too bad, there aren’t any along my route. have always been using esso/mobil,their loyalty points could be exchange for petrol vouchers.

  4. eastcoastlife,

    Well, I actually like the way SPC manage their petrol retail business. Of course, they do have other activities that contribute towards their bottomline performance too. Its interesting that even though their brand is pretty much focused on price and discounts (as opposed to emotional marketing), they still do pretty well. Which does lend testimony to the fact that Singaporeans are pragmatic to a fault!

  5. slurp!

    Hey thanks for popping by. Yes, you raised a valid point about the route which petrol stations take and whether it is convenient or not. That certainly makes a difference because hunting down a petrol station – even if it offers like 15% discount – burns petrol in the process!

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