AT A GLANCE! Be a part of a wave of change – the Marketing Function in Oil and Energy

Executive Vice-President and Chief Brand Officer at Irving Oil, Sarah Irving, provides students and graduates with an 18-point insider understanding of working in the oil sector, with a specific focus on the marketing function:

Sarah Irving at Forum

  • Oil is a business: the rules of marketing apply
  • The brand and communication perspective
  • Preparing for your job search in the oil sector

Oil is a business: the rules of marketing apply

  1. Customer preference and brand perception differ by market: it is crucial to understand each of the following distinct businesses – retail, wholesale and commercial business lines
  2. Oil companies work in an extremely competitive market and there is a need to differentiate in order to succeed
  3. Focus on customers and not only meet, but anticipate and exceed, their needs
  4. Customer insights is the important first step: companies need a good understanding of direct and mass marketing, retail programs, promotions, the ever more important presence of loyalty in the retail space, and the role of technology
  5. It is essential to bring to the marketing role a) understanding of the different markets in which an oil company operates b) awareness of the diversity of competitors and the reliability of supply and distribution.

The brand and communication perspective

  1. Today, social license and reputation are playing a critical role in the success of major projects
  2. The energy sector, like any other competitive industry in the 21st century, is also subject to the age of social media and immediate news with an imperative to react quickly
  3. Recognize the importance of brand and reputation, both internally and externally.

Preparing for your job search in the oil sector

  1. When we think about the study of energy in schools today – and the preparation required for students to be successful – we look first and above all else for good thinkers and good problem solvers, which is critical for business
  2. Recruitment (at Irving) focuses on individuals who are customer-focused and willing to personally invest in the success of the company
  3. Develop a broad perspective based on a good understanding of the industry as a whole: social, cultural and regulatory issues
  4. Develop a basic understanding of the financial principles, especially in volatile market conditions
  5. One of the most underrated skills is communications: communicating internally, as well as externally with key stakeholders, especially at a senior leadership level, is crucial to business success
  6. An applicant can really stand out by demonstrating strong collaboration, creative problem solving, natural curiosity and a real passion for the industry
  7. The sector is undergoing a lot of change whether its technology, market conditions, or the supply chain – and people are needed who can challenge assumptions and show a new way to tackle problems
  8. As a student it is important to recognize the incredible opportunities the energy industry presents, such as the ability to apply knowledge from a multi-disciplined background and make a real contribution to an ever evolving industry
  9. Be part of a wave of change: students should take time to understand the broader business of the oil company they aim to work in
  10. The more you understand about the business and about the industry, the more opportunities you will have to grow within the company and be respected for this knowledge: this will help you in whatever role you choose to do.

Student focus edited by Tom Gamble from an article written from an interview with Sarah Irving of Irving Oil at the Council on Business & Society 2015 Boston Forum, Energy, Business, and Society

Learn more about Sarah Irving and her company’s activities on the Irving Oil website

Visit the highlights of the Council on Business & Society 2015 Forum: Energy, Business, and Society


The Council on Business & Society Global Alliance is an ongoing international dialogue between six of the world’s leading business schools and an organiser of Forums focusing on issues at the crossroads of business and society – The Council Community helps bring together business leaders, academics, students and journalists from around the world. #CouncilonBusinessandSociety

One response to “AT A GLANCE! Be a part of a wave of change – the Marketing Function in Oil and Energy

  1. This is a must for any student or graduate wanting to work in the oil and energy field – tips and insights straight from Sarah Irving, an expert in her sector and in her field.

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