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A symbol of progress and change

The image of a yellow-and-red outlined seashell is arguably one of the most distinctive and enduring brands in the world, and yet when one stops and thinks about it, what might a giant scallop actually have to do with the world’s leading power, energy and gas technology company?
What’s in a brand: Shell’s distinctive Pecten logo through the decades, a symbol of progress and change

What’s in a brand: Shell’s distinctive Pecten logo through the decades, a symbol of progress and change

The emblem, according to accounts, can be traced back to British trader Marcus Samuel who had a collection of seashells. His interest in shells was developed from being exposed to his father’s London-based import business selling Oriental seashell ornaments and Victorian artifacts.

The story goes that although Samuel did not have cash or credit, he managed to arrange a venture with his father’s agents in what the Europeans at that time called the “Far East.” The son started trading items including Japanese coal, tea, and metals, then built a company with his brother, and eventually partnered with Japanese authorities who introduced him to the oil business.

At this time, the Suez Canal had already been built, shortening the trade route and increasing opportunities for merchants from Europe to Asia. The entrepreneurial Samuel commissioned the construction of a fleet of eleven oil tankers, which he named after the shells in his collection, to supply the burgeoning economies in East Asia and Southeast Asia.

As early as 1897, Shell was already selling modest amounts of gasoline and kerosene in Manila. It was a period of great change, as the Philippines was transitioning from Spanish colonial rule to the American occupation, and also towards industrialization which required a constant supply of fuel. Around this time, in 1900s Europe, Shell come up with its first logo bearing the visual of a mussel shell, which was changed to a scallop shell years later. Back in the Philippines, Shell kerosene, under the trademark Rising Sun, was being distributed to 40 percent of the local market by the early turn of the century.

Finally on January 10, 1914, Shell established its Manila office as Asiatic Petroleum Co. (Philippine Islands) Ltd. Although staffed with just six people, the company was able to grow its business in the archipelago and sold around 2 million liters of motor gasoline using the era’s humble but hardy modes of transportation—a banca, three carromatas, and a carretela.

Marcus Samuel

From trinkets to tankers: From his father’s successful business selling a selection of eastern seashells and other Victorian artifacts, British trader Marcus Samuel was armed with alliances in successfully getting into the oil business

A century later, Shell is at the forefront of meeting the future energy demand of the nation. More than just being a petroleum company, Shell is a proponent of progress and change—helping the government in nation-building and powering communities across the country in a more sustainable manner. 

Shell is currently focused on diversifying the energy mix in the country and meeting increasing energy demand and supply challenges by delivering smarter products and cleaner energy, smarter infrastructure, promoting smarter use, and by developing new energy sources while addressing impact on the environment, through cleaner burning-natural gas and advanced fuels and lubricants technology.  

This diversified energy portfolio, together with significant market contributions and sustainable development advocacies and programs, helped buoy overall economic growth of the country.

Undoubtedly, Samuel’s giant seashell has gained importance far beyond its allure as an exotic keepsake for 19th century Europeans. Here in the Philippines today, the company with the Pecten shell logo continues to efficiently and sustainably fuel the movement of goods and people, ready to meet the global energy challenge of the next 100 years.

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