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ExxonMobil is one of the world’s largest publicly traded energy providers and chemical manufacturers with facilities located around the globe, from Guyana to the Permian Basin. It also develops and applies next-generation technologies to help meet the world’s growing needs for energy and high-quality chemical products in an environmentally-friendly manner. 

In this strategy study, we will look at why ExxonMobil invests heavily in creating new products and how the company is transforming to meet future energy needs in a sustainable fashion. Click here for the half-page version!

ExxonMobil’s Market Share and Key Statistics from 2021


How was ExxonMobil founded and how did it grow In its early years?

Starting as an oil refining business, ExxonMobil grew to become a leader in oil production and distribution in the U.S within the next century. The company expanded its network in Asia, South America, and Europe to become one of the largest producers, refiners, and distributors of oil and petrochemicals.

ExxonMobil’s Parent Firm: The Standard Oil Company

In 1870, John D. Rockefeller founded the Standard Oil Company in Ohio. He chose the name Standard to convey a sense of the high quality of his products to clients.

Oil prospecting in those days was a high-risk, low-return venture. Plus, oil wells did not have the technological tools they do today, so the process was quite inefficient. But Rockefeller was a cautious businessman, so he decided to focus on refining oil instead of extracting it.

File:Portrait of 49-year-old John D. Rockefeller.jpg
John D. Rockefeller: The founder of Standard Oil | Source:, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

It was a wise decision because refining oil did not involve the same kinds of risk and was far more profitable. In a few years, Standard Oil acquired multiple oil refineries in the U.S. Together, the combined facilities made Standard Oil the largest oil refiner in the world.

In 1879, Standard Oil acquired Vacuum Oil Company for $200,000. As a pioneer in the field of lubricants, Vacuum invented many useful products. The founders of Vacuum invented a process to distill kerosene and oil. They also processed the residue into a lubricant for steam engines. Vacuum’s heavy oil was also widely used for internal-combustion engines well into the 90s. It was this pioneering spirit that impressed Rockefeller, and he bought a 75% stake in the business.

In 1911, the Standard Oil Company split into 34 smaller companies. The largest of these companies were Standard Oil New York (Socony), Vacuum Oil, and Standard New Jersey. Socony and Vacuum Oil merged in 1931. Years down the line, they would go on to become the Mobil Oil Corporation. On the other hand, Standard New Jersey would become Exxon.

ExxonMobil Captures New Markets With Innovation Strategy

Socony, Vacuum Oil, and Standard New Jersey remained the most profitable Standard Oil Companies because they wanted to solve problems with creative solutions.

For instance, in 1885, Vacuum Oil developed Gargoyle Arctic engine oils for engines and generators that operated at speeds greater than 1000 rpm. Previously, engines could not exceed speeds of 1000 rpm, so Vacuum designed a product to solve that problem.

On the other hand, researchers at Jersey Standard also focused on creating new products that would have many applications. In 1920, researchers at Jersey Standard produced rubbing alcohol which to this day is widely used as a disinfectant. The researchers also succeeded in producing an artificial rubber called butyl, which is used in tires and surgical tapes. The new class of oil-based products helped the company diversify beyond the extraction and refining of oil.

Back at the Socony-Vacuum refinery, French scientist Eugene P. Houdry was busy creating a new refining method called cat-cracking. By adding a clay-like substance to the cracking process, Houdry was able to increase gasoline yields and octane rating.

However, refining gasoline was still a primitive process. Advancements in the production of engines called for better gasoline. In 1942, four researchers at Jersey Standard made a breakthrough discovery that solved the problem of refining gasoline. The researchers improved Houdry’s cat-cracking process to invent the first catalytic converter that became the gold standard for producing gasoline.

Furthermore, Jersey Standard wanted to invent techniques that would increase the probability of finding oil. Oil prospecting was costly, and in many cases, companies would not find oil even after months of drilling. So, in 1919, Jersey Standard acquired a 50% share in Humble Oil & Refining Co., a Texas oil producer.

Under Jersey Standard’s leadership, geologists at Humble perfected the use of micropaleontology to study fossil samples for traces of oil. Tracing oil through fossil samples improved the chances of finding oil.

Researchers at Humble also invented 3-D seismic technology in 1963 to further reduce the costs of oil prospecting.

By the 1980s, seismic technology was connected with massive parallel computers to produce seismic images. It reduced the cost of finding oil to a fraction of its original cost a few decades earlier.

ExxonMobil’s International Strategy to Access Markets in Asia, Middle East, and South America

As early as 1885, Vacuum had opened offices in Montreal and in Liverpool, and within the next decade, the company added branches in Toronto, Milan, and Bombay. Vacuum used efficient marketing and sales techniques, packaging its lubricants in attractive tins, pursuing customers with a well-organized, efficient sales team. Vacuum also employed a lubricants specialist to help customers choose the oil best suited to their needs. By 1911 the Vacuum marketers had made the name Mobil oil known on five continents.

During this period, Socony and Jersey Standard spread their network in Europe, South America, and Asia. Socony gained a foothold in the Asian market and China by developing kerosene lamps that burned more efficiently. Furthermore, Socony joined the Turkish Petroleum Company (Iraq Petroleum Company) in 1928 to supply oil to European markets.

Similarly, Jersey Standard established an exploration and production company through its Dutch subsidiary in the Asia-Pacific region in 1912. In 1922, Jersey Standard discovered oil in Indonesia and built a refinery in Sumatra.

Jersey Standard also cemented its position in South America with a string of strategic acquisitions. It acquired the Tropical Oil Company of Colombia in 1920, the Standard Oil Company of Venezuela in1921, and the Creole Petroleum Company of Venezuela in 1928.

By now, Jersey Standard had built an extensive international network. However, there was a problem. Jersey Standard was a leader in oil production and refining, but it did not have an extensive marketing network. On the other hand, Socony-Vacuum had Asian marketing outlets supplied remotely from California.

In 1933, Jersey Standard and Socony-Vacuum merged their interests in the Asia-Pacific region into a 50–50 joint venture. It was a mutually beneficial merger, and the new Standard Vacuum Oil Company, or "Stanvac," operated in 50 countries, from East Africa to New Zealand, until 1962.

Key Takeaway 1: Diversify Product Line to Unlock Business Growth

Socony-Vacuum, and Jersey Standard had a strong focus on improving the services that helped them maintain their positions in the oil industry. The companies focused on upgrading their refining process to create more efficient fuels such as gasoline and octane.

They also created a class of new products, such as rubbing alcohol and butyl, which had wider applications. Rubbing alcohol became a popular disinfectant, while butyl was used to make surgical tape. As a result, the medical industry became a new market for Jersey Standard products.

ExxonMobil’s Corporate Strategy Delivers Lasting Value To Stakeholders

The company went through a transformational period of mergers which changed its corporate structure and encouraged new advertising strategies. 

Over the decades, the company’s brand identity continued to evolve, reflecting a strong advertising and marketing strategy. At the same time, internal changes within the company’s business model also took place as a result of various mergers. These transformations paved the way for the company’s growth and contributed to the eventual formation of ExxonMobil - the company as we know it today.

ExxonMobil’s Marketing Strategy Helps Create An Iconic Brand Image

The company's advertising campaign formed the core of its marketing strategy. 

The company has come to be known through different trademarks, logos, and mascots which have played a critical role in representing its unique brand identity. 

In 1931, Vacuum-Socony adopted the red Pegasus as its U.S. trademark. The trademark proved instrumental after the company changed its name to Mobil Oil Corporation in 1966 and needed to advertise its identity under the new trade name. 

As a result, in 1968, Mobil launched its distinctive round-shaped gas stations known as Pegasus stations. These were specifically designed to beautify the highway and provide efficient operations. The flying red horse was the only commercial symbol on the building and helped the customers easily identify the station as a Mobil station.

Similarly, Esso - one of the brands marketed by Jersey Standard, which eventually became Exxon Corporation in 1972 - introduced the tiger mascot at the beginning of the 20th century. The mascot was representative of quality and power and rose to fame along with the phrase “Put a tiger in your tank.”

File:Esso Tiger in den Tank - Germany 1965.jpg
Source: Gotanero, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The phrase proved to be exceptionally successful, and people were convinced of the power of Esso fuel. The campaign had motorists all over the world tying a fake tiger tails to the caps of their gas tanks.

Esso’s tiger advertising set a new standard for gasoline advertising, and the company saw a significant increase in sales.

Why did Exxon and Mobil Merge in 1999?

By the end of the 20th century, Exxon and Mobil were two distinct companies.

Exxon had developed a diversified business related to every phase of the petroleum industry - from oil fields to service stations. The company’s oil transportation network spanned pipelines and included one of the world’s largest fleets of tankers. 

On the other hand, Mobil had decided to focus on its core businesses of petroleum extraction, processing, and distribution since 1988. 

Exxon and Mobil merged to create the third-largest company in the world. The merger, valued at $81 billion, was completed in 1999, and the resulting entity was named ExxonMobil Corporation. In essence, the merger agreement stipulated that Exxon would buy Mobil with the latter’s CEO becoming vice-chairman of the company.

The new company did not just combine its predecessors’ names, it consolidated Exxon’s experience in deepwater exploration with Mobil’s production and exploration fields in Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea. 

Both sides benefited greatly from the deal. Through the merger with Mobil, Exxon achieved significant R&D synergy, while the deal value represented a premium of approximately 290% for Mobil in 1998.

ExxonMobil, thus, became one of the world’s greatest oil companies producing 2.5 million barrels of oil per day globally. ExxonMobil’s revenue amounted to $200 billion, with a market capitalization of $237.53 billion. 

In the early 2000s period, the company invested $10 billion in exploration efforts under the ExxonMobil global strategy. As a result, the company made significant discoveries in Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Chad, and the Caspian Sea. Moreover, in 2005, ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum expanded the largest nonassociated gas field in the world, which is located just off the shore in Qatar.

During this period, ExxonMobil also secured projects in Russia and Siberia. In 2007, ExxonMobil completed the drilling of the Z-11 well, the longest measured depth extended-reach drilling (ERD) well in the world. 

ExxonMobil’s Business Model Boosts its Competitive Advantage

ExxonMobil’s corporate strategy revolves around creating a vertically integrated energy company that allows it to benefit from economies of scale. 

The company intends to capitalize on its business model to facilitate disciplined capital investment and structural cost saving. 

ExxonMobil enhances its cash flow growth through investments in high-return projects and cost reduction through investments in low-cost-of-supply projects etc. ExxonMobil’s integrated structure enhances structural cost savings by streamlining internal efficiencies and creating supply assurance.

ExxonMobil has three business lines: ExxonMobil Upstream Company, ExxonMobil Product Solutions, and ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions. The streamlined structure enables it to better leverage its competitive advantages to serve customers and create shareholder value.

Today, the company is involved in oil exploration in Guyana and the Permian Basin. In 2015, ExxonMobil discovered 8 billion oil-equivalent barrels off the shore of Guyana. In 2017, ExxonMobil also increased its resources in the Permian Basin to 6 billion oil-equivalent barrels.

That same year, ExxonMobil, together with the University of Illinois, set a record in the use of parallel simulation for oil and gas discovery. The breakthrough simulation used 716,800 processors, the equivalent of harnessing the power of 22,400 computers with 32 processors per computer, to improve the chances of finding oil and gas.

Finally, in 2010, ExxonMobil partnered with XTO Energy Inc. to develop a rapid response system that will be available to capture and contain oil in the event of a potential future underwater well blowout in the deep-water Gulf of Mexico.

Key Takeaway 2: An Integrated Business Model Helps You Achieve Competitive Advantage and Creates Value for Shareholders

ExxonMobil’s competitive advantage was built through an integrated business model that not only caters to its customers but also to the company’s shareholders.

Its unique marketing strategy successfully differentiated it from its competitors in the oil and gas industry. The merger between Exxon and Mobil also served to reinforce its competitive advantage, and the company ensured that its business model enhanced its ability to leverage its competitive advantage, such as through reducing costs and by undertaking strategically disciplined investments which yielded increased returns for investors and created value for customers through improved operating performance. 


ExxonMobil’s Sustainability Strategy to Power the World with Low-Carbon Fuel

ExxonMobil is fully committed to reducing its carbon footprint. The company remains the leader in oil and natural gas production, but it is investing heavily in the development of unconventional fuels that produce less greenhouse emissions. Investing in unconventional fuels is a costly, long-term process with little chance of seeing a return on investment anytime soon. Yet, ExxonMobil remains committed to the cause.

ExxonMobil’s Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy

ExxonMobil has a holistic, CSR strategy that involves three key elements:

  1. Environmental: Minimize the environmental impacts of the company’s operations in sensitive environments such as the deep sea. The most important objectives are to advance climate solutions, conserving water resources, minimizing operational waste, and reducing the impacts on natural habitats.
  2. Social: The company aims to be an equitable business partner, employer, and supplier. The goal is to deliver economic benefits, respect human rights at the workplace and enhance process safety for workers.
  3. Governance: The board of directors at ExxonMobil is committed to improving climate oversight, ethical leadership, and positive engagement with governments across the globe.

In line with its CSR strategy, ExxonMobil has undertaken a number of important initiatives. To fulfill its role in protecting the environment, ExxonMobil established The Tiger Fund in partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The fund protects endangered tigers in Asia - one of the last places on Earth where tigers live in the wild. Each year, ExxonMobil donates $1 million to the fund.

Furthermore, ExxonMobil partnered with other businesses to establish the Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP) at Stanford University in 2002. The research project aims to develop technologies that can produce energy with minimal greenhouse gas emissions.

The company also pays close attention to its social duties, which is why ExxonMobil's diversity strategy is so rigorous. For instance, 2,100 ExxonMobil employees in 45 countries have completed human rights awareness training in 2015. In 2021, ExxonMobil also helped develop the new edition of the Human Rights Due Diligence Guide.

Moreover, the Board of Directors at ExxonMobil has pledged $15 billion to develop products with lower emissions under the company’s ambitious climate oversight plan. ExxonMobil also conducts annual training for its employees on antitrust, anti-corruption, anti-boycott, trade sanctions, and export controls policies. The goal of the training is to ensure that ExxonMobil conforms to ethical business practices.

Exxon Mobil’s Sustainability Strategy To Decrease Carbon Emissions

The goal of ExxonMobil’s sustainability strategy is to develop a green fuel that will replace oil and gas as primary energy resources. The company wants to produce a fuel that has a low carbon footprint and minimal emissions. In the medium to long-term, ExxonMobil plans to scale up the production of these fuels to increase their production capacity so that they can gradually replace oil and gas in transport and aviation.

In 2009, Exxon Mobil Corporation and Viridos (formerly Synthetic Genomics, Inc.) opened a greenhouse facility to fast-track research and testing in their algae biofuels program. In 2017, these efforts yielded a breakthrough that involved the modification of an algae strain that more than doubled its oil content without significantly inhibiting the strain’s growth. To date, it is the most impressive ExxonMobil achievement in the field of alternative fuels.

In 2016, ExxonMobil and Georgia Tech researchers developed a revolutionary “reverse osmosis” technology. The researchers used a molecular filter instead of heat in the plastic-making process. Now, plastic production at ExxonMobil uses less energy and produces less greenhouse emissions.

Moreover, in 2021, ExxonMobil created a new business to commercialize its extensive low-carbon technology portfolio. The new division is called ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions, and it will invest in the research and development of carbon capture and storage technologies. The new technologies will help ExxonMobil produce products with zero emissions.

Key Takeaway 3: Innovate and Embrace A Sustainability Strategy That Aligns With Your Future Goals

ExxonMobil believes in producing products that will meet future needs and expectations. The company has a proven track record of inventing new products to cater to ever-evolving customer needs and preferences.

In the past, the company took the lead in producing motor oils, octane, and gasoline that were needed by the newly developed car engines and airplanes of the 20th century. Today, the company is developing carbon-capture technology and an algal biofuel that will become the fuel of choice for cars and airplanes in the years to come. 

Why is ExxonMobil so Successful?

Today, ExxonMobil is the largest oil and gas company in the whole world. The company operates various projects in the U.S, Guyana, Brazil, the Middle East, and Russia. The ExxonMobil brand also focuses on producing biofuels and petrochemicals to meet the future demand for clean and affordable energy.

“Clean, affordable energy for all.” This is what drives ExxonMobil to find new sources of oil and gas, and develop cleaner, more efficient biofuels. ExxonMobil is committed to improving the living standards of every single customer.

Here are ExxonMobil’s 5 goals for the 21st century:

  1. Provide the energy the modern world needs
  2. Explore, develop, and produce quality oil and natural gas
  3. Manufacture and supply essential products - high-performance gasoline, lubricants, and advanced polymers
  4. Deploy innovative technologies 
  5. Develop low-emission products for the future

ExxonMobil’s Growth by Numbers





$285.6 billion

$249.2 billion

Net Income

$23.0 billion

$16.2 billion




Stock Price



Key Strategic Takeaways from ExxonMobil

  • Invent New Products to Penetrate New Markets

ExxonMobil’s success lies in innovation. ExxonMobil has always focused on diversifying its product line. In the 20th century, the company played on its strengths in oil production to produce a new class of products called petrochemicals. It created products such as octane, gasoline, rubbing alcohol, and butyl to unlock new markets. Previously, the company was just a producer and distributor of oil and natural gas. But the addition of petrochemicals allowed the company to gain a foothold in the transport and medical industries.

  • Strengthen Competitive Advantage with a Streamlined Business Model

Exxon and Mobil merged in 1999 to strengthen its competitive advantage in the oil and natural gas industry. The company achieved this by creating an integrated and streamlined business model. It divided its core business into three divisions: Upstream, Products Solutions, and Low Carbon Solutions. ExxonMobil’s business model has enhanced ExxonMobil’s ability to leverage its competitive advantage. The new model focuses on reducing operating costs and building a disciplined investment regime that creates increased value for shareholders.

  • Produce Sustainable Products that Meet Future Consumer Needs

ExxonMobil does not shy away from investing heavily in research and development projects. The company knows that it needs to produce products that anticipate future needs to remain relevant in a fast-changing world. Hence, the company is fast-tracking the development of biofuels, such as algal fuel, to meet future energy demands in the transport and aviation industries. Although rivals such as Shell and Chevron have abandoned the effort, ExxonMobil remains committed to producing low-emission fuel.


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