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Checked in on Facebook lately from the gas pump? You soon might.
It probably does people a bit of good to spend a few minutes away from social media—even millennials—to pump some gas. And while I’ve seen my fair share of ridiculous posts on Facebook, I am yet to see someone update their status at the gas pump. But that could soon change.
British oil giant BP is betting that millennials will continue to depend on apps and social media, much in the same way they depend on the air they breathe, even at the pump.
Okay, so information technology has done quite a bit for us, or to us depending on your point of view. And it’s about to do a bit more.
Now, I remember about six or seven years ago when my local gas station began putting news updates and feeds from ESPN on the screens at the pumps. At the time, I thought it odd, since most people don’t spend enough time at the gas pump to involve themselves in headlines from the nation’s capital, or the National League pennant race.
Besides, who wants to develop a personal relationship with a gas pump? But perhaps I am speaking out of turn. One would think that most millennials don’t want to get personal with a gas pump either, since that would mean being unfaithful to their first love: the smartphone.
And one would think that even millennials, as fascinated as they are with their smartphones, could spare just a few minutes away from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (Well, maybe not so much Twitter) to focus on pumping a highly volatile and toxic substance into their vehicles. It is not a time-consuming process, after all, unless one is filling up an RV or an Abrams tank. And most millennials wouldn’t be comfortable behind the wheel of either of those.
But today, the cities of New York and Chicago welcome BP’s newest creation: Miles. And no, Miles has nothing to do with mileage, which is a word most of us associate with gas. Perhaps Miles is a distant cousin to Siri, or Cortana. At any rate, like a host of other collections of algorithms given human names (like HAL), Miles is here to enhance your gas-pumping experience. I would have thought that the gas pumping experience was not something that needed enhancing, but the R&D guys at BP seem to think otherwise.
Maybe in the wake of things such things as the Deep Horizon spill and the furor over the Dakota access pipeline, BP wants to make itself more appealing to millennials, or maybe it knew a good marketing move when it saw one.
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Donna Sanker, the chief marketing officer for BP Fuels North America said: “We spend a lot of time learning about our consumers and what they like. We learned that most people don’t really enjoy pumping gas. This is an opportunity to build a deeper relationship with them.”
That pumping gas isn’t a joy is not news. But must everything that we have to do in life, particularly something that takes all of five minutes, need to be enjoyable? Apparently for our latest generation, the answer is a resounding yes.
So how does Miles put a smile on your face while you’re filling up? Miles uses a prerecorded artificial intelligence to talk to you while you are at the pump. You are offered a variety of entertainment options, and then you make your choice on the convenient touch screen. You can play music via Pandora, engage in a round of music trivia, and even record a video e-card that you can post on social media, since everyone will naturally want to know what grade of gas you selected, and see the nachos you purchased from the gas station’s convenience store. After all, you did go all the way to the gas station. Who wouldn’t want an update?
But there’s more: Miles also sends you a text message reminding you of everything you did at the pump five minutes before.
Lincoln Brown for Oilprice.com
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Lincoln Brown is the former News and Program Director for KVEL radio in Vernal, Utah. He hosted “The Lincoln Brown Show” and was penned a…