This article is about the trade name. For The acronym ESSO,see Identity management.
Esso is an international trade name used by the Exxon Mobil Corporation and its related companies. Pronounced S-O, it is derived from the name of the pre-1911 Standard Oil Company, and as such became the focus of much litigation and regulatory restriction in the United States. In 1973, it was largely replaced in the U.S. by the Exxon brand, while Esso remained widely used elsewhere. In most of the world, the Esso brand and the Mobil brand are the primary brand names of ExxonMobil, with the Exxon brand name basically unknown.
In 1911, Standard Oil was broken up into seven regional companies, each with the rights to the brand "Standard" in certain states (plus a number of other companies that had no territorial rights). Standard Oil of New Jersey ("Jersey Standard") had the rights in that state, plus in Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and the District of Columbia. By 1941, it had also acquired the rights in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Louisiana. In those states, it marketed its products under the brand "Esso", the phonetic pronunciation of the letters "S" and "O". It also used the Esso brand in New York and the six New England states, where the Standard Oil Company of New York (Mobil) had the rights, but did not object to the New Jersey company's use of the trademark (the two companies did not merge until 1998). However, in the other states, the other Standard Oil companies objected and forced Jersey Standard to use other brand names. In most states the company used the trademark "Enco," and in a few "Humble." The other Standard companies likewise were "Standard" or some variant on that in their home states, and another brand name in other states.
This situation was confusing to travelers. In 1972, Standard Oil of New Jersey renamed itself as the Exxon Corporation, and adopted that trademark throughout the country. It however maintained the rights to "Standard" and "Esso" in the states where it held those rights, by a token effort, branding one station in each state under those names, thus preventing the trademark from being declared abandoned. The other Standards do the same in their states.
Esso Blue was the brand name of Esso's paraffin oil (kerosene) for domestic heaters in countries such as the United Kingdom. Their TV advertising song from the 1950s through to the 1970s was the famous Bom, Bom, Bom, Bom, Esso Blue! A later campaign used the well-known song tune of "Smoke gets in your eyes" cleverly re-worded as "They asked me how I knew, it was Esso Blue ... the non-smoking paraffin".
"Esso Blue" was also sung as the very last line in a song by the British band The Police on their song "Message in a Bottle". Singer Sting sings "sending out an s.o.s." 24 times as the song fades. On the 25th time he substitutes s.o.s. with esso blue. You must turn it up loud to hear it. This is an obvious reference to the paraffin oil and the well known jingle.
In the 1930s Esso acquired Cleveland, an independent company based in North East England. The name comes from the Cleveland Hills. Cleveland's products included a benzole blend and an alcohol blend called Discol. Both the Esso and Cleveland names continued in use until 1973, when the Cleveland filling stations were re-branded as Esso.
In February 2007, a combination of a fire at the Nanticoke refinery and a strike at CN resulted in a shortage of gasoline at Esso stations in Ontario, which also drove up prices and caused shortages in competitor's stations (both in Ontario and neighboring Quebec.)