The logo, one of the world's most easily recognised trade marks, has been revamped only four times since the Second World War. But it is getting a facelift as part of the biggest retailing modernisation project to be carried out by any company.
The objective is to update Shell's retail outlets for the next century. It involves new architectural and graphic design, materials, colours and construction details, covering about 40,000 forecourts in around 100 countries.
Shell's operating subsidiaries will fund the changes from their existing budgets, but industry experts estimate the total outlay could top pounds 500m.
Steve Miller, Shell's supply and marketing co-ordinator, said: 'The development of our retail visual identity has come about as a result of what customers said they wanted. Among those requirements were a warm, friendly, modern and convenient environment.'
The move is also in response to similar changes made by big international rivals and growing competition from state-owned oil companies. Four years ago British Petroleum carried out a worldwide facelift of its 22,000 petrol stations at a cost of pounds 171m.
'The world is changing in terms of the level of competition and it's all the more necessary to build upon one's strengths,' Mr Millar said. 'It is a 'back to basics' type of world, and one of the big basics we have is the Shell brand.'
The new retail design, which will be phased in over the next five years, was created after several years of consumer research in 12 countries. The results showed that Shell's existing image was 'slipping' while petrol stations in general were seen as unfriendly, offering an industrial rather retail environment.
In response, in 1989 it set up an international task force which held its first meeting in Malaysia to address the problem. Four years later the new look is beginning to appear worldwide, including Britain, where the company has more than 2,400 sites, making it one of the top three petrol retailers.
At present Shell petrol forecourts use a two-dimensional image of the logo but the new design, created at a cost of several million pounds, will use a three-dimensional format. Although the emblem - known as the pecten - will continue to sport red and yellow, it will have a fresh look.
However, the changes could trigger a hectic period of activity for Shell's squad of pecten regulators. The company has exacting rules on the correct use of the symbol which are enthusiastically monitored by the squad - the visible manifestations committee. Serious breaches can result in a visit from Shell's head office enforcers - the awed Guardians of the Pecten.