In 2007, I lauded BP's rebranding for its aesthetics and the company's willingness to position itself at the forefront of social and cultural debate. But I questioned its ability and willingness to "walk the walk" of its "beyond petroleum" talk. Sadly, the Gulf of Mexico spill will prove an excellent case study on the perils of disingenuous branding.
Tag: Beyond Petroleum
Any oil company finding itself in this situation would be in trouble. But there is, of course, a very specific reason why BP, of all companies, is going to suffer more spectacularly than any other from this disaster. BP, as we now all know, now stands for “Beyond Petroleum”. In the most famous repositioning case of the century, Ogilvy and Landor helped BP to change its logo, its name and its positioning to reflect the fact that the company was now actively “exploring new ways to live without oil”.
BP isn't all bad any more than Petrobras is all good. But, unlike Petrobras (and its informal boss), BP seems to have forgotten the number-one rule in marketing and management: walk the talk. BP is a victim of a disingenuous ad campaign that worked too well, and you have to wonder if its reputation will ever fully recover. Writing in HBR in 2007, reputational risk consultant Robert Eccles and his co-authors presciently noted, "When the reputation of a company is more positive than its underlying reality, this gap poses a substantial risk...BP appears to be learning this the hard way." BP doesn't yet seem to have absorbed the lesson, but other companies can surely learn from its mistake.