Defensive Strategy

Prediction: The BP Brand Won’t Survive

9 Jun 2010  

There are huge unresolved questions around the uncapped well in the Gulf of Mexico.

  • When will it stop?
  • How long will it take to repair the environmental damage?
  • What will the total cost be to BP?
  • Will the BP brand survive?

For anyone interested in brands this last question is a particularly interesting one to think about.

Brands are the associations linked to a name, mark or symbol.  These associations can be positive or negative; a brand can help you or hurt you.  An unknown brand is better than a brand with strong negative associations.

I suspect BP has gotten more negative press than any brand in the history of the world.  The disaster has generated a stream of negative stories; it has gone on and on.  These stories have fed the vast global media machine.  People all over the world are writing about BP, blogging about BP and twittering about BP.  And all of this is negative.

When BP plugs the well and finishes the cleanup, the company will then have to make an important branding decision.  What should be done with the severely damaged BP brand?  Should the company try to rebuild it?  Or walk away?

My bet is that the company will drop the BP brand.  This might occur through an acquisition, where another company acquires BP and drops the tainted BP brand.  Or it might occur through a simple name change.

And this would be the right decision.  It will be virtually impossible to create positive associations around BP.  The media coverage has been so extensive and so widespread that the BP brand will always be tainted.

If BP caps the well in August look for the BP brand to fade away in 2011.

4 Responses

  1. Ed Burghard says:

    BP damaged more than its own brand. Read about the impact BP’s oil spill is having on local community brands and their practical challenge in getting back to being competitive for capital attraction.

  2. craig kensek says:

    Pictures of beaches that people can’t go to because of this oil spill will refresh peoples’ memories for a long time. I predict that ultimately, the acronym BP will disappear and this company will rename itself.

    Years ago, Alleghany Airlines did a market research study. Many airlines scored more positively with the public than Alleghany did. Including some airlines that didn’t exist. That was part of the reason for changing their name to US Air.

    For British Petroleum – One anagram you can construct out of this – Big Trouble. RIP.

  3. Devang says:

    If BP handles this incident honestly and do an admirable job of cleanups then the brand has not only chance to survive, but opportunity to thrive.

    Let’s be honest. This disaster is not going to stop offshore oil drillings. This will not be the last spill ever either. In other words, unlike other petro giants, only BP has the opportunity to show that it can clean up the environment quickly and effectively after such accidents.

    Of course, if BP can not manage this accident well then it will disappear.

    In the digital age, media coverage is widespread and extensive. However, at the same time, people’s attention span is getting shorter.

  4. craig kensek says:

    BP has lost “billions” of dollars in brand equity because of this incident. Their executives should have done an immediate mea culpa. They haven’t learned from recent incidents some auto manufacturers have had.

    One document circulated appeared to have cut and paste material related to the Valdez incident. There aren’t many polar bears that need rescuing in the Gulf off of Texas.

    They are spending a lot of $$ on full page adverts in newspapers, though.

    BP now stands for Big Problem. Clean-up will take years.

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