Brand Health Check: BP
The energy company's reputation has been sullied by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Much like the 60,000 barrels of oil gushing daily from the leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico, the tide of anti-BP public sentiment has proved impossible to hold back.
Since an explosion on the energy company's Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling oil rig killed 11 workers on 20 April, the company has come under increasing pressure to deal with the unfolding environmental disaster.
BP's poor handling of the crisis in its early stages, including a claim by chief executive Tony Hayward that it was 'not (BP's) accident', drew hostility from the US media. Worse gaffes followed, as Hayward complained that he wanted his 'life back'; more recently he was snapped during a day's sailing on the oil-free waters around the Isle of Wight.
The company fought back with an apologetic TV ad and vowed to clean up the spill. Yet this action incurred the wrath of Barack Obama, who lambasted BP for spending millions on advertising when it was 'nickel and diming' US businesses seeking compensation.
In the UK, hints of xenophobia have been detected in the US president's attacks on 'British Petroleum', but a YouGov poll shows BP's reputation has suffered on both sides of the Atlantic, as it faces one of the biggest marketing challenges in corporate history.
Can BP clean up its image as well as the US beaches? We asked Mark Esser, partner at Prophet, which has worked on strategic branding for BP over the past decade, and Sharon Johnson, strategy partner and head of Good (Beta), the CSR arm of ad agency (Beta).
MARK ESSER, partner, Prophet
Obviously, BP's current problems were not caused by any mistakes made in brand or marketing management. However, at the same time, brand status and corporate reputation have both been significantly affected.
Solely from a branding perspective, there are short-term and long-term scenarios that need to be dealt with.
The short-term scenario is dominated by crisis communication activities dealing with the global media and high level of public interest. This enormous pressure on BP makes it extremely difficult to aim this activity at specific stakeholder groups, although the affected residents and the US government are clear priorities.
Longer term, there has to be more differentiation in the communications strategy. If we take a look at the vast majority of BP's global retail customers, for example, the long-term outlook seems quite clear: BP is a strong global brand and has all the potential for complete recovery.
Once the topic is no longer on top of the news, retail customers will rebuild their image based on the more tangible brand experience they have in their daily lives. After all, which retail customers really remember the Exxon Valdez oil spill or the row over Shell's plan to sink the Brent Spar?
- Respond to people's immediate questions and fears.
- Find a technological solution to deep-sea drilling.
- Ensure that promises made to compensate people affected by the oil spill are delivered on.
- Carefully rebuild brand trust and brand image with particular focus on green credentials.
SHARON JOHNSON, strategy partner and head of Good (Beta)
On 20 April BP negated years of brand marketing and CSR work, going from forward-looking energy company to old oil. The full cost will take years to emerge. I've spent hours in the quagmire of opinions spreading through the social-sphere as fast as the oil spill-affected coastlines of the southern US.
I've concluded that BP demonstrated immense corporate naivety or arrogance, depending how you look at it. Of the many gaffes, the biggest appears to be a failure in proactive corporate citizenship.
BP is suffering losses in financial and reputational capital because it failed to value the third and often unnoticed component of corporate value: relational capital, by which I mean transparent and committed relations with the communities in and near which it operates.
No matter how apologetic the public announcements sound or how scrupulous the reparations work, and regardless of BP's longstanding CSR record, there's a diverse target audience it failed to recognise before disaster struck. Now it has three fronts to worry about. It's a very long road ahead.
- Recognise that BP isn't competing with Shell or Exxon; it's competing with itself. Lose the aloof, big global corporation stance, and start again from the grass roots.
- Use the claims and clean-up process to find out how else BP can contribute to community life in the Gulf and act quickly. Let local people rebuild the brand from the bottom up. Keep talking face-to-face long after the apparent need disappears.
- Create entrepreneurial opportunities to profit from products that use renewables and pay to advertise those instead of the BP corporate brand.
This article was first published on marketingmagazine.co.uk
Latest jobs Jobs web feed
- PR Account Director fishtank 40k to 55k per year GBP, Surrey
- Digital Search & Acquisitions Officer Topshop Up to £30,000 per annum + benefits, London
- planner > SHOPPER EVANGELIST > brilliant role for those SUITS looking to move across into PLANNING collectivo £30-40k + bens, London
- Marketing Executive Warner Bros £ Competitive + benefits, Holborn, London
- Senior Digital Planner - Superb Integrated London Agency - FMCG Accounts - Up to £70K Fill Recruitment Ltd Up to £70K, London
- Junior Web & Email Designer 26k Digital Gurus £20 - £26 per annum, London
Big Questions Live - Social Media, User Generated Content and the Power of Customer Insight (Webcast) External website
Brand Republic’s first ever online TV show, Big Questions Live wil...
Integrated digital marketing offers huge opportunities to engage, servic...
The PR industry’s lack of success at the Cannes Lions festival 201...
Confused by hashtags? Tweetchats? Tweet walls? You’re not alone.Wi...
It’s fair to say we are truly in the age of content marketing, the...
As a nation, the UK is media and technology obsessed with over half of t...