- Full disclosure here: I’m a journalist’s daughter. Actually, I’m a columnist’s daughter, so there goes the impartiality. And yes, this blog post comes straight on the heels of some paternal prose. But I can’t help but think that it’s about time Coley Porter Bell weighed in on the BP brand in the face of the Deepwater disaster.
BP’s rebrand ten years ago has been held up as one of our industry’s biggest success stories: a tired, uninspiring oil company making the leap into the shiny future of renewable energy, going ‘beyond petroleum’. Employees embraced the new ethos, the bottom line flourished, and the company’s reputation as a leader in corporate sustainability efforts was cemented in the public consciousness. BP was sitting pretty.
And then in April, disaster struck.
To be clear: this is a disaster, no doubt about it. The victims of the oil rig explosion are not only the eleven people who lost their lives, but their families, the population of the Gulf Coast, and countless species of animals in the area. We have no idea how the situation will play out, or how much damage will ultimately be done. It’s scary stuff – the sort of fiasco that can relegate a company to the black hole of contempt in people’s minds. And while the BP brand will take a hit, ultimately I believe it will make it through. There are two reasons for that.
First, BP’s longstanding and considerable investment in brand-building will have helped to futureproof them against public relations disasters just like this one. Compared to energy companies with less inspiring brands (ahem, Shell and Exxon), BP seems like the good guy. Instinctively, we tend to believe they’ll right this wrong, and continue on their virtuous path. That’s what it means to have captured the hearts and minds of consumers.
Second, BP has done more than simply building a brand, they’ve built a culture. The open, honest, optimism that’s core to their brand has come through in their response to the oil spill. Sure, there were some hiccups at the start, but ultimately, they’ve raised their game. BP leadership is truly living their brand, reinforcing their positioning with every press conference, every shared internal document, every apology. The BP brand, it seems, is more than just a cheery logo.
We’ll have to wait and see how this all nets out, but this blogger’s money is on a triumphant BP brand re-emerging. Eventually.