The oil spewing from the destroyed drilling-rig off the coast of Louisiana is devastating the environment; it also damages one of the decade’s most prominent brands.
No matter that the oil rig in question is actually owned and operated by Transocean, the world’s largest offshore drilling contractor. No matter that nine of the eleven victims are Transocean employees. The Obama administration today, followed by most of the media, have branded this disaster the “BP Oil Spill”.
Like Exxon before it, the BP brand is going to be tarred as an environmental demon. Frankly BP has been asking for it.
BP: A Disingenuous Brand
Oil is a dirty business, despite the very best efforts of everyone involved. It isn’t a matter of if, but when an oil company will cause environmental damage. BP put itself in certain jeopardy when it positioned its brand around “energy that doesn’t damage the environment”. The green sun logo, the flower-like “helios” mark , was meant to redefine the company as “beyond” dirty old petroleum, embracing cool, smart clean energy. The fact remains that BP is a dirty old petroleum company, with all of the risks that dirty old petroleum companies face. BP loudly claiming environmental superiority was disingenuous from the start. It was only a matter of time before the truth came out to bite BP. No wonder consumers are so cynical. BP made a brand promise it could never keep. No amount of BP cool advertising about wind farms or solar panels can fix the brand now.
BP Progressive, Responsive and Innovative? NOT
One more thing: BP’s web site immodestly claims that it is “progressive, responsive and innovative”. Yet BP’s response to the oil spill has been nothing like that. They have been totally old school—talking heads and careful press releases vetted by lawyers. The company has a Twitter account, but—hard to believe here in 2010—had nothing to Tweet about on April 20th, the day of the disaster. It took seven days before the first robotic corporate Tweet appeared. That is not progressive, not responsive, and not innovative.