Gulf Coast environmental disaster, also BP branding disaster


Over the last few years, BP (formerly British Petroleum) has crafted an image for themselves as the clean, green oil and gas company, even as previous mishaps –  including a deadly 2005 refinery explosion that involved 15 deaths – tarnished their reputation.

Arguably the most successful aspect of their rebranding effort was the sunny new logo, name change to BP, and friendly tagline, Beyond Petroleum. But in the last month since the Deep Water Horizon explosion and oil spill, BP has seemingly lost control of its brand. For starters, there are numerous “Rebrand BP” contests ongoing.

The company’s social media strategy has also been sadly lacking, as some enterprising pranksters created the fake twitter feed bpglobalpr for some often funny, sharp and absurdist tweets highlighting BP’s inability to get a handle on the spill and its hemorrhaging brand reputation.

Of course, BP is one of the largest and most profitable companies on the planet and will no doubt survive this environmental and PR disaster in the long run. But its current brand management issues are instructive for those in the small business and entrepreneurial communities as well. I see 2 major takeaways for us:

  1. Be proactive about managing and protecting your online reputation. Nowadays you have to always be managing your online reputation and brand. With the proliferation of crowdsourced review sites such as Yelp and Angie’s List, disgruntled customers or former employees can do serious damage to your reputation, even in the absence of any wrongdoing on your part. Conversely, by proactively soliciting positive reviews, ratings, and recommendations from satisfied customers, you can head off brand reputation crises before they have a chance to happen.
  2. Operations are a major factor of your brand. It seems like a no-brainer now, but what we are seeing in real time (as we did with the recent Toyota safety issues), is a world-class brand being blackened by slack operational standards. Smart businesses understand that every move they make, every interaction with the public they have is an element of their brand. A few employees at BP lost sight of this and now the company and the entire Gulf Coast environment and economy are suffering.

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