British Petroleum has done more to shift its Big Oil image to that of an eco-friendly energy giant than any other large oil company but it’s history of accidents and oil spills in the US is beginning to tarnish it brand. BP CEO John Browne deserves lots of praise for moving BP into solar and hyrodgen and for highlighting alternative energy in general. Yet, folks who’ve visited Alaska over the years know that BP has had another reputation—for accidental oil spills from the 800-mile trans-Alaskan pipeline. In March, an oil leak spilled over tundra and frozen lakes. It was caused by pipeline corrosion. Last year, a BP Texas refinery blast killed 15 people.
In this age of transparency and authenticity, it is important for brand image to match brand practice. You are what you do and what you make, not what good advertising makes you out to be. BP has had years to get its practice aligned with its image and now that practice is doing serious harm to its brand.
Many companies today are touting their “innovation,” and yet their products are anything but innovative. The public knows this—as measured by the declining market share of Detroit.
We all know what BP needs to do—accept responsibility, offer apologies, solve the problem quickly whatever it costs, and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Brands are fragile things. They can be eroded as fast as tundra melting under an oil spill.
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