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Gulf Spill Might Kill BP's Brand
By: Jeff Louis
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Like the Exxon Valdez, the Deepwater Horizon will be marked in history forever, primarily because it's the largest oil spill attributed to the petroleum industry and ranks as the most damaging environmental disaster in the United States. Sadly, the long-term consequences for Gulf-area residents, irreversible damage to the environment, and impact on marine life may never be fully understood. BP_Amoco_Rebrand

Numerous other items characterize the spill: three months of fascinating film footage of a wellhead spewing crude, BP's efforts to cap the well, and the beleaguered oil company's request for ideas on mop-up methods.

BPs advertising campaign, in which it accepts and claims full responsibility is unique; the series of TV ads depict employees as spokespeople, including former BP CEO Tom Hayward, who shoulders the blame for the spill.

The spots inform the Gulf-area states that BP won't be able to stop the oil from reaching the shore. They also serve to let the public know that BP's employees are Americans who live and work near the Gulf.

The fact that BP employs thousands of Americans on platforms and in refineries doesn't seem to have registered; consumer backlash in the form of boycotts affects the 11,300  BP gas stations that mark America's roadways. According to an NPR interview with Tom Bower, an owner/operator of 34 BP stations in Georgia and a supplier for 160 stations, there has been an "eight to 12 percent decline” in business. Protesters and vandals have targeted other stations. 

In an effort to escape, BP station owners are running ads and posting notices that -- despite the logo -- BP does not own the gas station; nearly all of the BP stations in the U.S. are locally owned and operated.

The law of unintended consequences that warns interfering with complex systems without understanding how they operate will yield unanticipated and detrimental results.

Because U.S. consumers don't seem to be listening or seem to understand, talk among station owners centers around a rebranding effort. However, they are divided on the subject, and some suggest that it might be time to resurrect the Amoco name. (BP purchased Amoco in 1998.) 

According to John Klein, director of BP Amoco Marketing Association, the subject of rebranding is a hot topic: "They [the distributors] are interested in where the brand is going, and want it [the Amoco brand] to be returned to its premiere place." 


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About the Author

Jeff Louis: Media Planner, Brand Project Manager, blogger, and aspiring writer. Please leave a comment or get in touch with Jeff on Twitter. As always, thank you for reading!

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