Is the success of BP’s “beyond petroleum” branding is now turning into a liability for the company?  It certainly was a bold move when BP underwent their rebranding.  Now, with the Gulf spill the most recent and most visible environmental problem for the company, the BP logo is beginning to look like a green target to some people.

Just see at what fun Greenpeace are having at BP’s expense:

Greenpeace's BP Logo Contest

Greenpeace's BP Logo Contest

In fact, they are even inviting design professionals to re-design the BP logo.

I’m not so sure that there is a brand moral here.  The BP branding was brilliantly conceived, designed and executed.  It is the reality of the world that is messy.  Did the branding make BP a bigger target than they otherwise would be?  I doubt it.  Look at how the Valdez incident shaped Exxon’s image for more than a decade.  The magnitude of the spill overwhelms all else, sweeping away all of the good work, goodwill and honest efforts at improvement.

The wrong lesson would be to say that companies should not use their branding to help improve their reputation around environmental, sustainability and ecology issues.  Over the next 12 months we’ll learn if the charges of “Greenwashing” will discourage other companies from moving ahead with their own efforts to improve their environmental standing.

What is our opinion?

1 Response to “Greenwashing”

  1. 1 Rob May 26, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Mr. Ringer–

    I would argue that because BP has gone through the effort to build a story around the idea of “beyond petroleum” that they will weather the storm more easily than if they were still thought of in the same way customers think about Exxon.

    Proof? After the logo redesign was launched, BP was involved in a massive spill in Alaska and a deadly explosion in Texas (both in the past five years). Yet, neither of these incidents had a lasting impact on their brand image (at least to most in the general public).

    The explosion and leak BP is currently dealing with are almost certainly bigger than those previous incidents. And any significant environmental damage may well do lasting damage to the BP brand. But that would have happened any way.

    The goodwill the rebrand helped create comes in handy now more than ever.


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