For years, BP has used the “Beyond Petroleum” tagline to massage the perception of the BP brand as being one that stands for so much more than oil. While the company has been accused of greenwashing by using that tagline, given that almost all of its revenue comes from oil-related activities, the tagline did succeed in differentiating the brand from the Exxon’s of the world. Remember, marketing and branding is all about perceptions. Right?
But what happens when events prove those perceptions were fabricated?
BP never claimed it wasn’t in the oil business with the Beyond Petroleum tagline, but the company did attempt to position its brand as the antithesis of big oil companies that care only about profits regardless of the negative effects their products and businesses have on the environment.
Until April 2010, BP managed to protect its brand positioning as the oil company that puts the environment first, despite previous problems. But can BP retain that positioning now that the company caused one of the biggest oil spills in history off the coast of Louisiana?
Probably not. However, there is more to this story than brand positioning. Do consumers truly care where their gasoline, etc. comes from? Will they drive out of their way to find a non-BP gas station?
Certainly, consumers care, but the truth of the matter is that there is little difference in consumers’ minds about oil company brand positioning. All of those companies are grouped together, for the most part, in consumers’ minds.
Therefore, BP will undoubtedly survive, but it’s highly likely (and suggested) that BP go through a rebranding. Beyond Petroleum won’t get the job done anymore. The more interesting question from a branding perspective is whether or not there is a brand message and position that truly could differentiate an oil company from its competitors — something that would make consumers pay more than the excessive prices they already pay and make them want to drive out of their way to find a gas station that offers fuel from a specific company.
What do you think? Can it be done? Leave a comment and let’s discuss!
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