Ten years ago the brand consulting firm Landor repositioned BP from British Petroleum to Beyond Petroleum. In what was easily the most famous repositioning case of the new century, BP changed its logo, its name and its positioning to reflect the fact that the company was now actively “exploring new ways to live without oil”. At the time many were sceptical. But it appeared to most that BP really was walking their own talk. Their CEO had accepted a link between burning fossil fuels and global warming, the company was investing billions in alternative energy development and, in developing the original campaign to launch the rebranding, the team at ad agency Ogilvy had found “hundreds of astonishing proof points that made the vision credible”. Research confirmed that consumers were believers too. Landor’s own brand research revealed that BP was seen as the most ‘environmental’ oil brand with more than half the market now agreeing that BP had become “more green” in the past five years. BP’s brand awareness shot up and in a poll of UK marketers BP was rated one of the top 10 green brands, finishing higher up the ranking than Greenpeace. But of course it was all crap. How could the second biggest producer of fossil fuels on the planet truly reposition itself as a company that was moving Beyond Petroleum?
And so we are forced back to one of the fundamental principals of branding. Brand strategy must be based on the truth; the truth of who you are, what you do, and how you do it. And for that lie, BP is now paying a heavy price.