BP Damages More Than Its Own Brand

Clearly, the on-going oil disaster is taking a toll on BP’s corporate brand equity.  BP’s Corporate Marketing Officer must be cringing with the number of parodies appearing on the internet that denigrate the brand image.  A case can be made that the BP brand is on life support and headed in the direction of flat lining without a “Lazarus like” intervention. It will be interesting to see if the BP brand can recover from this self-inflicted injury.  Maybe there are lessons that can be learned from Johnson & Johnson management’s deft handling of the Tylenol tampering crisis.  But, the big difference is that Johnson & Johnson was not the cause of the crisis, it too was a victim of the circumstances.  On the other hand, despite their inept management of the situation, the Exxon brand did survive the Valdez oil spill scandal, so all hope is not completely lost for the BP brand.

The crisis is certainly a BP CMO nightmare.  But the BP brand is not the only one that is suffering. Place brands in the Gulf of Mexico Region are also among the collateral damage.  That damage is resulting in a dramatic decline in tourism revenue and an unexpected redirection of tax revenue to clean-up the mess.  And the timing couldn’t be more unfortunate as community and state budgets are still under pressure from the global economic crisis and dependent on federal stimulus dollars to provide services.  Unfortunately, the ingredients for a “perfect storm” appear to be amassing.

Much has been written in the literature about managing a corporate brand under crisis, but very little guidance is available on how to effectively repair a place brand.

Is a Regional or State approach best to help rebuild the image of community brands affected by the BP oil spill?”

The answer is likely both.

The damage to brand image is so great the cost of repair is likely out of reach for any individual state or community budget to bear.  A Regional approach provides an opportunity for cost sharing that will lessen the burden for individual states.  This approach could (and I would argue should) be a public-private partnership that is charged with the responsibility of creating and executing a coordinated PR crisis management plan.  The Travel & Tourism industry and State Departments of Development should take the lead to 1) ensure a consistent message and 2) provide guidance/training/resources for community EDOs on how to handle the challenge locally.  Like the successful management of the Tylenol tampering crisis, this team needs to create a campaign to ensure the public has access to facts and is kept apprised about progress of recovery efforts.  This strategy should help restimulate the flow of tourism and minimize negative experiences by establishing the right consumer expectation.  In the short-term, the team could also look to target non-traditional consumer segments (like disaster recovery volunteers) and create special programs to ensure their visits deliver a positive experience.

I also think there needs to be a local response that focuses on residents and is designed to 1) provide relevant factual informed and 2) rebuild both confidence and pride in the community.  Local place brand marketers need to be familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and take the model into consideration as they develop their communication plans.  At the moment, the physiological and safety needs of residents are the dominant concerns, and programs to address these should be the highest priority of any community EDO marketing plans.  Ultimately, the attitude of residents will determine the altitude of local economic prosperity.  Clearly, for communities involved, this is not a business as usual situation.  Promotional investment should be temporarily redirected from the capital attraction budget to capital retention budget.  In the long run, this strategy should deliver the greatest return.  Private sector leadership should be heavily engaged in helping craft and implement the plan to ensure credibility.  Local media should also be involved to help deliver message reach, particularly around public service programs designed to help reduce the financial instability this crisis creates for families in the community.

STRENGTHENING BRAND AMERICA – PROJECT PLACE BRANDAID

Economic Development professionals in the Gulf of Mexico Region are facing an exceptionally tough branding challenge that was unexpected and not of their making.  One thing you can do to help them address the challenge is to share your experience and thoughts.

Project PLACE BRANDAID is about doing just that.

I would like you to share perspective on the best approach to rebuild the place brand affected by this crisis.  If you have experience in working on rebuilding a place image following a natural or manmade crisis, please share what you learned.

All you need to do is take a moment and use the comment box to provide your expertise and ideas for how local, State and/or Regional economic development professionals might think about addressing the image damage created by the crisis.  I will make certain the input is provided to the EDO leaders in the Gulf of Mexico Region for consideration.

Providing your expertise is one easy and meaningful way we can help the Region manage through this challenge.  I encourage you to participate in this project and enroll others you believe can contribute to the cause.

I know it is not as glitzy as a Farm Aid program, but it is one way we can leverage our professional expertise as a global community to help make a difference in the Gulf of Mexico Regional recovery efforts.

Take a moment and leave a comment.

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Category Place Brand Building, Strategy

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35 Comments so far

  1. Sander Flaum

    June 26, 2010

    Arrange tours led by BIG time notables, i.e., Bill Clinton, George Bush, Harrison Ford, Glenn Close.

  2. Jonathan Carter

    June 26, 2010

    I think that observing how BP responded to the spill is a good lesson on what to avoid. Most of us agree that the BP response was slow, uncoordinated, and lacking the coherent leadership that those affected by the disaster were waiting to see.

    In this case, the response isn’t simply about spending money. It’s about reassuring people who see their livelihoods threatened that they can rely upon their local and state leadership. The key is not overpromising and under-delivering, and demonstrating that everything possible is being done in good faith to correct the situation.

    Technology is not perfect, and neither are humans. I believe that although this is a terrible accident, people ultimately understand that mistakes can and will happen. What distinguishes a successful outcome from an unsuccessful one is being honest about the scope of the problem and what it will take to clean it up, leading by example, and showing geniune concern.

    Although BP made a huge capital investment in the cleanup effort, the value of that was diminished by the awkward effort to seal the well, and the inept handling of the situation by BP execs. If they had simply acknowledged that the fixes they were implementing were experimental, that the best case scenario would take at least 20-30 days to seal the well, and had requested government support in containing the spill, much of the damage could have been avoided.

    The CEO’s gaffes further complicate the issue. Although I’ll concede that someone in his unenviable position deserves at least one quiet family weekend away from the media, spending that weekend participating in a high-profile yacht race wasn’t very wise.

    Crisis points can become either a stumbling block or an opportunity to seize your finest hour, depending upon your course of action. Just as New Orleans is rebounding despite the devastation of Katrina, the message in the Gulf States has to be clear: we’re all working together to make this right, we will survive and rebound, we will learn from this, and in the meantime we still want your business because we’re an irreplaceable part of American culture with a lot to offer.

  3. Evan Scott

    June 26, 2010

    I agree with Ed regarding the focus on local residents. I believe if the regional / local authorities focus on meeting the needs of its residents, first and foremost, then the people charged with communications can first build and execute a solid internal communications program so that people from across the greater region are aware of what others are doing to help themselves and each other.

    Reinforcing the positive work being done to rebuild the area – even as the problems have not all been solved – will go a long way toward establishing a common bond, their sense of pride, and, perhaps most importantly, hope…hope in their eventual return to normalcy and opportunities for prosperity.

    Related to this effort, I think one of the next steps in the branding / marketing efforts can be to facilitate a robust social media program to make it easy for people in the region to update their friends and families on the progress being made – blogs, Twitter, and Facebook sites – as well as an easy way to upload photographs of the clean up and other aspects of recovery in the region.

    These ideas are in support of the ideas you outline above, which I think are right on target.

    Best regards and warm wishes for a speedy resolution and recovery to the BP oil spill.

    Evan Scott, CEO
    Terrain SIM

  4. Jim Matorin

    June 27, 2010

    Ed:

    My initial thoughts:

    1.) I too agree that there needs to be a balance between Regional and local initiatives. Strategically I would weigh the branding initiatives more towards a Regional initiative thanks to the economy of scale. I do recognize that the revenue generated by Travel & Tourism is vital to this area, however I think differently, thus envision another area of potential revenue generation that is presenting itself to the Gulf Community that leads me to point two.
    2.) The Gulf Community should position itself as the Global Leader in educating people about the value of ecosystems – environment combined with big business. The revenue model would be to lead symposiums either onsite or at some of the major universities that the region is blessed with. Targeting the world via the cost efficient tools now available to reach a Global audience would not be as costly as classical tourism advertising trying to lure people back to the area to visit beaches, fishing exhibitions, etc. or as sexy, but there are plenty of environmentally responsible people out there that would be interested in this type of learning before our planet implodes. Learning generates revenue. Conferences generate revenue.

    Now, having worked on Dove bar, we knew it was a great beauty bar, but also good for babies. So we concluded we could not use a classic market targeting mothers/babies or we would confuse the messaging. We decided a non-tradition method by handing out samples at doctors’ offices or in a take home gift at hospitals. Focusing in on ecosystems learning not as sexy or as big an opportunity as driving people back to the area to vacation, but let’s get real, that part of the world is not going to bounce back so quickly thanks to the damage that has been done. A strategy of this nature would take some careful planning.

    Jimmy

  5. David

    June 27, 2010

    Ed – thanks for facilitating the discussion on this topic. I see the challenge as follows …

    Living on the Gulf Coast in Tampa / St. Pete, I see tv ads that proclaim Gulf beaches are still open. However, the images of the tragic oil spill outnumber this message by at least 10-to-1. If the goal is to make me feel safe and secure about going to the beach, I have to be honest that I don’t put much weight behind the ads. The reality is that consumers can track the oil spill in the near-term and there’s enough info to know where I can go this weekend or next weekend (St. Pete is still very far away from the affected area). But in the mid-to-long-term, all bets are off. Will someone planning a trip in September much less late July or August look to these ads for guidance? I doubt it.

    I agree with Jim that there needs to be another, more creative, approach in the medium-to-long-term. I love the idea of educational symposia and conferences. How about attracting student groups to help with the clean-up efforts this summer while they’re on break? What if regional governments and Gulf businesses team together … 25% of all profits go to a fund towards spill cleanup efforts / eco related efforts. Then when you book the trip, you can feel good about doing your part to help out the region.

    I think it would be a wise move to change the message from “selfishly enjoy the beach” to have a meaningful experience in this treasured area of the Gulf. Whether you like it or not, the reality is there are a ton of other beaches that tourists can travel to without the risk of oil.

    This is a true tragedy and I feel for the many who are suffering.

  6. Rob

    June 27, 2010

    As a consumer that just opted to invest our vacation capital into Hilton Head Island versus the Florida panhandle, we could have been swayed to stay the course to Florida.

    But we would have needed to fully understand the limitations caused by the oil and conversely, what all the other opportunities exist to visit their ‘place’. Relying on media reports is not ideal and our primary research was met with little to no information. Sell us on all the other great things to do in your community while providing us incentives to find a compromise in our expectations.

    My belief is that these coastal place brands have more to offer than just swimming and I suspect the views are still spectacular, and probably, you can still fish!

  7. Joao Freire

    June 28, 2010

    Hello Ed,

    Some loose ideas… I hope it will help

    1 – Set a new brand that includes the states of the Gulf region: Brand Gulf of Mexico US (should be a reflection on the name of the new brand)
    2 – BP should set up a budget to communicate this new brand
    3 – This new brand should communicate with audiences worldwide through documentaries.
    4 – these documentaries should not only show the cleaning process but also the region’s natural environment and tourism attractions.
    5 – make BP pay for region’s (Brand Gulf of Mexico) advertising for the next 10 years.

  8. Marty

    June 28, 2010

    Thanks for creating a forum for dialog on this topic. I agree it will take a combined regional/local and statewide approach to rebuild the brand image of the affected destinations. As it relates to tourism promotion right now, it’s critical that marketers in these areas remember this above all else. It’s not about you. It’s about potential visitors. The strategy in the short term has to be about “what they want to know” and not “what you want them to know.” You may want them to know you’re “open for business,” but what does that mean, exactly? The question potential visitors have is “what are the specific local effects and what is the impact on my trip?” They want to know if the public beach is really closed – or can they still eat local seafood – or are fishing charters still running – or will their hotel reservation get trumped by cleanup workers or media involved in the frenzy. So right now it’s about building a local/regional infrastructure for answering these types of questions. It’s a time for straight talk, not beautiful ads.

    In the long term, the much tougher challenge is how to lead these areas on a path of recovery, and rebuild the brands of the places affected. It’s a different challenge, but it’s still about straight talk. The rebuilding will be aided by an organized effort focused on talking points that reflect facts and recovery milestones (very specific things that have been achieved). Not only will that drive retention of existing tourism/business, it will demonstrate the resilience of these communities and help instill confidence in leadership. This disaster and recovery effort will become part of the story of these places, and will undoubtedly be in the history books. Albeit unfortunate and devastating on so many levels, we shouldn’t ignore Americans’ desire to witness, interact with, and contribute to these stories, whether that be through voluntourism (clean-up, etc.) or simply learning-based, “see for myself” tourism.

    Best wishes to all affected – you are in our thoughts on many levels.

    Marty McDonald
    Vice President, Managing Director
    FahlgrenMortine
    marty.mcdonald@fahlgren.com

  9. Deborah Dudley

    June 28, 2010

    As a marketing professional that works in the arena of higher education, I think Jim is right on target as far as embracing a new travel tourism reality for the Gulf.

    The Marine Biology class at SUNY Potsdam is at this moment down on the Mississippi Gulf Coast studying the ecosystems and the effects of the catastrophe on the marine life there. That was not the original intent of the course when student registered, however, having the opportunity to study the environmental impact first hand will no doubt be a powerful experience for those students and motivate them in creative and innovative ways. The aftermath of the BP spill will present endless opportunities for educational communities of all ages and from all nations to engage in dialog and commitment to a critical global issue.

    I believe the Gulf has to acknowledge the enormity of this environmental disaster and position itself as a center of learning and advocacy, innovation and recovery long term. The success stories can be the bridge to renewed leisure tourism.

    Again, I agree completely with Jim that “learning generates revenue.” The challenge will be redefining the target audience. I am impressed by the continue devotion of thousands of people committed to rebuilding homes after Katrina. Most of those people are engaged through university, schools, and non profit organizations or churches with a staggering array of diversity.

    Similarly, I think the BP disaster will have a lasting legacy and commitment from many Americans who will still want to learn and help long after the headlines have turned to other disasters. Tapping that potential to sustain the Gulf communities through a very long recovery will be the challenge. Sustaining a healthy identity for the area balancing success stories with the enormity of the task ahead will also be tough.

  10. Jeff

    June 29, 2010

    I came up with some headlines or marketing campaigns that could be considered to position the region even in this tough time. The glass is half full. In fact it is probably more than half full considering all of the money that BP is spending to deal with the disaster.

    The sun hasn’t changed and the pools are not polluted.

    Come while the values are here.

    The golf courses are wonderful.

    The drinks are still cold in Gulf South.

    It is a great time to invest.

  11. Rick Batyko

    June 29, 2010

    Let’s assume the oil stops gushing and the damage to the shoreline and islands can be cleaned to an extent that the story changes from environmental disaster to the heroic restoration of the environment. Of course, there will be lingering stories of lasting negative impact (especially if the oil gets deep into the estuaries), as we still hear emanating from Prince William Sound, Alaska, but let’s stick with the larger storyline I’m proposing for discussion sake.

    Now that the national story is turning more positive (in this scenario), what else has to happen to restore the brand? I think the challenge will be less demanding in the State/regional tourism industry and more pronounced in the recovery of industries such as commercial fishing. For example, it’s reported that 77 percent of seafood production that is able to be gathered (in non-restricted waters) won’t be harvested because fishermen are using their boats to take more lucrative jobs in spill clean up. Add to that the amount of production curtailed due to spill-related restrictions and it’s easy to see the customers of the local industry are forced to seek other sources of supply.

    Numerous other industries are being affected (though the region’s very important shipping has been relatively unscathed), but for brevity’s sake I’ll stick with commercial fishing. State and regional economic development entities, such as the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, will need to help rebuild the industry by, among other things, working to restore customer preference in Gulf Coast seafood. A targeted brand/marketing campaign to the food preparation, service and production sectors will be in order. Such a campaign will take State and regional resources.

    State, regional and local brand and marketing efforts will take considerable and possibly even historic levels of collaboration to help restore the brand. Access to money provided by BP will be helpful, but the real challenge will be in organizing, implementing and sustaining the collaboration. That, money can’t buy.

  12. Andrew Moore

    June 30, 2010

    I personally feel the largest damage to BP’s corporate brand equity has been inflicted by the company’s CEO. He definately needs a PR coach!

    Also, it can be argued that not all the blame can be put BP’s shoulders as the BOEMRE (formerly MMS) had had a complete lack of congressional oversight (or any oversight) and has it has been internally and externally confirmed that the Minerals Management Service routinely passes oil drilling operation inspections without any on-site or environmental assessment. However, I do not think this should in any way, shape or form constitute anything remotely resembling an excuse for what happened in the Gulf. In the age of transparency, the foundation of every corporation should be a code of ethics which encompasses corporate stewardship which is about the wise use and care for resources to benefit communities, and ultimately the company, by fostering high standards of responsible behavior. Bottom line: BP should have been internally monitoring/auditing these systems stringently. If they were doing so properly, this would have been prevented. Smart people make bad decisions because of things like self-serving bias. Poor judgement is exercised by smart people unknowingly for many reasons including availability of information, representativeness, anchoring and adjustment, confirmation, overconfidence, and escalation of commitment.

    I think the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico is a good opportunity for a brand like Dawn to create synergy by deploying a heavy presence in the cleanup efforts. This would help the local community and environment recovery effort as well as create and/or strengthen Dawn’s brand equity. It also aligns with the mission statement of Procter & Gamble. Dawn may be doing this already – I am not sure as I work on another brand.

    [Note: The content above reflects my own opinions and I am not speaking on behalf of my employer, P&G.]

  13. Brian Siegel

    June 30, 2010

    *Media and Journalism Relations (work with such agencies providing authentic answers as much as you can, they can be your friends, if you do the right thing the right way).

    *TRANSPARENCY >> This will not merely sweep under the rug. This is huge, as you are aware. The more accountability, engagement, participation, and interaction you have in alignment with positive impact and genuine action, the better the change you have at salvaging the BP Business. This could have happened to another oil company, but it did not. You are on the world stage, all eyes are on you, and sure you are running a business, but that business just spilled into an ocean of trouble, which is connected to millions of lives, wildlife, and more. Share your strategies for fixing it, updates daily, and be transparently honest.

    *Consistent updates, utilizing various channels of media (pushing and also pulling data and information for a holistic communications strategy)

    *Regarding communications strategy, implement these interactive updates through media streams in collaboration with a website, social media, and traditional media

    *Form and build a community relations agenda beyond “I’m sorry” (they have damaged the lives of residences, tourism, livelihoods, ecosystems, and more) >> this could be “BrandAid’d” by creating a BP Gulf Foundation, or other initiative within the BP Corporation to answer long term to the damage to the ocean, beaches, lands, fish, animals, and more (bring awareness to such an effort softly, for example, do not be flashy with this by merely sharing you formed a Foundation, but allow your actions from the Foundation be the marketing itself)

    *People do not want to hear “I’m Sorry” (like Elvis said, “A little less conversation, a little more action) >> Passionate outreach and proactive response (a bit oxymoronic I know), by having available conduits for answers to questions, with educated ‘customer service agents’ (such as their phone line, website links…) should be updated and monitored. (Make accessibility simple, and discovery of information readily available)

    *Invite leaders from various sectors such as the Military, Universities, Oil Industry, Inventors who have ideas for the clean up long term, and others for informational sessions for ACTION (vs. mere discussion), and implement these (informing the public, even webcasting such a meeting for transparency) >> Americans and even the World seeks to learn of updates and the strategy around how BP is leading efforts to repair this astronomical damage… Provide answers to the difficult questions (most of them the same) to the World.

    *BP needs to energetically pursue engagement with USA’s government and local leaders/authorities in the areas affected vs. wait for others to summon them for answers
    *Select leaders from BP to attend local meetings participate in discussions, and interactions at platforms regarding the issues (documenting such meetings, lessons learned, insights, and solutions to address the numerous challenges brought about by this disaster)

    *When answering questions, utilize a clear and concise messaging and identity plan, providing simple answers to the valuable questions the public are asking. I am certain BP has employed various PR firms to provide strategies around alleviating the damage to their Brand.
    *Focus less on ‘saving your Brand’, and more on saving the lives affected by this disaster. If you do this, positive Brand Energy will follow.

    *CAP OFF THE OIL!!! It’s been months, why is this not done? Why is this taking so long? Provide answers to our country!!! You are affecting numerous facets of our lives, and need to utilize your resources to get this resolved yesterday, as well as respectfully inform our public. We all want answers, and to effectively have hope and a chance at sustaining the impact of this disaster, you must answer the difficult questions, formulate actions plans (faster), and provide this information to the public if you seek to attempt at earning the trust of consumers back.

  14. Angelos Angelou

    July 1, 2010

    1) Go after every possible US government disaster grant as well the BP clean up settlement fund to provide for the long term clean up and rehabilitation effort as well as to train and reemploy all those who have lost their jobs and sources of income.

    2) Organize an international conference on how to properly respond to such disasters in the future, from a government and private sector perspective.

    3) seek to create a permanent “international think tank” which can be attracted to the region. its focus would be to study the long term effects on the environment, energy dependence issues as well as safety in offshore drilling.

    4) Brand the Gulf states as a region with of great people, strong work ethic, entrepreneurhip and perseverence courtesy of BP.

    5) Target for recruitment all industries dealing with clean up efforts.

  15. Dan Altschuler

    July 1, 2010

    1- Create common “BP Oilspill” identity brand to easily relate all states that have been affected by the disaster.

    2 – Coordinated campaign detailing the cleanup efforts done by the group.

    3 – Develop honest grading level per “metropolitan area” to detail the location’s damages and upkeep this level to show improvements.

    4 – Informational campaign to educate public on the health hazards of each region.

    5 – Monthly spotlights on 2 or 3 clean locations.

  16. Alain Tondreau

    July 1, 2010

    Ed, lots of good ideas in few responses !

    Disaster is done (and not yet finished i believe) and I had an idea about all the worldwide BP employees, because not all of them are or act like their CEO ! Probably some of them would be glad to help, not only in cleaning the coastal area, but also in participating to thinking how could we prevent another disaster.
    So of course you cannot just ask these (good) people to come and get their hands in the dirt for their holidays (although some probably would!), yet it should be possible to “package” it in a way that they would do it with a sense of duty and go back home with some pride having shown they feel responsible for our planet’s health. !

    It would certainly create a social link between different people, local people would not feel so abandoned and useless, while people coming in could contribute in ethical development in businesses being faced with the distress created by an industry !

    Now maybe BP could participate in the travel costs or in accommodations or whatever …
    I’m sure locals would be glad to help accommodate also, but don’t get me wrong, no question of paid vacation here ! Hotels could also make attractive offers, better fill the place with a smaller margin than no customer at all !

    So why not creating a sort of database of people willing to come (BP HR must have it !!!) on one side and those who could accommodate on the other,

    Why not working this out with BP ? they could in the long term recover a better image in they show their goodwill !

    These are just rough ideas that came to my mind after reading your call for help, it certainly needs to be further developed.

    I’m not from BP, but if I can further help in some ways ….

  17. Kim Ratcliff

    July 4, 2010

    Ed,

    I agree with Joao’s comment about creating a new brand for the Gulf, as a cohesive region.

    I would add that in order to create and deliver on a brand promise, cleanup efforts and rebuilding the local economy need to be the current focus. Local fishermen and businesses that thrive on tourism need to get back on their feet before the brand can ring true. More celebrity promotion for cleanup and restoring livelihood — and profiles of how it’s happening on a daily basis — will bring about greater public awareness of what’s working and how the Gulf WILL have a future.

    From success in managing the crisis, a new brand can be leveraged that can tell a story about the Gulf’s survival of and re-emergence beyond the catastrophe. This positive storyline will bring in more tourism and refuel the local economies.

    Thanks for creating this forum for constructive dialogue about the possibilities beyond the immediate crisis…it seems that we are all overly focused on how bad everything is for the environment and the economies. While this is all accurate, we do need to be proactive in determining what’s next for the Gulf.

    Kim

  18. Toni

    July 6, 2010

    Think regional. Act local.

  19. Adele Berenstein

    July 6, 2010

    I wrote an article on my blog about this topic. see http://wp.me/pB3CF-Aq BP is really trying to put a new face forward with videos, an interview with Bob Dudley, an American..in charge of the BP Gulf Coast Restoration Project, a video about their planned relief well, how they will handle hurricanes and what they are doing to clean up the beaches. The interview with Bob Dudley is done by PBS and is fairly easy to find (but it is an hour long..a good video but people won’t pay that much attention!) BP should have broken the video into its questions, so people could find the sections they are most interested in. I have this video embeded in my blog post.

    . The other videos are found on BP’s main web page each of the videos themselves are not easy to find. They don’t appear in the search engines. Search for Relief Well and the BP video is no where to be found. It can only be found if someone keys in Relief Well Operations. That’s because whomever put up the videos did not use search engine friendly techniques (commonly called Search Engine Optimization). I am unable to embed these other videos in my blog post (again due to lack of Web techniques allowing this facility)

    What this means it that the public, searching for information about BP’s oil spill, won’t find these videos, unless the go to BPs website ..even then some of them are hard to find on the front page.

    So I believe that BP some good strategies, but very bad execution on publicizing their communication pieces on the web.

    Of course, as Bob Dudley says, until the well gets capped, public relations will still be very strained.

  20. Farzana

    July 7, 2010

    Wow !! Lots of good information:

    I tend to travel a bath least taken, so I suggest the following:

    1. Use this as a learning experience for tourism by:
    a. Have tours for people to come and see such a spill which they may never have an opportunity to look at again.
    b. Create and NGO that will have people from all over wanting to volunteer to come and help local communities clean up. This will create a demand in hotel and tourist visits as there are lots of people in the world willing to help.

    2. Create micro-businesses with the help of the larger businesses to start enterprises in these areas of devastation. Larger companies can partner with the Gov’t to find funding to develop businesses in US in these areas as oppose to importing goods from overseas. This would be a perfect opportunity to boost the economy and to help re-develop these devastated areas.

  21. Jeff Bach

    July 7, 2010

    My friend Jimbo Meador lives down in Mobile, Alabama. Great guy. He works for Dragonfly Boatworks. Their line of work has been hugely impacted by the Gulf tragedy. But instead of moaning about the disaster, they shut down their production line, retooled a bit, and went about things in a different way.

    While their story is not exactly tourism, to me, it illustrates how an entity, whether community, person, or business, can try and cope with disaster and do something good. The CNN video and story further tell their story.

    http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/06/23/oil.bird.boats/index.html

  22. Ray Miller

    July 7, 2010

    Pictures peak louder than words. The media focuses in on the specific images that present the worst cases. The regions affected to provide images of the vast areas NOT affected as well as imagery of the results of the cleanup efforts.

  23. Derek Perkins

    July 7, 2010

    Great initiative Ed, and impressive array of responses.
    Tough one this, because much of the Gulf depends in the future on the hand that has just bitten it, so getting all the potential positives from this nightmare might be difficult.
    However, why not build on the green/environmental/sustainable approach and develop the Gulf as a destination for:
    - politicians to see first hand the problems, solutions and options for the future
    - students to help the clean-up but also to consider less high-risk energy alternatives
    - eco-tourists to get first-hand experience of the downside to our dependence on any oil
    The Gulf could become the region known as the first in the US (world?) that seriously considered the alternatives to our current energy policy at the macro and micro level.

  24. MIke Perry

    July 8, 2010

    BP should take a cue from J&J’s handling of the Tylenol scare years ago. Be overly proactive in mitigating the initial problem and aggressively define and implement a solution that prevents future problems of the same nature.

    J&J actually won the PR battle in that instance (ethically, I might add), and wrote the book on public relations handling of major negative events.

  25. Ed Roach

    July 8, 2010

    The one positive in my mind is that this crisis is happening “to them” – it is not of their making. It is also a grand opportunity to show neighbors helping neighbors, which is the heart and soul of the Gulf Coast. I love a suggestion made above of recruiting student groups to help in the clean up. Lots of smiles and cooperation.

    BP blew it and continues to. They are the dark side of this mess. The victims can take the high road. Over time the clean beaches can be publicized and the free press attributed to this will be an immense boast to the brand efforts. It is in the whole country’s best interest to see the silver lining in this.

    Every level of government can have the glow in the spot light as the positives are harvested over a period of recovery.

    I’d adopt the Gulf Coast Shrimp as a recovery icon and spokesman for the re-branding of the area. In the clean-up stage have the character in recovery gear on the beaches with every age group. Make the disaster an opportunity to embrace America’s desire to help their cousins in peril.

    Recruit the Disney folks to make the shrimp character come to life and ready to the serve the Gulf Coast, much like Mickey and his pals did their bit for the war effort in the 40′s.

    Don’t let the negatives weight you down, but embrace the opportunities associated with their defeat. At the end of the day, regulations will be smarter and we will have all learned from this. Put a stop to the doom and gloomers who profess that this will destroy the coast forever. We have to put an end to this slit your wrist mindset.

    Change the conversation.

  26. Shefali Arora

    July 17, 2010

    Admit the mistake, and commit to cleaning up. There are absolutely no substitutes to cover up when human and animal lives are involved….

  27. Jim McGraw

    July 19, 2010

    As I am currently working with a handful of Gulf communities directly impacted by the BP Oil incident, and I am also representing multi-billion dollar development on the Louisiana coast, I applaud your initiative in exchanging thoughts about brand equity impairment and response.

    While this tragic event is unprecedented, it is not permanent. While the damage is heartbreaking, it is repairable and on the way to recovery. Brand equity in a place, for businesses and for living, is not at all static or permanent. Rather it is a dynamic process grounded in an inspirational journey driven by its business, government and citizen leadership.

    The brand equity of the Gulf communities will rebound as strongly and as impressively as ever because the human spirit is forever resilient fortified by great passion for the place people call home; and further, the strength of the ecosystem of the Gulf environment itself will go a long way to repairing the damage. Although very tragic, be assured that the resurgence of the brand strength of these states and its communities, while perhaps very expensive, will win at the end of the day.

    Jim McGraw
    KMK Consulting Company

  28. Shelley Rosen

    July 19, 2010

    Ed poses a question on the minds of so many across America.– Did BP damage more than its brand? How can we not talk about something that CNN shows gushing out every night hour after hour with families in tears and pelicans covered in oil.

    Corporations wake up every day to make shareholders money by selling goods and services consumer want to buy at a fair price. They give back, they employee great people and they try to execute flawless each day. BP really does have the principles of a world class brand. But sometimes things happen. It’s is how we respond to adversity that keeps a brand alive and thriving.

    What three key mistakes did this brand leader make?

    1. Delay and lack of in Communication: Starting from the explosion and death of employees to the gushing oil on the Gulf Shores, the public never really heard from the BP leadership and the people behind the brand until twenty days passed. Timing is critical in a crisis. People are forgiving.
    2. Did not Remain Humble: BP never admitted mistakes were made in safety or other aspect of the rig, Humility is attractive and since people are already skeptical of oil companies it would have been most helpful to do so.
    3. Remain Inclusive: BP should have formed a task force to get other perspective and be seen as a leader. This happened to a community, not in a board room. By not allowing local and national government leaders in the lions den they stood on the sidelines and asked- What are they doing? “They could have been more inclusive hence through collaboration get to resolution.

    Now what? We have heard jokes around their brand name from BP means Bloody People to other slanderous things they have done. I applaud their web site and home page in terms of transparency and full disclosure of what they are doing. How long did it take to get that page up and running?

    BP needs stories. They need to be seen in the market beyond the one man they have on air ‘cleaning up’ the claims. They need to promise what they can deliver and deliver on that promise. Set up a BP Beach, fund education in Louisiana. Buy fisherman new boats. Tell real stories of real people and how BP is single handedly helping them. Have a service to and for the lost men on the rig. Do the right thing. It’s not about the money it is about the human compassion and acts of kindness. People want and expect to see it

    Lastly, have a new team in place for crisis management with new principle for modern day transparency.

  29. Gwen

    July 20, 2010

    The responses to the question Ed poses have been amazing. I would simply add to the discussion there should be consideration given to the formation of a “commission” that would oversee not only the restoration of Gulf coast communities but also recommend and implement policy that would ensure never again nothing of this magnitude occurs again.

  30. Brenton Schmidt

    July 20, 2010

    The opportunity (as suggested by others in this thread) is for the Gulf Coast to claim a new story.
    I could see the theme of the story shifting from ‘relax’ to….’relearn’

    I like relearn because it speaks of the truth of the situation and the need for BP and other oil companies etc. to relearn how they are doing things.

    It also addresses the truth of the local residents and business owners to relearn what they are about, how they make a living etc.

    And it works potentially as an authentic theme for tourism because it could be used as a educational tourism destination.

  31. Verghese Varkki

    July 21, 2010

    This a tough one to tackle. I am at a great distance from the spill area, and make this comment as one interested in this problem.
    Tragedy or disaster destinations are saleable, from Pompeii, Ground Zero in NY, and the active volcano in Iceland. There are war memorials, Hiroshima, Viet Nam and gas chambers. The Titanic is a museum. They became destinations after the fact.

    Tsunami damage in India, the shopping complex collapse in south Korea, were destrinations to view recovery and rebuilding.We had the Kibbutz – destination strategy in terms of help and rebuilding, we have various social and technical programmes for community relocation and restoration following floods, landsides or forestr fires.

    Perhaps this would be one alternative for the affected communities who will need first to group as an affected area. Individual communities can then be part of an offer to visit, live and contribute skills and time – a constuctive, creative and interactive destination rather than a passive recreation destination. That might be many years away.

    The BP oil spill is a contemporary tragedy – commercial carelessness and human ineptitude. The damage is understated, and long term implications unknown.

    As a tragedy destination with overflight offers well, that would be simple but not a long term strategy in human terms.

  32. Jeffrey Bauer

    July 22, 2010

    Inspired by Joao Freire’s suggestions. I offer a few additional thoughts to keep in mind.

    1. Take advantage of developing a VOICE about the whole region and work in unison to regain the best of who you are.

    2. Take BP out of the entire picture. In other words stop talking and communicating all reference to PB. Everyone know BP’s place in this. The focus now is who the region was, what it still is and how it will be.

    3. There are tactics to come. The best tactic right now is NOT to complain but to cope and communicate all that is good!

    4. A strategy? Let the public be creative and DO IT!

    5. The people of the region have become the brand. It’s not a place brand anymore it the people brand and that is a HUGE positive to take advantage.

  33. marie spiekermann

    August 3, 2010

    After Prudhoe Bay and BP Texas City is Deepwater Horizon now the sad climax: BP is responsible for the biggest ecological disaster in U.S. history
    (as far as we know anyway). The peer-to-peer discussions about BP in social media and the vast majority of it is immense negative… from my point of view, the best BP can do at present is to appear transparent, honest and predictable and attempt to moderate what is being said about them. The thing is, you can’t spend too much on BP’s brand reputation – it’s going to result in a very apparent question: “Why aren’t they using the funds to improve safety procedures, support fisherman, the wildlife funds, et cetera…?”

  34. Harry A. Eadon Jr.

    August 11, 2010

    The easiest path to take in this situation is to do nothing, allow time and the Gulf to wash away the evidence.

    Though tempting, it is not the Best path.

    After breezing through the many great comments already posted I will list my favorites, abbreviated and paraphrased:
    1. Deemphasize BP’s role, stop the corporate bashing. Perhaps even
    find something positive that BP has done and celebrate it.
    2. Create a regional organization to enhance the effectiveness of the
    campaign.
    3. Work your plan on two levels, internal and external. If the residents
    believe then it is a better sell to the external Customers.

  35. Wonderful web site. Lots of useful info here. I am sending
    it to some pals and also sharing in delicious. And certainly, thanks on your effort!

35 Responses to “BP Damages More Than Its Own Brand”




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