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  • Posted by: Amy Edel-Vaughn on Thursday, November 15 2012 06:14 PM | Comments (0)
    BP Statement

    “How will admitting to negligence and misconduct, as well as a historic $4.5 billion settlement impact the brand?” is a natural question on the heels of breaking news about a global brand of the scale of BP. Tom Zara, Global Practice Leader for Corporate Citizenship at Interbrand, contends, though, “Everybody’s focusing on the wrong thing.”

    While the penalty against the brand is unprecedented and something of this magnitude has not happened to their competitors, the question is not will people stop buying BP, in fact at the end of last month the company announced a higher quarterly dividend and while fourth quarter profits slipped, BP's share price has climbed around 57% since April 2010. So Zara suggests, the question is, “What are they doing to ensure it never happens again?”

    “Good corporate citizenship and responsible crisis management means that a company can’t hide critical information simply because it fears the backlash,” says Robert Khuzami, Director of the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Division of Enforcement in a Department of Justice Press Release issued today. What has BP done to redefine itself so there aren’t future lapses in values?

    Tom ZaraThis is the time, Zara says, for the brand to look at its own “ethical bone structure,” to look within to assess what they have done to be sure “their culture, operations and governance have embraced new brand values. This is an opportunity to affirm internally what their values are.”

    The key to overcoming this latest blow to its brand image Zara notes is more than taking its lumps in the form of fines and accepting guilt. “Tenets that guide behavior must be in place with a commitment to safety, accountability and responsibility,” he says. “The answer people are really looking for is to what degree have they demonstrated these key values.”

    BP worked hard to craft an image of itself before the Gulf Spill as “Beyond Petroleum” and since 2010 has promoted tourism in the impacted region and sought to leverage its sponsorship of the London Olympics to improve its reputation. Now the company says it will appoint a safety and risk-management in the Gulf of Mexico and an ethics monitor to examine the brand’s code of conduct, implementation and enforcement.

    “The explosion of the rig was a disaster that resulted from BP’s culture of privileging profit over prudence,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division in the DOJ release. “We hope that BP's acknowledgment of its misconduct – through its agreement to plead guilty to 11 counts of felony manslaughter – brings some measure of justice to the family members of the people who died on board the rig.”

    Zara warns, “Notoriety of criminality isn’t the death knell of a brand, but corruption of culture will kill the brand."

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  • Posted by: Lorna Fray on Friday, August 10 2012 09:30 AM | Comments (0)

    Olympic Park

    On day one of the London 2012 Olympics, I spent a family day in the Olympic Park, watching a basketball match and generally soaking up the atmosphere. The atmosphere was amazing, the park stunning and the sport entertaining, if predictable (China won). But what fascinated me was the branding.

    Visual branding – London 2012 wins gold

    Olympic Volunteers
    On the tube that morning, almost half of our fellow passengers were Olympic volunteers in their distinctive Adidas and London 2012 branded uniforms. This set the tone for the day’s spectacles – London 2012 and its distinctive colourways were the most visually prominent brand. Looking more closely, the lanyards worn by all staff, volunteers and accredited visitors featured the Atos logo – giving the company a low-key but ubiquitous presence at the games.

    Contrary to speculation, there was no policing of spectators’ clothing and accessories – security didn’t bat an eyelid at Nike trainers, rucksacks or caps. But London 2012 and team GB eclipsed all other sports brands – around a fifth of those entering the park were already sporting at least one commemorative item. By the time they left, a good half of all spectators had new Olympic merchandise (apparentlyTshirts, keyrings and pin badges were the best sellers, though BMW humourously offered a Mini for sale in the London 2012 Megastore).

    Approaching the main park gate at Stratford, the Olympic stadium was dwarfed by Gillette ads down the side of three neighbouring tower blocks, featuring British cycling star Chris Hoy. It’s interesting that official games partner P&G chose this spot to showcase a product brand, rather than its corporate ‘Proud sponsor of mums’ campaign (though the parent brand also has a salon in the Athletes’ Village).

    Inside the park, the lack of visual branding was striking (with the notable exception of McDonald’s huge golden arches and Coca-Cola’s ubiquitous drinks stalls, table umbrellas and branded bins). Seeing generic, unbranded coffee and food stalls and no sponsor branding inside Olympic venues was rather alien to those of us used to London’s visual riot. And it was rather comical to see that the manufacturer’s logo on hand dryers in the toilets had been covered with plain white stickers – one branding ‘urban myth’ that turned out to be true after all.

    Interactive experiences – a mixed bag
    Instead, most official sponsors practised what Interbrand preaches – they delivered interactive brand experiences. Eight Olympic partners (Acer, Coca-Cola, The BMW Group, BP, EDF, Panasonic, Samsung and the National Lottery) have pavilions in the park, offering various types of interactive experiences, from Coca-Cola’s Beatbox musical sculpture that can be ‘played’ by visitors to Acer’s multimedia and gaming zone.

    coca cola at the olympics

    From a consumer’s point of view, these pavilions had various degrees of success. For a start, nobody could get around all this in one day – and many just opted to enjoy the rare British sunshine and watch as much sport as possible. Secondly, several pavilions didn’t appear to welcome the public – resembling VIP hospitality areas rather than inviting interaction. And there were a few frustrations – EDF’s The Magic of Electricity missed a trick by requiring explanations from staff (visitors had to download an app to photograph themselves alongside Olympic athletes before entering the main pavilion – the sight of visitors frowning at their progress bars was enough to put others off even trying).

    As we were there on a family day out, we made normal family choices. The Coca-Cola interactive Beatbox sculpture, building on the brand’s ‘Move to the beat’ campaign, looks brilliant but we missed it. The BMW and Acer pavilions sounded too focused on their own company history, despite having interactive elements. And BP’s focus on clean energy seemed to fall a little flat – despite mailing carbon offset QR codes with all Olympic tickets, only around 400,000 journeys had been offset online by day 10 of the games.

    The best of these brand experiences were perhaps the simplest, requiring no explanations, queues or specific apps and focusing on the consumer rather than the parent company. For example, the BP pavilion worked even for those who didn’t enter it, as its huge mirrored side served as an interesting (and branded) backdrop for snapshots and larking about.

    In a similar way, BA’s ‘Park Live’ – grassy areas featuring a huge screen broadcasting live action from Olympic venues – blended well with the mood and occasion, tapping in to people’s interest in sport without any mention of air travel. The airline was also canny in giving away free union jack seating mats and temporary tattoos to families and young children. Panasonic’s experience also suited the occasion and the dominant family demographic in the park, by teaching kids how to perform various sports as well as supporting the Park Live screens.

    Clearly McDonald’s pitched its experience at families too. This will be the subject of a separate post, but it is worth noting that aswell as offering familiar food (we all know how fussy children can be aboutunfamiliar dishes), its huge restaurant offered the best value views across the park. The brand’s wider interactive Olympic experience, under the tagline ‘We all make the game’, involves using spectators’ own pictures in its lcd screen poster campaign around London transport hubs – effectively tapping into the inclusive, party atmosphere around the city.

    It’s interesting that other family-oriented Olympic partners BT and Cadbury opted to focus their interactive brand experiences outside the main Olympic Park, at ‘London Live’ sites. Tens of thousands have been gathering to watch Olympic broadcasts and join in sports-based fun at thesefestival areas, for free. These have been the surprise hit of the games, winning over cynical Londoners as well as visitors.

    flow with visaFinal impressions
    Several Olympic partners – BMW, Coca-Cola and Visa – made a big effort to leave a lasting impression with Olympic spectators, via huge advertising on the wayfrom the park to key transport hubs. Certainly, there was little else to grasp consumers’ attention as they slowly filed on to tubes and buses. Coca-Cola’s artwork was suitably celebratory, but ‘Flow faster with Visa’ is perhaps a double-edged message for spectators in slow-moving, carefully controlled crowds. The ‘proud to accept only Visa’ Olympic notices have become a bit of a joke, which backfires when card payment machines break down and customers used to swift, secure and easy payments are forced to rely on old technology – cash.

    The main business story around the London Olympics has been the detrimental effect of the games on non-sponsors in the city. Certainly, on this Saturday afternoon the huge Westfield shopping mall next to the Olympic park was unusually quiet. The Nike store between the main park exit and the tube station was almost empty – surely the brand missed a trick there. Perhaps predictably, the only buzzing shop in the mall was the London 2012 gift shop.


    Lorna Fray is a writer and editor for Interbrand.

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  • Posted by: Jennifer Bassett on Wednesday, April 20 2011 02:12 PM | Comments (0)

    Today is the BP oil spill anniversary – not exactly a cause for celebration. The spill’s impact can still be felt on everyone it touched. And BP’s brand reputation? Let’s just say it is forever tarnished.

    Not that BP hasn’t tried – it is just that efforts like full-page ads in national newspapers (adding to its many expenses) have lacked a human touch. That human touch, which has always been missing from BP’s apology efforts, is what’s necessary to reach out to consumers. Then there are the reports that BP is giving those impacted by the spill the runaround; when paired with media coverage of the fisherman who are sick from the fumes from the clean up, you’ve got even more to worry about.

    All this, and the spill is still taking center stage in the courts, even as media coverage has turned its focus to the other most recent disaster.

    No doubt, as a brand, BP is certainly in bad shape and is likely to be so for years to come – but what about the larger questions here? If we learned anything from the spill, it is that the oil industry, as a whole, is in need of a reform. Wasn’t the moment just as pivotal for Exxon and Shell as it was for BP? And what about Transocean and Cameron International, who are also, undoubtedly, partially to blame. While BP's recent legal action against them isn't likely to endear them more to the general public, it certainly has some warrant.

    Unfortunately, while today may be a defining moment in our consciousness and BP’s reputation may be dented permanently, it is unclear if the oil industry is suffering from the same scorn that might provoke wider spread change.

    What do you think?

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  • Posted by: Paula Oliveira on Thursday, March 17 2011 12:19 PM | Comments (0)

    Every year the Chicago River is dyed green for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade celebrations in March. The idea was born in 1961, when the organizers found out that the dye used to detect leaks into the river turned into a perfect, Irish green.

    Just a few years later, the tradition stirred up controversy when environmentalists alerted the world that the oil-based dye was causing pollution and damage to biodiversity. The substance was replaced by vegetable-based dye and the tradition survived for decades.
    This time, the move to dye the river green involves one of the most valuable brands in the world: McDonald's. McDonald's has a history of involvement with St. Patrick's Day celebration in Chicago, donating sales of a shamrock shake (a greenish mint shake) to Ronald McDonald House, its not-for profit organization which provides shelter to hospital patients relatives. In 2010, the promotion involved the creation of the world's largest Shamrock Shake which was strategically placed to paint the river green. In 2011, the Shamrock Shake was back, this time floating.

    The attractiveness and exposure of the action is indisputable. But some argue the image of a floating McDonald's cup in green water automatically conjures up images of litter and river pollution, in times when the BP oil spill is still alive in people’s mind.

    Even though the river coloring itself claims to be inoffensive to the environment, fading in about five hours, the pure association of McDonald’s with uncivilized actions was enough to raise negative consumers’ comments. Just a few reprimands include: "irresponsible and shameful," "an unfortunate by-product of fast food," and "toxic sludge."

    McDonald’s is doing a great work around its corporate citizenship – not only to counter balance its image of a fast-food villain, but because sourcing sustainably, managing waste, investing in its people, and communities are strong business commitments. But to transform this reality into consumer trust, McDonald’s should guarantee that its consumers’ touchpoints are not sending contrary messages – even if the end goal is a noble one.

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  • Posted by: Interbrand on Monday, December 20 2010 02:38 PM | Comments (0)

    Jez Frampton

    Interbrand CEO Jez Frampton has travelled around the world to discover why you buy. How do businesses adapt to emerging markets? What is the future of retail in the digital age? How did Toyota and B.P. deal with their brand damage? What is the difference between identity and identification? And how does the number one brand in the world plan to double its sales?

    Frampton speaks with esteemed colleagues from Interbrand’s offices in China, India, Japan, North America and Europe. He also talks to business leaders from some of the most vibrant marketplaces in this round-up of some of the best moments from Demand and Desire. It’s been a fascinating year... Happy New Year!

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