Saturday, June 12, 2010

Change V: Boycott BP

I covered the "Move Your Money" campaign in my first cynical change post. Well, Boycott BP may have the advantage that there's plenty of reliable other gas stations to fuel up. But they're at a disadvantage. Here's an email from some progressive group (Democracy for America) declaring victory in the Boycott BP campaign, quoting from Convenience Store News:
A chain of Convenience Stores in Philipsburg, Pa decided to debrand three of its BP-branded stations:

"We are debranding BP. We will no longer be associated with BP by the end of the month. We are doing this because of the backlash and bad publicity from the handling of BP's catastrophe," Sean Lay, vice president of operations, said in the report. "We don't want to be associated with them anymore. We've had enough."[Convenience Store News]
They are, rightly, declaring that their action is having a positive response because BP gas station operators don't want to be connected to the company. But clearly they're able to adapt. In Los Angeles, there's a big refinery that used to be owned by Arco. It had a massive, three story tall flag over the front that said "ARCO." When it was bought out by BP, they put the name BRITISH PETROLEUM on it -- at the time, they were not called BP. There was some displeasure at that, so they rebranded the factory with a flag that said BP. Then they tried putting up a flag that said "BETTER PETROLEUM" (the 'Kitchen Fresh Chicken' of the oil world). That didn't take. So now the flag is just a gigantic American flag. And people are basically mollified.

Do you know where the name Exxon comes from? It's actually the result of a multi-million dollar consulting project that concluded that the best name for the brand would be a completely neutral name that no one had any associations with. Then Exxon-Valdez happened, and all of a sudden we all had associations with that name, so the tactic was ineffective. But if they'd waited a year and then changed the name, people might not have noticed.

Have you heard of Altria Group? That's the name that they came up with so that you would no longer associate Kraft with Phillip Morris -- even though they're part of the same company. God forbid your disdain of tobacco influence your taste in cheese.

I hope that the American consumer keeps tabs on brand ownership, or they're going to have a hard time figuring out what they're boycotting. Otherwise they might get duped, like the whole CREDO Mobile thing.

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