After British Petroleum merged with Amoco, the oil giant commissioned branding firm Landor & Associates and advertising agency Oglivy & Mather to fashion a corporate identity that would convey the image of a forward-thinking, socially conscious company.
BP had already begun building that persona: After all, former CEO Lord John Browne was the first oil executive to acknowledge the threat of global warming. The bursting green, yellow, and white Greek mythology-inspired "Helios" symbol that replaced BP's shield is meant to imply a shift toward alternative, environmentally-friendly sources of energy like solar and biofuels, and relentless advertising has made the company's initials synonymous with "beyond petroleum."
But a series of oil spills and accidents suggested that BP wasn't walking the walk, leading some to consider its wildly successful mark more a mask than its true face.
"If the story doesn't hold up, the mark and the brand start to lose their luster," says Brendán Murphy, senior partner at Lippinott, a brand management firm.
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