Pining for Amoco

June 17, 2010
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As if BP didn’t have enough to worry about, it now must convince the American press to stop using its old name, British Petroleum.

British Petroleum shortened its name to the initials in 2001 and the media obliged. By the time the spill erupted April 20, British Petroleum had all but vanished here in the states.

Then the old name made a huge comeback. It was mentioned in 12 percent of all references to BP by May 3, according to The Economist. The old name has leveled off near 8 percent of references, but that’s still uncomfortably frequent for other British companies fearing a backlash against anything Britannia.

Maybe British Petroleum execs feared Americans would snub a blatantly British oil company after its 1998 acquisition of Chicago-based Amoco Corp. Amoco was the successor to Standard Oil Indiana, which was founded by John D. Rockefeller when he opened a refinery in the northwestern Indiana town of Whiting in 1889.

BP could have kept the ghost in chains by changing its name completely, says David Cranfill, president of Indianapolis advertising firm Three-Sixty Group Inc.

Cranfill thinks the BP shorthand leaves customers confused and possible even with an empty feeling. Just what does BP stand for, anyway? he asks. If it weren’t for pumps at the convenience stores, one wouldn’t know the company sells gas.

“Whenever you brand a company, the most important thing is to make sure that within that brand you capture or convey the company’s identity as opposed to an image,” he says. “There’s no product that’s related to the name BP.”

Mentioning his fondness for the Amoco stations in his neighborhood, Cranfill adds, “I’ve never felt any real connection to BP.”

What about you? Any thoughts on the name change? About how BP’s handling the spill?


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