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BP’s reputation sinks as size of spill spreads

Stephan Shakespeare
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BP has witnessed a significant drop in its “impression” score on YouGov’s BrandIndex in the wake of the explosion on its leased oil rig off the coast of Louisiana, which resulted in eleven deaths and precipitated one of the worst man-made ecological disasters to hit the US in recent years. Yet it was not the explosion itself, but BP’s erroneous assessment of its true scale, that seemed to hurt the brand.

The BrandIndex “impression” scores on the graph show that in the explosion’s immediate aftermath, between 20 April and 22 April BP’s score remained steady, only dropping from +2.8 to +2.1. This trend ended on 29 April when it became apparent that BP’s claim that only 1,000 barrels per day were seeping into the Gulf of Mexico was inaccurate, and that the real number was closer to 5,000. The negative impact of this revelation was compounded by television pictures of the oil slick reaching the US coastline, and BP’s “impression” score then dropped dramatically from +5.1 to -6.8 in just eleven days.

Of course, faltering BrandIndex scores will be the least of BP’s worries at the moment, as one lawsuit from local fisheries and another on behalf of the 11 killed in the explosion has already been filed against it. Fortunately for the oil sector the devastating environmental disaster seems not to have affected the public’s impression of other oil companies, as their impression scores remained relatively unchanged following the incident. The news may even have been helpful to BP’s competitors, as BrandIndex “buzz” scores for Shell have risen as BP’s have dropped; consumers readily distinguish between oil brands, and it seems that not all of the industry’s leading players have been tarred with the same brush.

Stephan Shakespeare is co-founder and co-chief executive of YouGov