Outrage starting to ease in oil spill situation

Stephan Shakespeare
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IN the last two weeks of this saga we have seen tensions in US-UK relations rise at the highest levels, with Obama accused of anti-British sentiment and Cameron called on to intervene, while BP chief executive officer Tony Hayward has been widely accused of callousness in the face of the environmental disaster. BrandIndex tracks the brand daily in both countries on seven different measures ­– in Graph 1 we show the “customer satisfaction” score. I use this rather than the corporate reputation score because it is less obvious, and a better indication of anger. After all, it can hardly be that BP’s American customers are actually ­dissatisfied with the gasoline.

As the graph shows, we now see the first signs of a lessening of outrage (we can hardly call it “brand recovery”). The line representing UK views either suggests that customers have become more satisfied with their petrol – highly unlikely – or are showing some nationalist loyalty in the face of the onslaught.

As the oil from the BP disaster spreads ever more widely, the PR spill is starting to have a similar effect, seeping into other British brands.

Graph 2 shows that while the BrandIndex “impression scores” have been rising for Barclays in the UK, the British brand has been suffering with no apparent justification (other than being British) among US consumers.

Scores have dipped below -6 for the first time since February, in contrast to the UK score which has seen its score up to +1.8, the best since +1.7 at the start of May. This is interes­ting because we usually think of brand values as associated with the product and its advertising, though here we suggest that Britishness can have a strong effect.

Stephan Shakespeare is founder and chief executive of YouGov.