There was brief discussion in one of our classes about how BP received criticism for its “Beyond Petroleum” branding campaign, and I thought it might be interesting to put some numbers to this issue. Note: The purpose of this blog post isn’t to comment on whether or not BP’s strategies make sense. Rather, it’s to try and show the discrepancy between what BP had been portraying through its communications and what course of action the company actually took. So here goes:
In 2000, BP launched a branding campaign that tried to convince people that company cared for the environment, and was taking steps to do so. One print ad, showcased in the International Herald Tribune, stated the following:
"Beyond... - means being a global leader in producing the cleanest burning fossil fuel. Natural Gas; means being the first company to introduce cleaner burning fuels to many of the world's most polluted cities; means being the largest producer of solar energy in the world; means starting a journey that will take a world's expectations of energy beyond what anyone can see today."
Print Ad: http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=219&printsafe=1
While these statements were not completely false, the issue was that BP’s campaign was of the type that, according to Kanter, gave the impression that alternative energy sources were extremely important to the company. But this may not necessarily have been the case. According to Driessen of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, BP spent $200 million investing in hydrogen, wind, and solar energy over a six-year period. The amount spent by BP on their “Beyond Petroleum” campaign? $200 million over two years (the campaign was launched in 2000). Additionally, Nielsen Monitor-Plus data shows that BP’s media spending amounted to approximately $370 million over a three-year period (2005-7). Having a favorable brand image is important, but wasn’t the level of investment in their media campaign excessive as compared to what the company investing in the technologies they were touting? Roberts from Mother Jones reports that BP invested $500 million in solar energy from 2000-05, but in 2004 invested over $8 billion in petroleum exploration and production. And in 2008, hydrogen, wind, and solar energy accounted only for around 7% of BPs capital expenditures, when in fact, according to Greenpeace, BP “continued to spend heavily on a worldwide advertising campaign which gives the false impression that alternative energy represents a core part of the company's business.” And that’s the crux of the matter.
Print Ad Text: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=British_Petroleum
Driessen (PDF): http://www.ipa.org.au/library/Review55-1%20BP.pdf