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BP Ditches the Bentley—A Touching Gesture, Really

BP’s damage control of the Gulf oil spill has arguably been more damage than control.

BP headquarters at 1 St. James Square in London.
Sharon Lorimer
BP headquarters at 1 St. James Square in London.

So, it was particularly amusing when, on the same day BP is announcing earnings and that it’s shipping Tony “I want my life back” Hayward off to Siberia, a day when reporters from every network and paper are standing out front of headquarters, that an astute colleaguefrom our London office noticed that there’s no longer a Bentley parked outside of BP headquarters — it’s been replaced with a hybrid vehicle.

“Is it a hybrid that runs on a combination of oil and salt water?” asked Alyx Kaczuwka, author of the blog LOLFed.com. “ I live in the Gulf region, so I could use one of those!” she said.

Not quite says Joshua Brown, a VP at Fusion Analyitics and the author of the blog TheReformedBroker.com.

BP headquarters, London, England
CNBC
BP headquarters, London, England

“The hybrid in front of BP's headquarters runs on a mixture of ethanol and regret!” Brown quipped.

Oh, we could do this all day.

I’ll admit, Siberia was a nice touch, but the hybrid smacks of a guy who can’t stop cheating on his wife, then takes her out to a nice dinner as proof that he’s changed.

The wife promptly rings up her friends to see if they think she should take him back.

Definitely not, says branding expert Rob Frankel.

It’s “another shallow ploy that is ill-conceived and won’t work,” Frankel said. “It’s like Osama bin Laden suddenly wearing a Boy Scout uniform — no one's buying it.”

The problem is that BP has never had a branding strategy, Frankel said, citing BP’s logo change a few years back when it slapped a flower in there to show that it was environmentally conscious.

BP sign
Ben Stansall | AFP | Getty Images
BP sign

“Back in the early 1970s, Richard Nixon went on TV and said, ‘I am not a crook,’” Frankel said. “That didn’t convince anybody — and this won’t either.”

If BP had a branding strategy from the start, Frankel said, none of this would have happened. A brand strategy helps set up the public for what to expect from the company. If they had driven home the message of how environmentally responsible they are for the past 10 years, the public would’ve been more forgiving, Frankel said.

Not to mention, Hayward would’ve had a playbook to work from — not a gaffe book.

That’s going to be the challenge for the new guy, American Bob Dudley, who wasn’t handed a playbook either. Let’s hope he left the one he was using in Russia in a thick patch of permafrost.

As for Hayward, well, he got off pretty easy.

“I figure they sent him to Siberia because there wasn’t any ready transportation to the moon!” Frankel said.

More on BP From the Pony:

Questions? Comments? Write to us at ponyblog@cnbc.com or drop a comment below.

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