Why BP can’t get beyond British Petroleum

There is growing displeasure in Britain over the use of the name “British Petroleum” by top federal officials in the United States.

And as the Economist charts below, the American press has taken to calling the firm British Petroleum since April to stress Britain’s role in the disaster, even though the company was renamed BP in 2001.

Fair or not, the oil company is, undeniably, very British in terms of a public persona defined in no small measure by its ruddy-cheeked CEO Tony Hayward. Indeed, he has come to personify BP: petulant, out-of-touch, inept and unmistakably British when he opens his mouth. It doesn’t help the hapless oil executive that he also bears a unfortunate resemblance to Michael Sheen (he’s the one on the right), the actor who made his career playing arrogant British SOBs in movies such as Frost/Nixon, The Queen and The Damned United.

British Petroleum or BP, the concern is that its woes may also reflect badly on British firms doing business in America. Enter Bob Dudley, BP’s managing director who has taken over day-to-day responsibility for managing the company’s oil spill response from Tony Hayward. Temperamentally, at least, he seems better suited to deal with the situation. He is also American; his accent may go some way to help BP rebrand itself beyond British, if not beyond petroleum.

As a footnote to this post, it is interesting to learn how many people believe “Beyond Petroleum” to be the actual name of the oil company. Witness the following:

“BP changed its name from British Petroleum to Beyond Petroleum. Our statistics suggest that even though BP has changed its name to Beyond Petroleum in the recent years, much of the public still thinks BP stands for British Petroleum and not Beyond Petroleum. Though the company changed its former name “British Petroleum” to Beyond Petroleum after merger with Amoco, it comes out that people were not aware of Beyond Petroleum till the BP Oil Disaster struck the Gulf of Mexico” : http://tinyurl.com/3yyfcbh

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