Wednesday, September 08, 2004

BP & Amoco: A Half-Pregnant Approach to Brand Integration

If you happen to be in the market for a brand integration train wreck, look no further than BP and Amoco. It’s been about five years since the merger of these petroleum giants, and BP is now in the late stages of rebranding Amoco gas stations to BP. And they probably could not have done it any worse.

The BP identity that was developed also about five back was some very interesting and exciting work: graphics of yellow and green against a clean white backdrop and next to messaging that earnestly expressed a perspective of environmental awareness and alternative energy sources, creating a unique voice in the petroleum market.

But joining these two brands proved beyond the scope of this identity initiative. When it came time to integrate the brands at the retail level, the problem was – and remains – Amoco’s brand equity with consumers. Amoco was a dominant and recognized major consumer gasoline brand. BP has never enjoyed such a position in the US market.

The solution? Turn Amoco into an ingredient brand for fuels, potentially a very solid idea. The execution, however, is a nightmare. The dissonant Amoco identity of black, blue and red is featured in a landscape of green, yellow and white at the pump and on retail signage. Some stations even have signs proclaiming “Still Here” next to the Amoco signage – suggesting a time-sensitive relationship that’s on its way out the door.

If BP is looking to leverage the equity in Amoco and transfer it to BP, shouldn’t they suggest a long-term commitment to the Amoco brand (or, at least, to its product line?).

When it comes to major gasoline brands, there seem to be two camps among consumers: (1) Those who are brand-sensitive due to habit or product performance or reward programs or unique service features (like Mobil’s brilliant SpeedPass); and (2) Those who are fairly brand agnostic among a perceived A-list, choosing on price, location, convenience, etc…

BP has failed to properly communicate their absorption of Amoco to both of these camps. Amoco enthusiasts have been signaled that their brand will have a short shelf-life. And for the swing voters – so to speak – BP seems to have removed itself from a consideration set that includes Mobil, Exxon, Shell and, formerly, Amoco.

I like the idea of turning Amoco into a product brand or an ingredient. This would have worked had BP created a more harmonious identity for Amoco – and the two could have co-existed nicely at retail. As it stands, BP would have probably fared just as well by chucking the Amoco brand entirely and making the retail gas experience a focus of its awareness campaign.

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