Monday 21 November 2011

BP rebrand: beyond the pretty petal

An iconoclastic throwback to the misguided optimism of the 60s – that was my first impression on seeing BP's new corporate identity back in 2000.

The sunflower, the latest incarnation, was conceived by design agency Landor Associates and launched in the summer of a new millennium. It caused quite a stir. It carries some elements of the former green shield logo, but goes a lot further in re-positioning BP as a more eco-conscious and progressive company.

Is the "sunflower" logo a step forward?

It is a beautifully conceived logo which looks as fresh in 2011 as it did in 2000. Certainly it provides BP with a powerful emblem to project itself, and re-envisage its future – a global energy provider and a  leader within the renewable energy sector (biofuel, hydrogen, wind and solar power).

As I see it, the logo retains some of its brand heritage – blending green and yellow hues from the colour palette of its previous identity, it sends a subliminal message of continuity and a progressive approach that evolves in step with customer expectations.

You will notice too that the petals are perfectly aligned, economically stepped and tightly woven into a larger geometric floral pattern – this is science not just art, this symbolises BP's ability to integrate, to harness new technologies, such as solar energy. The right aligned positioning and externalising of the lettering outside of the logo sends a powerful message that BP is no longer the self-centred organisation it once was. The lower-case confirms this. Additionally, the emblem could be understood as a living bio-physical energy emitting entity, with BP strategically positioned to harness it.

"I think the logo and corporate rebranding is a brave and ambitious step forward for the organisation, but without delving into thorny political issues, BP will need to be increasingly vigilant and mindful of the gap in public perception." 

Greenwashing and public perception gap 

Aesthetics aside, it is hard to forget that BP's operations in the renewable energy sector accounts for a mere fraction of the total energy produced, the gap between public opinion and the outward message the brand conveys needs, more than ever, needs to be carefully staged.

The updated logo which formed part of BP's rebranding project "Beyond Petroleum" is managed by Ogilvy and Mather and its associated PR division. They have a tough time fighting of the critics who accuse the company of greenwashing.

The refurbishment programme that followed the rebranding work included the updating of 28,000 petrol stations, some becoming solar-powered. I will be discussing BP's refurbishment strategy in a future blog.

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