are you up for the challenge? BP’s careers tagline says it all

May 25, 2010

in communication,crazy things companies do,culture

thanks, BP, for perfectly demonstrating the concept behind the saying “everything communicates.”

BP_Logo_color

just three years ago, BP unveiled a new logo to exemplify their passion and commitment for the environment. yet here we are today, with BP’s oil jeopardizing our waterways, fish, jobs, health. their logo and status as impassioned protector of the earth have become a joke, even if it’s no laughing matter. that’s because there’s a serious breakdown between what they want us to believe about them and what they’re doing.

what they’re doing

in case you’ve missed any of the woeful tale, i’ll run down the basics:

the spill took place on april 20, 2010. first reports were of 1,000 barrels a day leaking into the gulf of mexico. latest estimates are 5,000. and even that’s being questioned.

on may 6, BP admitted they were looking for good solutions, and it appears they still are. they’ve gone from sucking the oil into a ship to using a toxic chemical to clean up the toxic mess to now trying something called a top kill, since hair wasn’t going to cut it. they’ve set up a site to crowdsource ideas (one of the first times I’m leery of crowdsourcing), and others have jumped in as well. the media may have laughed, but BP graciously (graspingly?) accepted kevin costner’s offering of his ocean therapy machines.  each new idea seems increasingly preposterous, so much so that jon stewart and stephen colbert don’t need to add punch lines. the ideas, or lack thereof, stand as one.

rather than standing up, being frank, and taking the hit (see zappos), BP’s wasted time and trust pointing fingers at their partners and offering fisherman work in return for relinquishing their rights to future legal action and to speaking out on what they see.

what they’re communicating

for the sake of argument, let’s say BP eventually stems the flow of oil and fashions a cleanup that rectifies some of the damage threatening louisiana’s marshes and wildlife, plus surrounding gulf states. what then? their PR, marketing, and leadership team have been feverishly making the rounds to ensure that customers’, investors’, and employees’ loyalties stay with them, and that we continue to see BP as the careful steward of the earth they imagined themselves—or willed us to believe―when they created their new image.

guess what? the jig is up. not only do all their above actions communicate their true culture and interests, but so does this gem from an in-depth report:

“The lack of available technology, however, was forewarned in multiagency reports following the training exercises—reports that cautioned the oil industry would not spend the money to develop new containment solutions unless mandated by the government. The recommendation went unheeded, according to officials and experts.”

everything communicates. and what BP’s communicated is that they don’t care about the earth. they don’t care about the communities where they work. they don’t care about investing in proper planning and preparation, which could’ve potentially prevented all of this. i won’t comment on their people, other than to express sympathy for the family and friends of the eleven who’ll be memorialized this week.

BP’s troubles have nothing to do with social media spilling their poor leadership everywhere. their troubles are the age-old ones of message not matching actions. that logo BP so painstakingly refashioned is now the emblem of their missteps and misdeeds (witness greenpeace UK’s BP logo redesign contest). i wish BP good luck cleaning up this branding mess, and i hope it goes better for them than the physical one they’re currently mopping up.  i also wish them well in attracting new talent. their “are you up for the challenge?” tagline is no exaggeration.

bp are you up for the challenge

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