BP’s brand value sinks with oil spill, but Toyota stays afloat despite recalls in new ranking

By Emily Fredrix, AP
Wednesday, September 15, 2010

BP’s brand value sinks with oil spill this year

NEW YORK — BP may have plugged the leak in the Gulf Oil spill, but the damage done to its brand will take years to fix. A new marketing industry report released Wednesday shows the British oil company has tumbled off a list of the world’s top 100 brands.

Japanese automaker Toyota suffered from repeated recalls and safety problems, pushing it out of the top 10 on branding firm Interbrand’s rankings for the first time in seven years, according to the report released Wednesday.

The damage could have been worse for Toyota, said Interbrand CEO Jez Frampton, hinting at how far BP fell. But Toyota already had a reputation for reliability and turned back to that as it dealt with the crisis.

“Where Toyota got it right was that they went back to their vision, and they talked about what the Toyota brand was really about, quality and safety,” he said. “BP continued talking about tactics, not strategy, and they’re still not telling us what their long-term vision is.”

Brands are considered a company’s most valuable asset. They’re more than just logos and colors. Brands are shortcuts for shoppers, letting them know exactly what to expect.

Interbrand ranks companies by the amount of their revenue attributable to their brands. It uses a formula that combines the brand’s future strength and its role in creating demand.

Coca-Cola, IBM and Microsoft were again the three most valuable brands this past year. Coca-Cola has held the top spot every year since the survey’s inception in 2000, with its brand valued at $70.45 billion this year.

When brands don’t live up to their identity, they suffer, said Jean-Pierre Dube, a University of Chicago marketing professor. BP fell so much because the lengthy saga of the oil spill, coupled with the company’s mishandling of the crisis, was at odds with its identity. For years the company has been pushing its “Beyond Petroleum” slogan to get people to think of it as more than just an oil producer.

“It stood for energy and reliability,” he said. “It was one of those big brands that people just trusted, and they were at the forefront of industry.”

And now?

“The immediate emotion it evokes is anger and a little bit of distrust. It feels a little bit like the Enron scandal.”

Technology companies Apple and Google grew the most in terms of dollar value, jumping at least 36 percent. Google moved from seventh to fourth place, while Apple moved from the 20th to 17th.

Google’s Android operating system became a major player in the cell phone market, while Apple introduced new products including the iPad tablet.

Technology companies now make up half of the top 10 — with Intel, Nokia and HP also in the top tier this year. Frampton said people feel strongly about technology now.

“Our desire to have our hands on those brands is significant,” he said. “It shows that the role of these brands and products in our lives has increased significantly.”

Macho motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson fell the farthest of companies still on the list (to 98 from 73) as its sales weakened in the slumping economy. Its brand value fell 24 percent to $3.28 billion.

(This version CORRECTS Harley-Davidson ranking move (to 98 from 73). )

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