bp-logo1“If BP had stayed true to its ‘Beyond Petroleum positioning, it is likely that a disaster of this magnitude would not have occurred.”

So says the global brand consultancy, Interbrand, in its annual branding report that shows that BP has tumbled out of the world’s top brands due to Deepwater.

So BP may be within days of finally sealing its Macondo well, but the damage to the brand will last for years.

Only a month ago, I blogged how Interbrand were saying that the disaster was probably the most notorious brand crisis in recent memory.

And now the facts speak for themselves. BP knocked out of the top 100 global brands, with its brand effectively “destroyed”.

Interbrand concludes that the “majority of the company’s brand value has been destroyed” by the Gulf of Mexico disaster.

Interbrand stripped billions from BP’s brand value, which last year was calculated at $3.7bn, ranking the company 83rd, and instead promoted rival oil company Shell to 81st place, at $4bn.

Because BP did not make the top 100, Interbrand did not reveal its estimate of the company’s remaining brand value.

Interbrand’s annual report does not make good reading for BP. “Executives opted to put the brand at risk by taking shortcuts.”

It continues: “Minimal safety precautions, rushed drilling, ignored warning signs that the well was exhibiting indicators that it might explode, and a managerial decision to shut off the Deepwater Horizon fire alarm to prevent waking up workers with 3AM false alarms are all examples of an internal lack of commitment to the brand’s stated beliefs.”

Jean-Pierre Dube, a University of Chicago marketing professor argues that BP’s brand fell so much because the reality of its operations was so far removed from its promise to go beyond petroleum.  “It stood for energy and reliability,” says Dube. “It was one of those big brands that people just trusted, and they were at the forefront of industry.”

The bottom line is that you cannot promise to go beyond petroleum and then backtrack so badly you cause the world’s largest oil spill.  It just doesn’t make sense.

Another report on Interbrand’s website, called “Learning from BP’s nightmare scenario”, also makes difficult reading for the oil executives.

“Let’s face it, things don’t get much worse for a brand’s health that the BP disaster  … Annus Horrbilis doesn’t begin to describe BP’s 2010”.

The paper offers three lessons for BP and then concludes: “turning the tide of public opinion will not be easy. It will require BP to show that it has truly learned its lesson and eradicated any risk of an oil spill. It will also require that it rethink its “Beyond Petroleum” promise – a tagline that it has proven impossible to hold true to”.

But here Interbrand misses the point – rather than rethink its beyond petroleum promise – BP could actually start to go Beyond Petroleum, and really lead the renewable revolution.

That would be one way to rebuild the brand.