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Crying Over Spilled Coffee

So, there is a YouTube video making the rounds. You may have seen it: "BP Spills Coffee." It shows a bunch of BP executives (actors) in a boardroom. One spills his Styrofoam cup of coffee. Things snowball from there as the executives prove utterly inept when it comes to cleaning the widening puddle of coffee.

"My laptop, my laptop!" screams one guy, and a woman responds by putting her hands between the spreading coffee and the computer. "Boom," she says. But her booms don't work and the coffee is encroaching on one guy's map of Louisiana and another guy's sushi. "The fish!" "Boom," she says, putting her hand between the coffee and the sushi. Of course she only has two hands.

At one point one of the guys says, "Everyone, I've got the solution!" Ah! He picks up a roll of paper towels, tears off a sheet. No, he doesn't mop up the coffee, he uses the sheet as scrap paper to draw a design for a makeshift cardboard capping device to cover the overturned coffee cup, which he lowers from a stick.

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Another exec gets his eureka moment, picks up an office trash bin and dumps the entire thing, wrappers, gum, garbage, on the table, a junk shot that just creates more of a mess. Another guy tries cutting off a lock of his hair and sprinkling it on the table, as someone else spills his cup of coffee. Someone bursts into the room. "The guys from Halliburton are here," he shouts.

"Good," says BP's prez. "Send 'em in." In come the Halliburton idiots with a tray of more coffee cups.

"This is your fault," says the president. "We didn't spill the coffee, we just provided the cups," says the Halliburton dope, who turns to storm out, knocking into his assistant, who spills all of the cups of coffee on his tray onto the table. Finally, they call Kevin Costner, who tells them they are SOL. Forty-seven days later, the table is now ruined; the room is empty.

Yes, BP's reputation is in the hole and it's only going to get deeper as it becomes clear that not only are each of the company's efforts failing and/or making matters worse, but as it becomes more widely understood that the company (and its suppliers) could have prevented this in the first place.

As for the suppliers, well, I'd say Halliburton's rep is going to take a hit, but that's saying the Titanic might be leaking. Halliburton's rep has been dirt since Baghdad was Mesopotamia (Halliburton isn't even a U.S. company any more, having decamped for Dubai three years ago), and since it is a services firm, consumer perception is as irrelevant to its business as it is to, say, Blackwater's -- I mean Xe's.

So, here's the $27 billion (BP's cash on hand) question: does BP's reputation matter to its bottom line? The quick answer is, "No." American's consume 800 million gallons of Texas tea per week, and nobody ever heard of a pusher making house calls. We can make all the noise we want, but we will come to the BP pumps when the needle hits "E."

Still, BP vowed to spend $8 billion over a period of 10 years on renewable technology, wind, solar, and the like, though at $800 million a year, that's not a lot for a company that made $125 billion from 2001 to 2009. It's like an enhanced PR effort.

Meanwhile, YouGov's BrandIndex, a daily consumer perception research service, actually says Goldman Sachs still has a worse rep than BP. The survey of some 5,000 people each weekday asks, "If you've heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, was it positive or negative?" As of two days ago and in a range from +100 to -100, Goldman Sachs was -40.1 and BP was -34.4.

The firm says that, at its worst, on March 25, Toyota's buzz score was -52.7. A graph of the trends has BP's rep dropping off a cliff, plummeting past even Goldman Sachs like a skydiver whose chute didn't open.

All of which is meaningless if someone competent, or just about anyone, can't find a way to kill the gusher. Mr. Costner?

1 comment about "Crying Over Spilled Coffee".
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  1. Kevin Horne from Lairig Marketing, June 14, 2010 at 12:53 p.m.

    Odd, cynical conclusion. I guess you don't believe in brand trust, influencers, social media, and most of all customer choice.

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