Why oil as a brand keeps getting a bad rap in the marketplace

OIL: three little letters that evoke incredible emotion in B.C., Alberta and around the world. Oil has been used in the construction of walls and towers in Babylon and has been used for heating by the Chinese for more than 2,000 years. So why does it have such a bad reputation? 

What if it is not the brand of oil itself that we mistrust? What if, instead, it is the brand of those who mine and transport the oil that we are really fearful of and mistrust, and it has nothing to do with the oil itself?

The mistrust and hatred of oil are misdirected; they should be focused instead on the people that regulate, produce and transport it. The mistrust of brand should be against those who have not proven that they can maintain safe storage and transport, and keep the environment from being polluted if breaches occur.

Oil has become a toxic word and can rally hundreds and thousands of people against it, merely by mentioning its name. However, those vehemently opposed to it, and those who fight against its harvest and transportation the loudest, use it every day. The food people eat is transported to homes by it, as is the storage containers that the organic food comes in. Rich, poor, right wing, left wing, environmentally conscious or not, oil is part of all our lives. So why do some people fight with their hearts and souls against its production?

The answer that I have is lack of trust in the brand. This in itself seems very odd. We depend on oil for so many facets of our lives, so why would we not trust it?

When many people think of oil, they think of the Exxon Valdez, the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster or pipes bursting and spilling thousands of barrels of oil into the environment. Think about it! It is not the oil that people are afraid of; it is the oil disasters caused by human carelessness.

Another example of brand mistrust is the mishandling of the narrative regarding the twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline between Alberta and B.C. The current pipeline is nearly 60 years old. Twinning it will do much more than allow more Alberta oil to be delivered to the world. It will provide a cost-effective opportunity to upgrade the current pipe and extend its life to ensure that it does not become the source of a future disaster. Again, that ineffectively communicated narrative has led to mistrust of the brand.

There are federally regulated and regularly recertified companies whose sole purpose is to deal with accidents when they occur. Whether it is on land, lake, river or ocean, their mandate, paid for by the oil and oil transportation industry, is to clean up spills as soon as they are detected. These companies have rapid deployment plans and have been dispatched to clean up oil spills around the world. The problem is, no one knows about them. This lack of public awareness perpetuates the fear of an oil industry unprepared to deal with disaster.

Oil’s bad reputation is unfounded. Successful brands are founded on trust and understanding. Those who work to bring oil to the world, unfortunately, have not communicated their long-term goal to safeguard the oil in its transport effectively and have tainted the brand.

So, what is your brand doing to demonstrate its value and communicate that effectively to the audience you wish to serve? 

Ben Baker is president and CEO of Your Brand Marketing (yourbrandmarketing.com).