Described as a “potentially unprecedented” environmental disaster by the President of the United States, the explosion of (and subsequent oil leak from) one of oil giant BP's rigs in the Gulf of Mexico on April 22nd has seen the brand's 'Impression' and 'Buzz' scores on BrandIndex plummet.
BrandIndex's Impression score measures whether people have a 'generally positive' or 'generally negative' feeling towards a certain brand – and BP's score has fallen into the negative for the first time since January 2009. The drop, from a positive score of 5 on April 29th to almost -3 in recent days, shows the gathering negative public sentiment towards the company in response to the incident.
BrandIndex's 'Buzz' score, on the other hand, measures whether people have heard anything positive or negative about a certain brand and subtracts negative sentiments from positive ones to get a net score. Again, BP's 'Buzz' has fallen from -9 on the day of the explosion to the latest figure of -21, just as news continues to break about the consequences of the spill, which seem to be getting progressively worse as it nears the American coast.
For its part, BP has claimed all responsibility for the cleanup bill, and is planning on placing a 98-ton iron funnel over the leak at the sea floor in an attempt to prevent the oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico. This is taking place alongside parallel widespread efforts to minimise the impact of the oil slick on the sea's surface and ecosystem, in order to prevent the rapid worsening of an environmental disaster which has already been likened to Hurricane Katrina, the massive storm that devastated the state of Louisiana in 2005. It is perhaps this acceptance of accountability that has spared BP's 'Reputation' score (calculated by asking people if they would be ashamed or proud to work for the company) from seeing similar drops to the other measures – since the rig explosion, reputation has increased from 12.5 to 14.
BP still insists that the rig's contractor, Transocean, is to blame for the original explosion, but it seems that this attempt to divert the spotlight from itself has done little to help the public's general impression of the event. Despite considerable efforts from BP to contain the impact of the potential tragedy, its share prices have also fallen since the incident, by a sizeable 15%. The company's BrandIndex 'Buzz' and 'Impression' scores have mirrored this drop, and while these could arguably slide even further as the scale of the disaster fully comes to light, BP's continuing pledge to clean up the slick may yet see its overall reputation emerge unscathed among the British public.