Searching for Brand Soul in the Gulf of Mexico

Regardless of how one might describe the disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico, I think we can all agree that the failure is, at its core, a human one. That human beings made decisions and chose to act in ways that eventually led to the disaster the world is now working to cope with and clean up.

It’s against this backdrop that Fast Company’s Jamey Boiter chimes in with the following –  Advice to BP: Forget Your Brand Image and Concentrate on Your Brand’s Soul.

What strikes me in reading Mr. Boiter’s advice is how ridiculous it all sounds juxtaposed against the reality of what’s happening. Why would someone even consider framing this disaster as a branding problem?

Far from a branding failure, this is a human failure.

And the failure is ongoing. Given the wildly inaccurate information regularly spewing from BP’s CEO, it’s obvious to everyone that this isn’t a “brand” misleading the public, it’s a human being. Time and again. Backed by an untold chorus of others who, it would appear, are also willing to be a part of it all. This isn’t about BP’s brand soul – whatever that’s supposed to mean – it’s about the character, soul, and actions of the human beings who choose to be a part of BP.

Not only is Boiter’s advice ridiculous, it serves to undermine the marketing profession overall. This language – this brand babble – serves no purpose but to divorce us from the truth of our actions and the very human nature of them. It’s this very distance – this supposed separation between what’s corporate / organizational and what’s human – that assists in creating the conditions under which disasters like Deepwater Horizon eventually happen.

Even his follow-up piece examining BP’s oil spill lexicon continues with the same brand babble. While seemingly trying to drive to the human core of the issue at hand, Boiter still can’t get away from the marketing speak.

How about letting the truth guide the communications for once? While certainly different in scale, there’s some pretty compelling evidence to support truth-guided communications during crises backed by swift action, integrity, and a human desire to do the right thing.

Let’s leave the discussions of “Brand Soul” behind – recognizing that brand babble isn’t part of the solution, it’s part of the problem.

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