BP: 'Stand By Your Brand'

CEO Dudley reassures U.S. retailers of company's commitment; says no to Amoco

LONDON -- BP PLC's new CEO Bob Dudley, who replaced Tony Hayward on October 1 after Hayward's missteps over the April oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, on Friday spoke to U.S. marketers at the BP Amoco Marketers Association Convention in National Harbor, Md. His message: "Stick with us." He told the attendees that "for three million customers a day in 10,000 gas stations in 27 states, you are BP." He added that despite speculation that the company would drop the BP brand and revive the Amoco brand, "We don't plan any changes."

Dudley acknowledged the difficulties that BP [image-nocss] retailers have had face--including consumer anger, protests and loss of business--but said, "You managed those difficult situations very professionally."

He said that in the Gulf region, sales were down year on year by up to 30% in some sites. Across the East of Rockies region. The company lost around 8% of sales this summer compared to last. "I appreciate what this has meant for you. Please do not think it has gone unnoticed. I appreciate it because while you were feeling the heat at the gas pumps it was also being felt by all of us in BP throughout America as we worked to kill the well and clean the beaches and marshes. It has been a very difficult time."

He emphasized BP's commitment to the United States. "People have been asking whether the U.S. will turn its back on BP or we will turn our back on the U.S.... I believe our relationships with the U.S. government, states and the American people can survive this crisis. We intend to be very co-operative and transparent with regulators and others and I do not believe we will lose our license to operate here."

Added Dudley: "I can promise you that I did not become chief executive of BP in order to walk away from my home country. BP will not be quitting America. There is too much at stake, both for BP and the U.S."

He added, "BP's heritage companies such as Amoco, ARCO and Sohio can trace their roots back many decades, in come cases to the 1860s and 70s. Today as BP, we are the leading producer of oil and natural gas in the United States. We currently employ around 23,000 people directly in this country and we support around 200,000 further jobs. We have 75,000 retirees. They live in all 50 states. We have million individual shareholders. We have over $55 billion in operating capital employed, including five refineries, and we sell more than 15 billion gallons of gasoline here every year."

Dudley specifically addressed why the company would not be switching back to the Amoco brand. "A brand, represented by a logo, is a company's personality and its promise. It triggers in people's minds every impression they have of a company, good or bad, accumulated over time. It's their perceptionsrather than what we saythat add to or detract from brand value."

"When people look at a BP logo on a gas station today they probably associate it with the accident and the spill. But our actions can help inform perceptions. And I would hope that people are starting to think about the magnitude and intensity of our response to that spill and the way we are doing as much as we can to restore livelihoods, look after the environment and rebuild relationships.

"I would hope they would also see a company that has suffered a terrible accident but has the humility and courage to learn from that incident and prevent such a thing happening again. I'd hope they would also see a company that is determined to do the right thing by the people of the Gulf region and across the United States. I prefer to look our customers in the eye and say to them We're sorry about what happened, but we're not running away and we're going to make it right.'

"Now I appreciate that it's not me, but you, that has to look the customer in the eye day by day. And it's asking a huge amount for you to stick with BP and to stick up for BP. But I urge you to keep faith with us. I promise we will do everything in our power to earn back the public's trust and if you stand by us I believe you will see sentiment changing over time--as indeed it has already started to do."

Also, on Monday, in speech at the annual conference of the Confederation of British Industry in London, Dudley launched a defense of BP's response to the spill, accusing the media and some in the oil industry of fear-mongering and a rush to judgment that exacerbated the crisis. Dudley also reiterated that BP will not quit its businesses in the United States, and said that the company intends to keep drilling in deep water in the Gulf of Mexico despite the damage to its reputation.

He said he was shocked by the "protracted media and political firestorm" that the spill ignited, which at its height "threatened the very existence of our company."

He said, "Let me spend a moment talking about the U.S., because there has been much comment in recent months suggesting the U.S. might turn its back on BP or BP could leave the U.S. I am confident that neither of these propositions is true. Contrary to what is sometimes said, BP is not widely seen over there as "British Petroleum": we're part of the American community."

Click hereto read the full text of the speech to the BP Amoco Marketers Association.

Andclick here to read the full text of the CBI speech.