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Jul 30, 2010 7:25 AM by Sharlee Barriere

US Gas Stations: Stay BP or Change Name to Amoco?

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - BP gas station owners across the country are
divided over whether the oil giant stained by its handling of the
Gulf spill should rebrand U.S. outlets as Amoco or another name as
part of its effort to repair the company's badly damaged
reputation.
Some who have seen their sales plunge because of protests say BP
has already sought a fresh start by naming an American to replace
its gaffe-prone British CEO, so why not change the name on gas
stations marquees as a further symbol of that culture shift.
Others worry that a name change is a big deal that is risky
given all the marketing dollars already spent building up the BP
brand. They also believe a successful turnaround with the existing
brand will have a bigger payoff.
In the aftermath of the oil spill, some BP-branded gas stations
reported sales declines of 10 percent to 40 percent from Florida to
Illinois. BP later responded by offering distributors of BP
gasoline cash in their pockets, reductions in credit card fees and
help with more national advertising.
The BP name and green-and-yellow sunflower logo took over after
BP merged with Amoco in the late 1990s, replacing the Amoco name
and its blue-and-red torch inside an oval logo.
There is precedent for such a drastic move to return to the
Amoco name or to go with a new name. Think AirTran after the
ValuJet crash and Xe Services after the killing of civilians by
Blackwater Worldwide guards in Iraq.
John Kleine, who heads a trade group that represents
distributors of BP gasoline in the U.S., told The Associated Press
that interest in changing names has not reached a fever pitch by
any means, but it has supporters and is percolating among station
owners ahead of their annual convention with BP executives in
October.
"Is it on the minds of people? Sure," Kleine said. "It would
not be a topic of conversation if not for the oil spill."
Kleine noted that many distributors would still like BP to try
to rebuild its existing brand, and if that cannot be done, then to
consider alternatives.
Distributors in many cases also own and operate stations.
Two BP officials said in e-mails that the company is not
considering rebranding U.S. gas stations.
BP owns just a fraction of the more than 11,000 stations across
the U.S. that sell its fuel mostly under the BP banner. ARCO, a BP
affiliate, is predominant in the West. Kleine said the Amoco name
is no longer supposed to be used, but acknowledged in rare cases it
may still exist in a few locations. Most BP-branded stations are
owned by local people whose primary connection to the oil company
is the logo and a contract to buy gasoline.
Bob Juckniess, who owns 10 BP-branded stations in the Chicago
area, is in the camp that wants BP to consider rebranding to Amoco
at U.S. outlets.
"The BP brand is very tarnished right now, not just the brand
but the reputation as a company is tarnished," said Juckniess. He
added, "Amoco was very well known and had a great reputation as a
name and a brand."
Juckniess said he feels so strongly about the issue that he
would "urge BP to look at the ramifications of such a change."
It is noteworthy that Bob Dudley, the American who will replace
Tony Hayward as CEO on Oct. 1, worked for 20 years at Amoco Corp.
On the other side of the debate is Jeff Miller, whose company
owns, operates and supplies roughly 56 BP-branded stations
primarily in southeastern Virginia.
He said that if BP does the job right and invests back in its
brand and customer base, it stands to gain more by not changing the
name at U.S. stations.
"When you look at all the case histories of all that have done
it well, whether it is Toyota, Tylenol or Exxon, they have all
reinvested in their brand and done a better job," Miller said.
"If you just change the name and don't change the behavior, have
you really gained anything?"
Miller said he has heard from a number of station owners who
have suggested BP rebrand U.S. stations as Amoco, but he describes
that as a "knee-jerk reaction." "I think you get a better return by working on repairing your
reputation than starting fresh," he said.
Jim Donnini, whose company owns, operates and supplies roughly
75 gas stations in Florida that fly under brands including Chevron,
Exxon, Shell, Sunoco and Valero, said Amoco was a very strong brand
in Florida.
"Everybody thought they missed their opportunity to keep it
that way," Donnini said of BP, referring to the aftermath of the
Amoco merger.
Donnini, who doesn't own any BP stations, said he has heard from
owners of BP-branded stations in Florida who would like BP to
consider a name change at U.S. stations.
"It's really a shame the independent businessmen that fly that
BP flag are being victimized," Donnini said.

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