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Given the controversy surrounding the safety performance of the category, building a positive public image is difficult for oil brands. Shell, however, rose to the challenge and, despite an oil spill off the coast of Nigeria, managed to maintain a strong brand image. That image, however, is at risk of becoming tarnished as Shell dives into the highly controversial business of Arctic drilling. Shell’s actions in the Arctic have made it the target of culture jamming, a tactic that involves subverting the media as a form of protest. In this case, Greenpeace and activist duo, the Yes Men, created an elaborate hoax in which they impersonated Shell and used a fake website and video to make their statement. Perhaps wisely, Shell has not reacted strongly to the stunt. It is too early to predict how Arctic drilling will affect profits and how pressure from environmental activists will affect Shell’s brand strength. To safeguard its image — and avoid the negative consequences and cost of an accident — Shell might consider cooperating with those who want to develop a vision for the Arctic that is based on science, preparedness, and protecting the health of ecosystems.
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