BP’s problem is that the gap between truth and fiction is so huge, and the stakes are so high when that distance is revealed.

The company’s CEO illustrated this disconnect recently when he said that BP hadn’t done more to prepare for such a disaster because it “seemed inconceivable,” after reports surfaced that it had forgone a $500,000 “acoustic trigger” shut-off device required of offshore oil wells operating near Norway and Brazil. Turns out that going “beyond petroleum” didn’t warrant another half-million expense.

So where is all the brand equity BP has spent a decade propagating into the cosmos? Gone, I say; worse, it only accentuates the dishonesty at the core of its business. It is going to be harder from now on for analysts to accurately judge its performance, just as media will need to more closely question its statements. Is it possible that those beautiful austere filling stations will serve as visible reminders of disasters and dishonesty to consumers as they drive past?

Think how differently we’d all react if BP had been telling us the truth all along. Instead, as one dim bulber put it, the brand is “beyond pathetic.”

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