The power and persistence of branding

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Hydrocarbon Processing.

Over the last few decades, we have seen much consolidation in the number of players in the oil & gas, refining and petrochemical sectors. This M&A activity is seen all across the owner/operators, EPC and supplier communities. Although the parent company name may change, usually the new owner is smart enough to leave registered or trademarked brand names intact.

This week at the SULPHUR ’17 conference in Atlanta we see this with the MECS brand of sulfuric acid and environmental technologies. Now owned by DowDupont, the name “MECS” had been originally an acronym for Monsanto Enviro-Chem Systems: the ownership changed, but the brand endures. In the late 1990s, Exxon acquired Mobil and as part of the FTC merger approval had to divest 1,000+ service stations on the US east coast to independent owners. These new owners got the right to keep using the former owner’s brand name on their stations for 10 yr. In the lubricants area, Mobil 1 was a leader in fully synthetic lubricants, and that brand name has been retained and is promoted for race cars.

The choice of brand name is an art. The SULTRAP product is a simple mechanical device with an internal float that prevents gases from buried molten sulfur pits from escaping. Many of the competing sulfur technology firms use this device, because of its minimal maintenance requirements. The name is easy to remember and evocative of the task it performs: kind of like a sewer P-trap in what it achieves.

On the organization name front, we also see what had been an American name become more global, while still retaining their acronym. What started out in 1945 as the Instrument Society of America then became the Instrument, Systems and Automation society in 2000, then in 2008 the International Society of Automation. All of that time, ISA retained the same acronym, and a three-lobed logo.

The 3M company was originally Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, but recognized the advantage of a shorter name not tied to a single state. The giant energy company BP started out as the Anglo-Persian Oil company, after World War II became British Petroleum. In 2003, in recognition of their green energy efforts, BP unveiled the slogan “Beyond Petroleum.” Although BP closed its solar unit in 2012, the phrase still aptly describes many current advances in both alternate feedstocks and fuels within the hydrocarbon processing industry.

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