Oil & Gas in a Word

Advertising guru Maurice Saatchi created the concept of one-word equity – using a single word to capture a brand’s value to its stakeholders. Can the same idea be applied to an entire industry? We posed the question (What’s one word to describe the Oil & Gas industry?) to 60,000 contacts and our wider industry network via LinkedIn and Twitter last month. See the word clouds for some of the many “Oil & Gas in a word” responses.

Our own experience, talking to people, especially in emerging markets, is an optimistic one – the industry is going through necessary changes but there are great opportunities out there.

The hundreds of replies to this midsummer exercise shows an industry still struggling to define itself positively. Responses came from around the world, predominantly from management and C-suite levels in O&G firms, but also included some from outside the industry…


We grouped the words into different categories – see chart above.  Half of all respondents took a neutral or realistic view – recognising it was “challenging” and “unpredictable” and “changing”, but tinged with some optimism – “Might improve”, “convalescing”.

The other half were divided equally between the positive and the negative.  But such a binary approach hides further variations in opinions.  Optimists ranged from the complacent 3-word “all is well” to the enthusiastic “awesome” but focused mostly on “opportunity”.  The pessimists and naysayers were even more divided between small groups who thought the industry was dead, or whose word suggested bad management or anti-social behaviour (“Heartless”, “Greed”, “Leaderless”), and the majority (20%) who were simply gloomy – “anxious”, “stagnant”, “slow”.

What does this tell us? It’s not a scientific study with a clearly defined sample, so let’s not over-analyse it.  But it illustrates an industry that still feels like it’s in intensive care – in recovery mode at best, struggling to come to terms with a new world, and at worst, according to a few, in terminal decline.

Based on this one word exercise, the industry’s brand equity is still negative, with all that that implies for investment, recruitment and public support.

We believe the optimists are right, and we join those who said “Opportunity”: oil is still in demand, and will be for another generation or two of workers. It’s up the industry’s leaders to seize the opportunity to adapt to a new world of energy and re-create positive value in the sector. Investing in people would be a good place to start.

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