Brand Fatigue Hinders AAPG Sustainability

What is “brand”?

The London-based Design Council notes that: “Brand is a set of associations that a person (or a group of people) makes with a company, product, service, individual or organization. These associations may be intentional – that is, they may be actively promoted by marketing and/or corporate identity – or they may be outside the control of the business.”

For example, the growing belief among younger demographics that the fossil fuel industry represents the fuels of their parents.

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What is “brand”?

The London-based Design Council notes that: “Brand is a set of associations that a person (or a group of people) makes with a company, product, service, individual or organization. These associations may be intentional – that is, they may be actively promoted by marketing and/or corporate identity – or they may be outside the control of the business.”

For example, the growing belief among younger demographics that the fossil fuel industry represents the fuels of their parents.

In early 2018, I completed a strategic assessment of this organization for the Advisory Council. The assessment determined that AAPG, in its current form, does not appear to be a sustainable enterprise over the long term. One factor attributing to this is the recognition that the AAPG brand, and its divisions, is largely unknown outside of the oil and gas geoscience community. To illustrate, the Energy and Minerals Division is a natural gathering for individuals that share a passion for alternative energy forms, and the critical materials that they require. Unfortunately, the EMD is largely unrecognized by broader geoscience disciplines, its membership is flat, and because it sits within the AAPG umbrella, its visibility is restricted to current members of this Association. Although AAPG provides relevant content in the environmental fields, carbon sequestration, and renewable energy forms, most of this information is not disseminated within the growing community of alternative energy scientists – a group of people that will likely never associate with AAPG’s current brand.

You’re probably aware of the fact that AAPG has been experiencing significant membership decline. Many factors could be contributing to this trend, including: attrition resulting from retiring Baby Boomers, changes to industry staff requirements as a consequence of the unconventional revolution, the evolving worldviews of millennials and Generation-Z, the broader appeal of competing organizations, among others. AAPG’s membership trends are the result of one, or a combination of these factors. It could also be a reflection of its brand, and its loss of perceived relevance in a rapidly evolving and competitive landscape of geoscience communities.

As members, we should constantly evaluate whether or not the AAPG brand fulfills its mission of being “indispensable to geoscientists,” and whether or not it is capable of attracting and retaining the individuals that are required to ensure its sustainability. Based on my 2018 strategic assessment, and a recent analysis conducted by the 2019/20 Advisory Council’s Strategic and Long Range Planning Committee, there are arguments to be made that the organization is failing in this regard, and without rapid, meaningful change, AAPG risks further loss of its ability to attract and retain members.

There has never been a more dynamic period for oil and gas exploration and production than what we are experiencing today. Over the past decade, internal and external forces have rapidly changed the way that we operate as an industry. Yet, over the past 100 years, AAPG has maintained a relatively stagnant and traditional brand. Competing organizations like the Society of Petroleum Engineers and the European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers are rapidly distinguishing themselves as internationally diverse gatherings for geoscientists, with operations that can respond rapidly to events such as the COVID-19 global pandemic, fluctuations in commodity prices, evolving social and environmental sentiment, and their impacts on industry. Knowing this, one could argue that the AAPG brand may have consequences on its future financial viability as it could be overlooked when corporate sponsorship decisions are being made, and when future geoscience professionals evaluate the type of associations they wish to fund.

The Sustainability of AAPG

Major social trends put AAPG’s sustainability at risk should it not consider a change to its brand and operations. In 2017, Ernst and Young conducted an extensive survey that provided an in-depth view on how individuals view oil and gas and the companies that produce them. EY concluded that a seismic (no pun intended) cultural shift is underway that will make it increasingly difficult for companies to attract and retain knowledgeable and highly skilled workers. Notably, the survey found that 62 percent of older Generation-Z (ages 16 – 19) respondents view a career in oil and gas to be unappealing. The numbers were not as startling among Millennials (ages 20 – 35), with 44 percent having an unappealing view of a career in this industry. Perhaps most concerning is the fact that more than two out of every three teenagers believe that the oil and gas industry causes more problems than it solves.

Many of you reading this will think that these responses are incompatible with your beliefs. However, they are what they are, and it is important that AAPG recognizes the changing worldviews of younger generations.

As professionals, we understand that global energy requirements are projected to grow substantially into the future. We also understand that many young professionals will inevitably find their way into our industry. But it’s unlikely that they will all commit to traditional careers in oil and gas. Furthermore, the EY data indicates that these individuals may not associate with organizations catering to a narrow focus on what they describe as “their parents’ fuels.” Many will, and already are, committing themselves to what they believe are more fulfilling careers in renewable energy and environmental sustainability.

A Call to Action

Through renaming, and a focused rebranding that expands scope beyond traditional oil and gas geoscience, AAPG has an opportunity to diversify itself by becoming a geoscience platform for “all things energy.” A new association name and subtle scientific diversification should not be feared, it should be embraced as a way to ensure that this organization prioritizes its long-term success. This change can be accomplished in a manner that protects the rich petroleum history of our past, but it is essential that we broaden our appeal to the 21st century market.

By rebranding, AAPG can establish a competitive advantage relative to peers that are offering similar membership benefits. After all, these discussions are already occurring within these competing societies. Is AAPG content with this? We must be mindful that this opportunity only exists for so long.

Comments (6)

I am glad that Kuleli Dutt feels that every white male is a racist even if he dosen't know it she will make sure to detail how bad, you, the white male (or white people overall) are without knowing you. That article, is the rankest example of cognitive rational thought. She has no backup besides her feelings that somehow the geosciences are "systematically racist" due to the lack of diversity and that lack of diversity is whitey's fault. That in itself is racist and that diversity for diversity sake is immoral and wrong. To give a position to someone due to their race, color, greed, religion, etc is unethical and will certainly foretell the downfall of any entity that does so. The best person for the job is necessary for growth and profitability of companies. And guaranteed who every that person is, if they do their job well and make themselves valuable to the entity they will be well rewarded. I have seen it for all those I worked with through these past three decades be them black, woman, Russian, Mexican ( and I mean Mexican, of Mexican descent) , Gay whatever, they all reach very respectable and respected levels in their fields and jobs. And many were my mentors and partners. The best leveler of playing fields is capitalism and the competitiveness that comes with it. If you excel at your job and create value you will be well rewarded. If not at your company on your own.
8/4/2020 9:20:06 AM
Level the Playing Field
Speaking for myself – and agreeing that we would all prefer to focus on geology and exploration – I cannot let this thread go unchallenged. If the playing field of geology were level, I might accept the comments about just wanting to go out and find hydrocarbons. We know that the playing field is not level. This is why the AAPG Women’s Network and the STEMulating Diversity SIG and organizations like the National Association of Black Geoscientists are so necessary. As many of us work to level the playing field for all geoscientists, I hope all AAPG members will welcome anyone who is ethical and qualified – young or not so young – to join our AAPG. I also urge AAPG members to avail themselves of the full extent of the talent that is available when they hire or collaborate. As for peer-reviewed papers relevant to finding and producing petroleum, I refer readers to the AAPG Bulletin. The AAPG Explorer is designed to cover news of interest to AAPG members. And for a paper on racism in geoscience, I refer readers to this:
8/2/2020 2:04:17 PM
Make AAPG Great Again
I can tell as a member that all the identity politics, (womens network, black geos, etc), global warming, sustainabilty (whatever that is), all this inclusion BS, etc is what is driving alot of members out. I for one have damn near torn up my card on several occasions. I don't see any gender race, creed, religion or and any of the alphabet soup people when I am hunting for hydrocarbons. I just want a partner who can find them with me when needed. If you can find million bbl fields regularly I don't believe anyone in the oil and gas business cares what you look like or do on your down time. Also I am quite sure we should not be looking at what anyone under the age of 25 thinks about the oil and gas industry. They hardly recognize that over 90% of what they do and handle everyday is associated with petroleum. We are Petroleum Geologist. Leave the the AAPG alone and start putting more papers concerning the hunt and finding of hydrocarbons within its publications and less about what women, men, brown, black global warming people are concerned with.
7/29/2020 10:00:04 AM
A modest remane could change a lot
I agree, AAPG needs to change with the times. Brand names hold an incredible amount of intrinsic heritage, goodwill, and value. Major oil companies have changed names for the better without loosing their legacy identity. For example, "British Petroleum, plc" changed its name to "PB, plc" and has benefited from the name change without loosing it legacy value and heritage. BP's name change is an instructive example of a brand name change that kept the organization's heritage whilst modernizing its image (many people referred to British Petroleum, plc as "BP" long before the formal name change). AAPG can simultaneously modernize its appeal and enhancing its brand name by changing its name to the "American Association of Professional Geoscientists." Admittedly, the new name would approximate the the American Institute for Professional Geologists (AIPG). But the AIPG was founded in 1963, over 4 decades after after the founding of the AAPG. The geoscientists in both organizations have not experienced any harm, to my knowledge, and get along well. By making this change, the AAPG could still be the called "AAPG" in the vernacular, and thereby retain some of its heritage and value. "AAPG" would not need to change its domain name on the internet. The message of this new name would connote the broader scope of the AAPG to include all working professional geoscientists and disciplines - which is what the AAPG has been trying for to do for decades anyway by establishing the EMD and DPA over the years. Another benefit is that the proposed name would reinforce the message of the professionalism of the AAPG members.
7/28/2020 3:56:21 PM
Things have a beginning, a middle, and an end. AAPG is no exception. It is not just the young which have observed that the heyday of oil and gas exploration is over. Secondary and tertiary engineering of the proven unconventional deposits is the future. Those mostly non-geologic efforts will provide all the oil and gas needed as we transition to alternative fuels, and perhaps lower consumption. AAPG needs to make no changes or apologies. The point is not to have a big organization, but a quality one, fit for purpose. AAPG can do that.
7/28/2020 3:23:50 PM
Petroleum geology is, and should remain, the core mission of the AAPG
"Perhaps most concerning is the fact that more than two out of every three teenagers believe that the oil and gas industry causes more problems than it solves." I'm not so sure we should be leaning on the opinions of teenagers to determine the fate of the AAPG. If you've ever raised a teenager, you'll understand why. The good news is that the condition is temporary for most, and many of these youngsters will come to have a finer appreciation for the role of hydrocarbons in our civilization as they mature. While it is certainly true that "many factors" are contributing to the membership decline, one really need look no further than general demographics, the price of oil, and the nature of the geologic challenges of shale plays. Baby boomer geologists are retiring in droves, and economic pressures on oil companies are aggravating the trend. At the same time, a person who spent their career grappling with the complexities of salt tectonism in the GOM is unlikely to be intrigued by the subtleties of unconventional reservoir geology. That said, these difficulties, however unpleasant, are very likely temporary. Those who've been around the block a few times have seen it all before. Hydrocarbons are going to be with us for a long, long time as a primary source of energy. And, BTW, the 'P' in AAPG stands for petroleum. There's no reason to abandon the association's core mission, and it would be a disservice to humanity to do so.
7/28/2020 2:34:16 PM

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