Ardova Plc (Former BP, AP, Forte Oil) is a Nigerian leading indigenous and integrated energy company involved in the distribution of petroleum products with an extensive network of over 450 retail outlets in Nigeria.
Though one of the foremost legacy brands in Nigeria, it has a notorious history of being the only major Nigerian brand to have changed ownership and rebrand four times, hence making this particular exercise attract the attention and curiosity of industry watchers.
The company, which entered Nigeria over 57 years ago as British Petroleum (BP) in 1964, was indigenized in 1978, with the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) owning 60% and the Nigerian public 40%. In 1979, the name was changed to African Petroleum (AP) and sold to Zenon Oil, owned by Nigerian billionaire Femi Otedola in 2007. In 2010, the company underwent another rebrand from AP to Forte Oil. In 2019/2020, the company was again sold to Ignite investments and commodities limited for a 74.02% equity stake in the company.
In the years following British Petroleum’s indigenization and subsequent change of name to AP, the AP brand became popular across Nigeria. It became a huge part of everyday people’s lives as it was seen both in cities and rural areas, with bus stops named after the brand. The brand evolved to Forte Oil many years later, yet, more than ten years after it rebranded, the Forte Oil stations were still called AP. It was a legacy brand that became part of Nigerians’ lives.
A critical challenge with the deal reached between both companies was IP ownership and non-usage of the existing brand name Forte Oil. Arden & Newton was tasked with a somewhat complex brief to develop a bold new brand strategy that connected the brand to its heritage and legacy while positioning for the future of energy in Africa. This strategy must be crystalized with a new name, vision, identity, and service experience design.
First, we took a broader look at the global energy industry to gain a deeper understanding. A look at the global energy scene shows a radical evolution and movement towards sustainability and clean energy as an intentional corporate strategy. This outlook, plus available data, points to growing investments in renewable and cleaner energy solutions. Oil majors worldwide, mostly known for fossil energy, are now reinventing themselves for a different kind of energy future. However, a cursory look at the local scene in Africa. It became clear that there was a gap in sustainability leadership and the race for cleaner energy solutions by industry players. What better company to do this than one with more than five decades of experience in the continent’s largest economy and largest oil producer? It understands the past, with enough experience to lead the movement into the future.
Our pitch for the future
The world AP wants to return to has changed significantly over the past 56 years, and the future will continually evolve. The way energy was consumed when the company first emerged on the scene and today has completely been transformed; fast-growing urban sprawls with unimaginable energy consumption patterns and lifestyle changes, economic and infrastructural growth, energy-intensive industries have all contributed to the different world AP will be returning to today. If we must make this return, then we must prepare to play a role in designing a brave new world.
This pitch was summed up succinctly in a captivating tagline we developed for the company; energy for a brave new world.
Our next route was to find the local sweet spot that helped us connect the brand to the consumers’ hearts. After an intense and long period of internal research through decades of corporate business and policy documents to better understand the company’s enterprise strategy, we traveled across the length and breadth of Nigeria conducting surveys and interviewing aged retirees from both the BP and AP era to understand the experience of users better and have clear ideas of the blind spots from that era.
One thing was clear from this phase, though the company was called Forte Oil at this point, Nigerians still mostly referred to the brand as AP. There was also some bit of nostalgia among most Nigerians when the brand was mentioned. It was clear to us that nostalgia and a sense of ownership could play a huge role in creating something that connects to the heart of consumers.
Sustainability as a strategy.
Our strategy was simple; we worked back from the future into the past by first penning down a defining business model and strategy to better position the company for the future. We zoomed in on three pillars we modeled as S3; (1) sustainability as the bedrock of our corporate strategy, (2) superior product design, and (3) service excellence as the core driver of our brand experience design. The S3 framework became the tool with which we crafted the new name and also the identity.
How we renamed the company.
Our objective with our naming strategy was to find a clear path to encoding the company’s DNA and business model in its identity.
Ardova, hewn from a combination of the Dutch/Arabic word: Aarde, meaning earth, and the word ‘value’ mirroring the company’s ambitions to build a brand that has at the heart of its corporate strategy, sustainability leadership.
In creating the brand icon, we took the complex path of exploring the nexus between storytelling, geometry, astrophysics, and design. Based on the strategic direction of the company, we designed stories that capture the company’s future aspirations, culture, and positioning and represented these stories as geometric shapes.
These shapes were then morphed together to create a hexagram styled icon as the leading visual concept and take on the moniker (AP), which creatively connects the company to its rich history and heritage, a design approach that was taken to help create for the company, a link between history and modernity.
The final deliverable and brand manual included the logo mark, clearspace guidance, typography, color, lockup, usage guides and brand livery.
Re-inventing change from within
Before roll out, we worked with the senior management team to help rethink and redesign corporate culture, service experience design, and employee advocacy across the organization through the Ardova-X training program, a proprietary brand acculturation tool developed as part of a broader corporate transformation strategy.
Ardova executes its sustainability strategy with the roll-out of 100% solar-powered stations.