When Norway's oil giant Statoil announced a rebranding, it was not "horsing" around

Kat friend Ingrid Omli of Carpmaels & Ransford describes for us the particularly interesting story of what has happened in Norway in connection with the rebranding of Statoil.

Statoil, Norway’s most profitable company, has changed its name in an attempt to create a ‘greener’image and attract young talent. This follows a recent trend (e.g., here and here in the oil and gas industry started by British Petroleum back in 2000. The name change has, for a number of reasons, been met with mixed reactions.

Shareholders in Norway’s largest company recently voted to change its name from Statoil (literally, State Oil) to Equinor. The name change was announced by the oil giant in a press release on 15 March, but had to be voted through at the company’s general meeting, which took place on 15 May. The Norwegian government, which owns a 67% stake in the company, had already signalled that it would back the move, despite having blocked previous attempts at name change (see, e.g., here and here, but sorry, only in Norwegian).

In its press release, Statoil said that the name Equinor denotes ‘equal’, ‘equality’ and ‘equilibrium’ and it signals that Equinor is now a diverse energy company, moving from oil to cleaner energy. The ‘nor’ suffix was added to honour the company’s Norwegian roots and values. 


Statoil is arguably Norway’s most recognisable brand with an almost 50-year long history. The name change was always going to be controversial, and as expected, the announcement was met with immediate backlash and even ridicule in some quarters. Most commenters pointed out that ‘equi’ is the plural of the Latin ‘equus’, which means "horse". ‘Equ’ also frequently appears in words and names related to horses. For example, industry people in Poland have long been able to purchase Equinor, which targets gastric ulcers in horses, while in Ecuador, Hyundai sell cars under the name Equinorte.

The name change highlights the importance, even for big companies, of doing the requisite clearance searches and due diligence before embarking on a rebrand exercise. At the date of Statoil’s press release, the name ‘Equinor’ was already being used by a veterinary clinic specialising in ‘horses and pets’ and owned the domain name equinor.no. A Whois search reveals that the registration for the website now belongs to Statoil ASA and a note on the veterinary clinic’s name says it will be changing its name to Equina. The trade mark application for ‘Equinor’ was only filed on 19 February – less than one month before the rebrand was announced, and the application is still pending. As the rebranding is estimated to cost 250 million kroner (£23 million), Statoil presumably has ample funds to buy off up the rights if required, but this may not always be possible (see Apple’s iPad and iPhone disputes in China).

It is interesting to note the aggressive advertising campaign that Statoil has been conducting on major Norwegian news hubs since the name change was approved, and London based readers will currently be able to see tube adverts explaining the change. Statoil appear determined to make the new name stick and interviews from senior members of the company convey the message that Statoil is serious about greening-up its business. The more cynically minded say the rebrand represents a blatant attempt at ‘greenwashing’, and that taking ‘oil’ out of the name does not take the company out of the oil business.

At the end of the day, Statoil Equinor is probably big enough to do what it wants and the rebranding is unlikely to affect its business going forward, much like, this Kat suspects, keeping the Statoil name would not have prevented the company from moving away from oil and into cleaner, more renewable energy sources. Although Statoil will, for this blogger, always be associated with the blue and orange logo, to younger generations the new logo is all they can remember, and to those younger still, Equinor is all they will ever know. The point is, people will get over it. The only question that remains is why a company with virtually unlimited money to spend on brand consultancy services managed to come up with such a spectacularly bland, non-name.

Had Statoil cared to consult, members of the Norwegian public provided much more creative (and free) suggestions, some top picks of which are listed below in no particular order: Statkraft, EnergiNor, BS (Beyond Statoil), Thermo Stat, and of course, Oily McOilface.

When Norway's oil giant Statoil announced a rebranding, it was not "horsing" around When Norway's oil giant Statoil announced a rebranding, it was not "horsing" around Reviewed by Neil Wilkof on Wednesday, May 30, 2018 Rating: 5

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