For generations it was known simply as BHP or The Big Australian until its merger 16 years ago with the South African miner Billiton.
But from today, the world’s biggest miner by market value will dump the merged BHP Billiton brand and go back to the future as plain BHP.
The move to recapture BHP’s status as a household name rather than a multinational giant comes as BHP defends itself from the activist US fund manager Elliott Associates, which is urging the company to abandon its dual listed structure in Australian and Britain.
The rebranding strategy in BHP’s “Think Big” campaign features a bold uppercase logo replacing the lowercase BHP Billiton insignia introduced with the Billiton merger in 2001.
BHP chief external affairs officer Geoff Healy said the campaign was designed to demonstrate the role BHP plays in the Australian economy and community.
“We fundamentally believe that, as society changes, it is up to us to make the case more confidently and effectively for the positive role that well-run and responsible companies play in society,” Mr Healy said.
“We will take the opportunity to change our logo and move to a brand that Australians have known for generations — BHP.”
The rebranding in 2001 came after extensive and costly research, but BHP now concedes that the abbreviated simple brand of BHP is “used colloquially around the world” despite the official name.
The Think Big campaign will include 30-second television commercials with print and online advertisements pushed via social media.
Participants in the commercials will be primarily BHP employees.
The company’s advertisements in the 1980s featured the late actor Bill Hunter who promoted “The Big Australian” or “Australia’s BHP”.
The strategy to reposition BHP’s image comes after reputational and financial damage from the deadly Samarco dam collapse in late 2015.
BHP senior management has also been criticised over a record of poor investments over the past decade, including the Billiton acquisition and shale oil in the United States.
However, last week Treasurer Scott Morrison signalled he would block any move by Elliott Associates to delist BHP from Australia and possibly break it up, describing the proposal as “unthinkable” and “contrary to the national interest”.
BHP — or The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited — was established in 1885 with a silver and lead mine at Broken Hill in western New South Wales.
Australian listed shares in the $119 billion company closed on Friday at $23.75 after falling below $15 in early 2016 after the Samarco disaster.
Follow Peter Ryan on Twitter at @peter_f_ryan and on his Main Street blog.