BP (NYSE: BP) is toast. It just doesn't realize it yet.

I was hearing analysts, including fellow Fools, pounding the table on the value of the beleaguered petroleum giant yesterday. The stock has shed roughly $75 billion in market cap since the horrific oil fiasco began in the Gulf of Mexico.

Some pros feel that the carnage is overdone. As of Tuesday, BP has spent only $990 million in its flawed efforts to fix the problem. Even if BP's ultimate tab runs into the billions -- or the tens of billions -- the company should have the financial mettle to survive the blow.

On paper.

The real reason BP's days are numbered is that the brand itself is a goner. BP isn't the only one with oil-slicked hands. It may only be partly to blame, and that's important, as things have escalated to the point of having the feds have open a criminal probe into the situation.

However, as the consumer-facing component in this foul-up, it's the one that will take the brunt of the public outrage. Fingers may point at Transocean (NYSE: RIG) and notoriety magnet Halliburton (NYSE: HAL), but BP is the one that lay consumers can relate to as they drive past its pumps everyday.

And, oh, there's plenty of disdain for British Petroleum these days.

  • A mock Twitter account for BP's public relations -- jabbing at the company at every turn -- topped 100,000 followers this week. That's 10-fold more popular than BP's official Twitter page.
  • Several Facebook pages have popped up, urging consumers to boycott BP. The largest of the groups consists of well over 300,000 registered Facebook users.

ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) had the Exxon Valdez disaster, but the country's most valuable company lucked out in having its public-relations nightmare play out before Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of the Web 2.0 darlings were around to fan the flames of discontent.

Even if BP bowls a perfect game from this point on, angry consumers are unlikely to let go. BP, the brand, is as tarnished as stretches of the Gulf. The only way out will be a complete rebranding, and the only way to get there will be a buyout.

This isn't all that different from what happened to Palm (Nasdaq: PALM) earlier this year. Once its Pre and Pixi smartphones stopped selling, its promising webOS platform was done for under Palm's watch.

Hewlett-Packard's (NYSE: HPQ) gutsy $1.2 billion deal for Palm gives webOS a new life, just as the BP-affiliated gas station owners will welcome a buyout -- and new signage.

Notoriety sinks brands. Sure, cleaning house at the top can sometimes spare the gutting of a disgraced name. Satyam lives on. However, a move like that is unlikely to be enough to save BP given this very public, and very epic, fail.

By the end of this year, another energy giant will be able to steal BP for a pittance, rebrand its gasoline stations, and come out as the true victor of this terrible situation.

I'm still not itching to buy into BP, because as we saw with Palm, this will actually be a reverse auction. No one is going to pay much of a premium for BP, and when they do it will be at seriously depressed levels.

We're getting there, but I'm not going to chance it. Besides, what would my Facebook friends think?

Are you boycotting BP gas stations? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz isn't the activist type, but he knows a trend when he sees it. He owns no shares in any of the companies in this story and is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.