What are some of the considerations of going unbranded, and is it worth the time, investment and effort?
That is a very good question and one that actually invokes additional questions.
Going unbranded, industry lingo for “not being branded as a fuel refiner brand, ‘Food-Mart’ or both,” is a relatively complex undertaking that is worthy of time and consideration. It does not mean that you do not have a brand for your business, but rather, you choose not to embrace theirs, be it wholly or in part, based on your fuel supply situation.
There are multiple considerations when deciding to use a legacy fuel brand or go it on your own with no one right or wrong answer.
First and foremost is the question of economics. Are you willing to pay your refiner for marketing assistance, or are you going to do it on your own? The difference in cost will show in what you are paying per wholesale gallon and what you can sell at retail. Can you build a brand and effectively market it better (and more cost effectively) than what is packaged up for you with the big oil brands? Is it possibly a combination? There are a number of highly successful retail brands that choose to maintain the forecourt relationship with branded community while creating their own unique retail experience.
Secondly, are you willing to take on the necessary branding and marketing of your own retail destination? For years, retail fueling was synonymous with an ‘over the road,’ ‘stop here for fuel’ mentality. Today, convenience retail is more about the food than the fuel. Any endeavor into unbranded must position the retail experience as the driver of customer engagement with fuel being a secondary, albeit highly necessary, partner in crime.
Finally, going unbranded allows you to take control of your business and customer promise. I have eluded in Swede’s Corner about the concept of the customer promise and owning your brand puts this concept to the forefront. It allows you to convey what you stand for as a business owner as opposed what they do. Successful retailers engage their customers at the store level with the products, services and experiences they deserve. Why let someone else write the narrative when it is really up to you?
There is not a right or wrong answer to going branded or unbranded. It is a choice, a discipline, a desire. At the basis of either decision is the need to serve your customer in order to deliver upon the highest of expectations. In a way, it is similar to the concept of service leadership; serve them and they will serve you despite any outside distractions.
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In you corner,
Andrew Swedenborg is retail expert with more than 20 years of experience within the convenience and grocery industries. He has worked with numerous retailers in the branding, design and deployment of retail concepts nationally. If you have a question for Swede, you can email him at: [email protected]