Not many retail brands survive for 110 years, but CITGO has not only weathered the competition, it is refreshing its brand image to meet the challenges of a new generation. Today, the Texas-based oil company operates more than 4,600 stores coast-to-coast and has its sights sets on growing its marketer program over the next 12-24 months.
As it continues to evolve and upgrade, CStore Decisions recognizes the CITGO brand as a Chain to Watch.
CITGO first introduced its current “Centennial Image” in 2010, in celebration of its 100-year anniversary. Through the Illuminate Reimage Program, the iconic CITGO brand image is being illuminated with sleek, brushed aluminum cladding; eyebrow lighting; and under-canopy reflective paint.
“By illuminating that brand image, we are upgrading our trusted brand and strengthening the visual appeal 24/7. The fresh look will make CITGO stations stand out, especially at night, and will create an added element of comfort, safety and cleanliness at each location,” said Kevin Kinney, general manager of brand equity development for CITGO Petroleum.
These upgrades to the Centennial brand image reflect the constant innovations and improvements that have defined CITGO for 110 years. The new imaging elevates the existing CITGO Trimark symbol and channel letters customers recognize whenever they drive to a CITGO station.
CITGO was founded on Sept. 2, 1910, as Cities Service Co., by a young entrepreneur and pioneer oilman, Henry Doherty. The original Cities Service logo featured the company name inside of a trefoil shape with a green and white color scheme.
Fast forward to 1965, Cities Service debuted its new marketing brand, CITGO and the familiar red “Trimark” logo. Retaining the first syllable of its long-standing name and ending with “GO,” symbolizing energy and progressiveness.
Today, every CITGO station is locally owned and operated, and, as such, local offerings range from hot biscuits in Maine to fresh-made peanut squares in Wisconsin to monster trucks in Florida.
One core tenet they all have in common, however, is cultivating a legacy of blending business with purpose, a prime example of which is the company’s collective work with the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). For more than 30 years, money raised has helped fund research, provide equipment and send kids to summer camp.
“The philanthropic DNA of helping improve people’s lives is built on a solid foundation of CITGO history, vision and values — all of which have stood the test of time,” said CITGO’s Vice President of Supply and Marketing Karl Schmidt. “Blending business with purpose demonstrates that after all these years, CITGO still specializes in ‘cities service.’”
For more than 30 years, CITGO has focused its supply efforts on the wholesale channel of trade, which allows for significant diversity in its marketer and retailer operations programs to deliver increased brand value.
“Every one of the more than 4,600 stores flying the CITGO flag is locally owned and truly unique,” said Chris Kiesling, general manager of light oils marketing for CITGO. “We’ve set our sights on clearly demonstrating the many advantages of operating under the CITGO brand. Quality of fuel is increasingly important to motorists, so all three grades of our CITGO TriCLEAN gasoline are rated TOP TIER and available at every pump. Our Club CITGO loyalty and rewards app is super easy to implement and helps add loyal customers while increasing profit margins for the store.”
In addition, contactless payment methods such as Apple Pay at NFC compatible pumps and the increased security of EMV transactions give consumers peace of mind about their transactions.
“Many CITGO-branded store owners have made substantial investments in payment technology with the assistance of our POS and Dispenser Incentive programs. This foundation allows CITGO to build the next generation of payment and loyalty opportunities that we’ll announce at our fall roundtable meetings,” Kiesling said. “The Illuminate image boosts the appeal of our iconic brand with consumers. And store owners appreciate the improved lighting features, maintenance-friendly materials and seamless conversion process.”
Kiesling credited CITGO marketers for making a big difference in the retail offering. “Our customer service, flexible programs and educational opportunities help store owners overcome operational challenges and move ahead of the competition,” he said. “We’ve dedicated an entire website to helping store owners succeed, mycitgostore.com.”
The COVID-19 pandemic put store cleanliness at the forefront with increased precautionary measures to protect employees and the public. CITGO, like most leading fuel marketers, overcame the challenges by working closely with its marketers.
“We’ve learned how resourceful, resilient and downright heroic CITGO distributors and storeowners are in challenging times,” Kiesling said. “We celebrate and support the outpouring of good works in their local communities. Our good reputation has been forged over more than a century by generations of store owners who have acted with generosity. It is truly an honor to serve with them in this crisis.”
Consumers Petroleum, which owns and operates 21 CITGO stores and the Wheels convenience store chain, is one of these marketers who manned the frontlines throughout the pandemic. Christine Hogan, president of the Milford, Ct.-based company, said the crises strengthened the chain’s relationship with customers and the communities it serves.
“We are still selling motor fuels and convenience items and, to some degree, foodservice, but the way we serve our community and the way we are perceived has changed,” Hogan said. “We have always had a loyal base who appreciated the speed of service, the ease of our locations and the feeling of neighborhood, but COVID-19 allowed more customers to have that experience.”
For example, many of the Wheels stores saw an increase in customers taking walks to the store for exercise, but also for a friendly face, and honestly – for somewhere to go.
“We were open when many were not, and never reduced hours. We felt that we were there to serve the public and this would be the worst time to be unavailable,” Hogan said. “We took this opportunity to ‘refresh’ what some people thought about convenience stores. To every extent possible, we focused on being clean and well-stocked as well as friendly and engaged. We learned that we can change the perspectives of some, and reaffirmed that we are a vital part of the communities we serve. We are very proud to have done our part.”