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WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- Chris Jones may only be halfway through his second week as senior vice president of marketing at Kum & Go LC, but he is ready for the role marketing will play in the retailer's goal to be "No. 1 in '21."
"Beyond my bias toward what marketing can do [to achieve that goal], I think Kum & Go has a genuine belief that marketing, in partnership with operations, is a strategic engine of our success in becoming No. 1 in '21. It’s about defining and delivering the customer experience," Jones told CSNews Online.
Jones officially joined the West Des Moines-based convenience store chain eight days ago, coming onboard after working five years at Athene, a life insurance company. As a marketer, he found the prospect of working at Kum & Go "exciting."
"It's great when you can come to a company where marketing is really central to the success of the organization. It's strategic, it's important and it's really at the core of what we do, which is winning on the basis of customer service and the customer experience," he said.
In a way, joining Kum & Go brings Jones back to his roots. Prior to his position at Athene, he spent 17 years with Mars Inc. working on brands such as Snickers, Milky Way and Three Musketeers.
"This is really a move back to what I am passionate about: consumer products, customer focus, customer experience," he noted.
Jones explained that there are things inherent about Kum & Go that also make the company exciting to work for: its commitment to being a great corporate citizen, both in terms of philanthropy and giving back 10 percent of its profits to the community; and its commitment to sustainability.
"Professionally and from an overall enterprise perspective, there is a lot for me to like about Kum & Go," he said.
As he takes lead of the retailer's marketing efforts, Jones finds several key tasks on his plate – foremost is immersing himself in the Kum & Go business.
"I know [Kum & Go] as a consumer and I know it as a former manufacturer, but I really need to learn it as the marketing leader," Jones said. "A lot of my time and energy right now is the proverbial 'drinking from the fire hose' and understanding everything Kum & Go has going on."
Once the initial learning and onboarding period is over, Jones said the big areas of focus for him will be "really continuing to sharpen our brand's position in the marketplace and making sure we drive a real relevant point of difference with Kum & Go customers. That is a big opportunity. Great brands do that all the time and we will continue to do so at Kum & Go," he stated.
In addition, Jones’ responsibilities include continuing the emphasis and growth of Kum & Go's food offering and continuing to enhance the relevance of the retailer's programs at a local level.
"We have made a big commitment not only in terms of Go Fresh Market, but really in capabilities we have in-store that far exceed what the typical convenience store has in terms of delivering a fresh and exciting product for consumers. I think that will continue to be important," he said.
Kum & Go is also preparing to revamp its Java Ridge coffee brand. While Jones declined to tip the retailer's hand with specific details, he said the restaged coffee program will begin rolling out in February.
As Kum & Go moves closer to becoming No. 1 in '21, the role traditional marketing will play vs. digital will depend on the message, according to Jones.
"I approach it as what is our brand and marketing strategy, and what role will digital and social play in that strategy. It all has to emanate from who you are as a brand and what is your relevance to the customer," Jones said. "If one of the ways you can bring that relevance to life is through social media or through texting or through geolocation-based offers and messages, then so be it. That is how we have approached it and how we will continue to approach it going forward."