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LAVAL, Quebec — Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. recently unwrapped plans to create a new Circle K brand and launch it across its global retail footprint.
The new global Circle K brand will replace Couche-Tard's existing Circle K, Statoil, Mac's and Kangaroo Express branding on convenience stores and service stations across Canada, the United States, Scandinavia, and Central and Eastern Europe. The brand will also appear on licensed stores across Asia.
Brian Hannasch, president and CEO of Couche-Tard, told Convenience Store News that uniting under one global brand has been in the works for several years, but now seemed the right time as it integrates acquisitions of The Pantry Inc., Shell’s marketing operations in Denmark, and Topaz's portfolio in Ireland.
When Couche-Tard stepped back and looked at its customers around the world, the convenience store operator found they are more alike than they are different — the core working person.
The new brand includes a revamped Circle K logo; but more than signage, the new brand unites the retailer's efforts to become “the preferred brand” among c-store shoppers worldwide.
According to at least one branding expert, it’s a smart move.
"Unfortunately, people think branding is merely a logo and a name. But there is also the emotional connection you make with the customers: offering quality of service, quality of food, the right products in the right place," Joe Bona, president of Moseley Bona Retail, told CSNews. "These are fundamentals of retail and that is what makes a brand a brand."
When establishing a brand, Bona advises that organizations must ask: How do you take that brand and make it relevant to the local market?
While the new Circle K will be the sole brand going forward for Couche-Tard, this doesn’t mean the company is abandoning all that is good about those other brands and store operations.
"We strive to take the best of each company and incorporate it into the new Circle K brand. We're not perfect at it, but I think that's been one of our successes — being humble enough to understand that we don't know everything, don't do everything the best, and we will continue to look inside each and every acquisition we do to see what we can learn," Hannasch explained.
With very few exceptions, he believes Couche-Tard has done a good job of picking out the best practices and bringing them back into its organization.
"That is very much a part of our DNA and it will continue to be what we do as we acquire," he added.
Keeping local management in place — both in the corporate office and in the stores — also goes a long way toward keeping the business consistent, according to the chief executive.
"Consumers are pretty smart. They see through just a name change," Hannasch said.
Editor’s note: Check out the March issue of Convenience Store News for our full cover story on Couche-Tard, “Growth Spurt.” A digital edition of the issue can be accessed by clicking here.