Thursday, December 4, 2014

Best of work from two years with OPIS newsletter Oil Express, 2012-2013 UPDATE: OPIS says I cannot show full articles; please contact me for full versions

Monday, May 28, 2012 12:01:00 AM
It's not surprising that a c-store chain that goes by the name "Adventure's 
First Stop" and calls its customer loyalty program the "Adventure Club" would 
be an early adopter of new technology.
   Maverik Inc., a 238-store chain in 10 western states, will soon participate 
in a pilot of the digital wallet with Isis, a mobile commerce venture created 
by wireless carriers AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless and 
supported by major banks and credit card companies. 
   The test is taking place this summer in Austin, Texas, and Salt Lake City, 
Utah, through a variety of merchants. The Isis system will operate through 
widely accepted payment systems from vendors such as VeriFone, Ingenico, 
ViVOTech and Equinox.
   Some 80 Salt Lake City Maverik stores will start accepting payments from 
smartphones equipped with near field communication (NFC) technology and a 
mobile application from Isis. 
   Oil Express spoke with Ernie Harker, Maverik's executive director of 
   Joe Bush, 
   Copyright 2012, Oil Express
Monday, May 14, 2012 12:01:00 AM
Hispanics are some of the convenience store's best customers.
   Research firm Technomic Inc. found the heaviest c-store users are Hispanic 
men ages 18 to 25 making less than $25,000 annually. And a recent Pepsico study 
also listed Hispanics - particularly young men - among three key shopper 
segments that dominate the c-store channel. 
   But this population was hit hard by the recession and as a result they are 
shopping c-stores less frequently, experts say. Store operators need to woo 
them to get them to shop more often. 
   The U.S. Hispanic population has seen spectacular growth and will continue 
to do so into the next half century. The group has $1 trillion spending power, 
says research firm Nielsen in a report released last month, "State of the 
Hispanic Consumer: The Hispanic Market Imperative."
   Experts offer the following guidelines:
   -- Stock Hispanic brand products. Ethnic products - much of them Hispanic - 
grew at twice the overall sales rate for other products in the first quarter of 
2012, says Chris Hobson, vice president of marketing for San Francisco-based 
distributor Core-Mark International. Core-Mark offers several strategies for 
selling to Hispanics, from making available 300 SKUs of Hispanic-brand 
inventory, including fresh foods, to customized planograms and point-of-
purchase displays for retailers with a large Hispanic customer base......
   Joe Bush,    
   Copyright 2012, Oil Express
Monday, April 23, 2012 12:01:00 AM
Spirit Petroleum, the independent brand owned by the Petroleum Marketers 
Association of America (PMAA) has survived initial doubts from the PMAA board 
and the vagaries of the downstream petroleum industry to reach its 10th 
anniversary this year.
   It's a low-cost alternative to major oil brands for PMAA members, born out 
of fear that when the major oil companies indulged in merger activity in the 
late 1990s, PMAA members would be without a brand. Either one of the merging 
brands would be discontinued, or some jobbers would not be able to meet new and 
more difficult standards imposed by the survivor.
   Those fears weren't all realized. But the low start-up and re-imaging costs 
of Spirit have attracted enough converts to its clean look and lower-price 
fuel. Though it was launched with just $20,000, Spirit now has 85 licensees in 
35 states, adding Utah earlier this month.
   In some cases, the brand has helped raise volume enough to coax a major 
brand to offer a rebranding package. "We lost 14 stations at one time in one 
state, and I said, 'That's great,'" says Spirit President Vera 
Haskins. "Somebody came along and offered them a deal they couldn't pass up, 
and that's what we're all about."......
   Joe Bush, 
   Copyright 2012, Oil Express
Monday, April 16, 2012 12:01:00 AM
The statistics on social media are staggering: 30 billion pieces of content 
are shared on Facebook every month; $3.08 billion was spent to advertise on 
social networking sites in 2011, a 55% increase over 2010; 53% of people on 
Twitter recommended companies or their products in their tweets. 
   But knowing social media's potential is not the same as knowing how to use 
   For two years, Jon Bausman was the director of media and brand development 
for Anderson, Ind.-based Ricker Oil, a BP dealer with 50 stores. Bausman, who 
now works with Fusion Alliance, an Indianapolis-based technology consultancy, 
shared his insight on social media.
   What are some ways to use social media effectively?
   There's a social medium called Foursquare that is location-based. Someone 
can go "check in" to a location, whether that's Dunkin' Donuts or a movie 
theater or a convenience store. You can offer rewards for checking in. 
   One of the big challenges convenience stores face is getting people from the 
pump inside the store. When a consumer is outside filling up their gas tank, 
there's nothing really for them to do. So if you advertise about checking in on 
Foursquare to get specials, they may check in. If you offer an incentive like 
we did at Ricker's - purchase 10 gallons of gas or more and get a free fountain 
drink - they may come in the store. Then you have the opportunity to suggest a 
sale and bundle as well. If your software is set up correctly, you could 
actually track a code for the Foursquare check-in special and see if anything 
else was purchased.......
   Joe Bush, 
   Copyright 2012, Oil Express
Monday, April 02, 2012 12:01:00 AM
On Thorntons Inc.'s YouTube channel, via an icon on the chain's website, a 
lady in a Thorntons uniform makes viewers yearn for a flavored coffee by 
demonstrating how to mix just the right ratio. 
   Visitors to the Thorntons website click on the Make UR Mix icon and then the 
icon for Alpine Mint to watch a 1:09 video demo. First, some exclusive York 
Peppermint Patty from the cappuccino machine, then some coffee, then some whip 
cream and white chocolate sauce.
   With all that's possible using Facebook, smartphones, Twitter and various 
group coupon applications like Foursquare and Groupon, a website video is still 
one of the easiest, cheapest ways to market if you follow a few rules, 
consultants say.
   All that's necessary is a camera and the time it takes to write a script, 
shoot the video, edit and upload it. The quality of the cameras in today's 
Androids and iPhones is sufficient for the shoot, and there are many ways to 
edit and add flair using free software available for download. YouTube also 
offers several free features like graphics for introductions and titles once a 
video is uploaded. There are also vendors who will edit and spruce up a video 
once it is shot.
   YouTube consultant Matt Koval says the biggest drawback is that video's 
impact is hard to measure. "There are no hard and fast rules to show a clear 
ROI," says Koval. "Some campaigns are hugely viral and successful. But other 
campaigns, most campaigns, fail miserably. It's the companies that put massive 
amounts of money into their videos that will feel the pain.".......
   Joe Bush,
   Copyright 2012, Oil Express
Monday, March 19, 2012 12:01:00 AM
It's not flashy - heck, there are no visuals at all - but customized radio 
programs at the pump seem to be effective in many ways.
   Jerry Johnson's Gas and Go Radio provides convenience store operators with 
30-minute, tailor-made recordings and the equipment needed to play them. For a 
monthly fee, operators send Johnson up to 10 items to promote - from products 
to community events or local business advertising - and he records them and 
sends the program digitally to be downloaded on a flash drive. The flash drive 
is plugged into the flash drive player/amplifier he supplies. The equipment is 
free with the advertising program.
   Retailers pay for installation of the player and speakers under the fuel 
canopy. Usually four to six speakers are necessary. Installation runs $250-
$500, depending on local electrician rates; less if there is a maintenance 
person on staff who can do the work.
   Once installation is finished, retailers pay a monthly rate of $59, $79, $99 
or $139. The rates vary depending on how frequently the message is updated, 
says Johnson, who was a radio broadcaster for more than 20 years. The low rate 
is for a quarterly update, the highest rate is for changing the program every 
   Joe Bush, 
   Copyright 2012, Oil Express
Monday, March 19, 2012 12:01:00 AM
Many marketers are building "green" gas stations to make their properties 
more efficient and environmentally friendly. Some are taking an extra step and 
certifying that their real estate is good for the planet.
   The procedure is called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) 
certification, and it involves getting approval from the U.S. Green Building 
Council, a nonprofit trade organization that promotes sustainability in how 
buildings are designed, built and operated. 
   Certified buildings can qualify for tax credits from federal and state 
governments as well as energy credits from utilities.
   LaCrosse, Wis.-based Kwik Trip boasts 15 LEED-certified stores, with 24 in 
the process, and industry stalwarts Kum & Go of West Des Moines, Iowa, and 
Pittsburgh, Pa.-based Giant Eagle's Get Go also have LEED-certified stores. 
   A company doesn't have to be an industry giant to pursue LEED certification. 
In February, Wadsworth Oil of Clanton, Ala., earned LEED certification for one 
of its nine stores. It is the first LEED-certified convenience store in 
   Oil Express interviewed Brittany Eldredge, director of operations for Lorax 
Partnerships, a consulting firm with expertise in green construction. Lorax 
helped Baltimore-based convenience store chain Royal Farms qualify for LEED........
   Joe Bush, 
   Copyright 2012, Oil Express
Monday, February 27, 2012 12:01:00 AM
In 2001, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) sued Coors 
Brewing Co. for using Final Four tickets in a promotional giveaway without 
   The problem? The use of the terms associated with the NCAA basketball 
tournament, as well as promotions piggybacking on these games, requires a 
license. The backs of tickets also state that the tickets are not to be used in 
promotions unless permission to do so is granted by the NCAA.
   Terms such as "March Madness" and "Super Bowl" are closely guarded trade 
names. Sponsors pay big bucks to be licensed to use them. 
   And companies unwilling to pay the price can get sued. C-stores tackling 
sports marketing need to learn to play by the rules. 
   In the days before the Feb. 5 Super Bowl, for example, Jmart of Stockton, 
Kansas, got a warning from one of its food service vendors, a turnkey operation 
that J-Mart has in all four stores. The notice said to avoid using "Super Bowl" 
in promotions.
   "This phrase is owned by the NFL and they grant exclusive rights to its 
usage," the vendor explained. "They patrol and enforce their trademarks very 
   Joe Bush,
   Copyright 2012, Oil Express
Monday, February 20, 2012 12:01:00 AM
In 2010, QuikTrip paid a $55,000 penalty and $1.5 million in restitution to 
settle a federal Department of Justice (DOJ) suit alleging multiple violations 
of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 
   The company denied wrongdoing and says its nearly 600 stores will be fully 
compliant by 2013. But the crackdown on an industry leader was a wake-up call 
prompting the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) to develop 
training and consulting services for its members. 
   NACS has partnered with a consulting firm, The McIntosh Group, of Tulsa, to 
help members with ADA compliance as an important date looms. The DOJ added 
standards to ADA in 2010, and compliance with those additional requirements - 
521 of which apply to gas stations and convenience stores - begins March 15, 
   Brad Gaskins, a partner with McIntosh, says there's no need to panic, but 
operators should have a plan to correct violations before either private 
lawsuits or the DOJ arrive.
   "An owner has to understand where deficiencies are, then develop a plan of 
how they're going to correct those items the next one, three, five years," says 
Gaskins. "You want to do this on your terms as opposed to waiting for a 
   Joe Bush,
   Copyright 2012, Oil Express
Monday, February 13, 2012 12:01:00 AM
Steve Salveggio, director of operations and buyer for 24-store Hendel's 
Inc., of Waterford, Conn., says 32% of his overall coffee sales come from 
flavored varieties like French vanilla and hazelnut and monthly specials on 
flavors such as pumpkin spice and blueberry. 
   The profit margin on flavored coffee drops to 50%, down from 60% on regular 
coffee, but Salveggio says of flavors you've "got to have them."
   Not every retailer will sell that much, but many believe coffee flavors such 
as French vanilla, hazelnut, chocolate macadamia nut, and pumpkin spice are 
essential to c-store coffee programs. Popularity varies by region, but if 
flavors make up 15% of a store's total coffee business, experts say they should 
remain on the menu. For some operators flavors are 40% of their business.
   In its 2011 National Coffee Drinking Trends Study, the National Coffee 
Association found 85% of respondents drank regular coffee, while 18%  drank 
flavored varieties. Some drank both.......
   Joe Bush,
   Copyright 2012, Oil Express
Monday, January 30, 2012 12:01:00 AM
Fans will soon be picking up snacks for their Feb. 5 Super Bowl parties. How 
do you seize a bigger share of the snack business? 
*Promote specials on large quantities, says retail consultant John Matthews, 
CEO of Gray Cat Enterprises, and former executive with Jimmy John's, White Hen 
Pantry and Little Caesar's. Little Caesar's Super Bowl-related sales, whether 
on game-day or pre-orders, were solid, he says. But sales took off when the 
pizza chain began promoting special large-quantity pricing. For example: 10 
large, 1-item pizzas for $49.95. 
*Reach out to existing customers. A recent survey showed 80% of shoppers will 
head to supermarkets for Super Bowl munchies. You're more likely to be top of 
mind with your existing customer base. Promote Super Bowl deals with flyers on 
pizza or other food items, pump-toppers and in-store signage......

   Joe Bush,
   Copyright 2012, Oil Express
Monday, January 30, 2012 12:01:00 AM
Savvy c-store operators, who in previous years saw an uptick especially in 
beer and salty snack sales Super Bowl weekend, are again offering deals to 
satisfy fans' cravings. 
   Matt Paduano, vice president of category management at Nice n Easy Grocery 
Shoppes, Canastota, N.Y., says that in the week before last year's Super Bowl, 
beer sales jumped 13%, salty snacks increased 11.7%, and food service sales 
rose 13.6%. Paduano says non-alcoholic beverage sales showed a negligible bump.
   The 80-store chain used couponing and box toppers the week before the game, 
as well as game-day specials. This year the Nice n Easy's Easy Street Eatery is 
advertising a game-day pizza deal: two large two-topping pizzas for $18.99, a 
discount of $5. 
   Pat Zelechoski, buyer and category manager for 33-store NOCO Express of 
Tonawanda, N.Y., saw similar increases in the same categories - beer up 12.9%, 
salty snacks up 15.3%, cigarettes up 7.2%. NOCO also saw a 5.6% hike in sales 
of non-alcoholic beverages.
   This year her stores will have Budweiser displays with coupons for Frito-Lay 
snacks on the display, since Budweiser is advertising its new Bud Platinum 
Light during the game. They'll also promote Pepsi's Super Bowl specials on six-
packs at two for $5 and on 2-liter bottles, two 2-liter bottles of Pepsi for 
   Joe Bush,
   Copyright 2012, Oil Express

Monday, January 23, 2012 12:01:00 AM
Since 2010, three major changes have affected or will affect commercial 
drivers and their employers: the hours of service rules, a ban on hand-held 
mobile telephones and the Compliance, Safety and Accountability program.
   Here's a summary of what those rules mean to you:
1.  Hours of Service. Driving time is reduced and rest breaks are mandated. 
Violations of more than three hours over the limit can result in a $2,700 fine 
for the driver and $11,000 for the carrier. Drivers can now drive 10 hours of a 
14-hour day, down from 11; they can only be on duty for 13 hours of the 14-hour 
day, or a 16-hour day, which they can choose twice in any seven-day 
period. "The drivers aren't going to be able to make any time," says Tom White, 
safety director for White Brothers Trucking of Wasco, Ill......

   Joseph Bush,
   Copyright 2012, Oil Express
Monday, January 16, 2012 12:01:00 AM
After a series of local robberies, two Beaumont, Texas, c-stores with 
different owners started asking customers to remove their hats or hoods before 
   One of the stores posted signs to help enforce the hats-off policy. The 
employees thought it would discourage crime and make robbers easier to identify.
   Now, however, the signs are down at one store. At the other, the store's 
owner has allowed the policy to continue as an option for employees nervous 
about robberies.
   Steinhagen Oil of Beaumont says it is okay for employees at its Shell 
station on Major Drive to ask customers to remove their headgear as long as 
they're polite about it, says Steve Manders, director of operations for the 25-
store chain. In fact, Manders says that's an option for employees at all of the 
Steinhagen stores.
   But competitor C.L. Thomas, which owns and operates Speedy Stop stores, is 
against the policy.....
   Joe Bush,
   Copyright 2012, Oil Express
Monday, January 09, 2012 12:01:00 AM
Five gas station companies and their operators have pleaded guilty to price-
fixing in the Sixth Circuit Court in Oakland County, Mich. It was the first 
gasoline price-fixing prosecution in the state since the price-gouging 
aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
   The Michigan Attorney General's Office said the companies violated the 
Michigan Antitrust Reform Act (MARA), artificially raising prices for 
consumers. As a result, they paid fines ranging from $10,000 to $50,000. 
Sentencing for all but one party is forthcoming this month, though it is just 
formality. The sentences were the fines. One defendant changed his mind and 
will pay $35,000 up front rather than $50,000 over five years.
   The stations that were charged were located within two miles of each other 
in Madison Heights, a community 20 minutes north of Detroit, and set their gas 
prices within a penny or two of each other on at least five days in February 
and March last year. They sell Marathon, Sunoco and Citgo branded fuel, the 
state Attorney General's Office said...... 
   Joe Bush, 
   Copyright 2012, Oil Express
Monday, January 09, 2012 12:01:00 AM
Two publicly held chains have been perfecting store designs over the last 
decade, and their latest stores reveal the c-store of the future: restaurants 
with gas pumps. 
   Casey's General Stores of Ankeny, Iowa, and Susser Holdings of Corpus 
Christi, Texas, are enlarging their stores, primarily to make room for food 
preparation. Some highlights: more cooler doors, larger restrooms, upgraded 
construction materials, and a center-store checkout. 
   The emphasis is on product presentation, notes Jim Fisher, CEO and founder 
of retail sales forecasting firm IMST Corporation of Houston. 
   "Many companies are learning bigger does not mean we have to put more stuff 
in it, it just means we have to present it better," says Fisher. "Openness is 
paramount." Some trends:
***Mobile shelving. Movable shelves allow retailers to rotate daypart-related 
impulse items to the front throughout the day. There are also fewer traditional 
gondolas, deeper cooler shelves for additional holding power, open-air and 
vertical coolers for fresh grab-and-go items like salads and sandwiches. 
***Floor-to-ceiling windows, mostly free of signage. This benefits the 
employees, who can see the forecourt better, and both the customer and 
retailer, because incoming customers can get a preview of where to go in the 
store. Fisher says if a retailer can't influence customers at the pump or on 
their way into the store, it has to grab their attention within the first three 
steps of entry with signage, graphics, lighting and layout.
***Full-view preparation of food. Casey's and Susser's Stripes stores are known 
for their prepared foods, and each features food preparation in plain sight. 
Stripes' Laredo Taco Co. and Casey's pizza and made-to-order sub program demand 
much of the emphasis for each chain's new-store designs and remodels.

   Unlike some older stores, each new Stripes store sells fresh tacos under the 
brand Laredo Taco Co. Susser reports new-store cash flow increases of two to 
three times over stores built before the year 2000. The company expects new 
stores to mature in three years and targets a 20% unlevered annual ROI. The 
company plans to build 25 to 30 stores in 2012, and recently completed a stock 
offering to help finance capital projects.......
Joe Bush,
   Copyright 2012, Oil Express
Monday, January 02, 2012 12:01:00 AM
Prepaid phone cards, right behind motor fuel and fast food, could help make 
your c-store a destination. 
   Ask Joe Gibson, director of purchasing and category management for Dari 
Mart, a 43-store chain headquartered in Junction City, Ore. Gibson says 
wireless phone cards from brands such as AT&T, Cricket and T-Mobile make up 85% 
of Dari Mart's prepaid card sales. 
   Prepaid phone card sales average $14,000/month with a 10%-15% margin for 
both domestic and international, a firm number agreed upon with vendor InComm, 
says Gibson. Dari Mart stocks a variety of gift cards, and they make up a small 
share of total store sales. 
   But "the majority of these purchases are destination purchases, meaning 
someone is coming in looking for this product," Gibson says. 
   Gift cards as a whole are a growing product category for c-stores, says Teri 
Llach, chief marketing officer for Blackhawk Network, which reaches 165 million 
people each week with its Gift Card Mall installed in grocery, big box, 
convenience, drug and other stores..... 
   Joe Bush,
   Copyright 2012, Oil Express

Monday, December 16, 2013 12:01:00 AM
The take-and-bake pizza business - in which customers pick up a pre-made 
pizza and bake it at home - has been alive and well at supermarkets and big-box 
stores such as Walmart and Costco. 
   But will it work at a convenience store? Officials for Indianapolis, Ind.-
based pizza franchisor Noble Roman's Inc. think so. Noble Roman's, which has 
several hundred pizza franchisees within c-stores, has begun selling franchises 
built around "Take-n-Bake."
   The fresh, made-to-order pizza for the take-home market can be sold at 
standalone restaurants, small-format franchises, or simply from display cases.
   The company said the first standalone Take-n-Bake franchise opened Oct. 29, 
2012, and in the initial 33 days, the unit generated an operating profit margin 
of 26.5%, even after the added labor cost involved in initial training. 
   According to one Take-n-Bake franchise, prices range from $8.99 for a medium 
to $12.99 for a large deep dish. Toppings are free, and additional medium 
pizzas are $5.99. The franchisor says most tend to price Take-n-Bake about a 
dollar below the fully-cooked pricing, sometimes a little lower.
   Oil Express asked Noble Roman's President Scott Mobley for more details on 
the benefits of Take-n-Bake for c-stores......

   Joseph Bush,
   Copyright 2013, Oil Express
Monday, December 02, 2013 12:01:00 AM
QuikTrip Corp., one of the industry's better-known regional brands, has 
hired a Kansas City public relations firm to help build a national brand image. 
   The 50-year-old company has expanded from its Tulsa base over the past few 
decades, into Texas and Arizona, eastward into the Carolinas and Atlanta. Now 
QuikTrip has almost 700 stores in 11 states, its newest focusing on fresh food.
   Both QuikTrip and its public relations firm declined comment on the details 
of the partnership. Oil Express talked with Alycia de Mesa, a consultant and 
author of "Before the Brand: Creating the Unique DNA of an Enduring Brand." 

OE: What should a company keep in mind as it expands geographically?
ADM: One of the tenets of retail location branding is to ensure that every 
touch point a consumer interacts with is accounted for. In other words, what 
are people doing when they drive into a gas station, what are they doing and 
where are they looking when they go into the actual convenience store? When you 
map that out in a very psychological way, you provide a roadmap to actually 
capture that person's attention relevantly. For example, QuikTrip took an 
extremely systematic approach to how the workers represent the brand, how they 
greet you, how they say goodbye to you. If they take that same approach to all 
markets they will absolutely succeed because they're following to the letter 
what it takes to build a brand nationally...... 

   Joseph Bush,
   Copyright 2013, Oil Express
Monday, November 04, 2013 12:01:00 AM
The gas station forecourt crime nicknamed "sliding" that has happened on and 
off for years is on again in some areas. 
   Some local police departments report an uptick in this sort of theft in 
which criminals sneak into cars while motorists traveling alone are pumping gas 
or are inside the convenience store paying for a fuel purchase. They drive up 
next to the victim's car, slide out of their own car, stay low and open the 
victim's passenger door to swipe anything within reach and then hop back into 
their car. It's over in seconds.
   While merchants can consider posting a warning to lock car doors, they can 
overdo it, said Chris McGoey, president of McGoey Security Consulting, 
explaining that excessive cameras, bars on windows, and warning signs can drive 
customers away..... 
   Joseph Bush,
   Copyright 2013, Oil Express
Monday, September 23, 2013 12:01:00 AM
A recent decision from a Minnesota appellate court concerning the state statute 
on gift certificates could prompt gas retailers who operate car washes to check 
their state laws to see if they are a potential legal target.
   The decision involved a case filed in 2012 by customer Don Wells against 
Holiday Cos. Inc., owners of Holiday Stationstores, in Hennepin County District 
Court, Minneapolis, Minn. The case was filed as a potential class action on 
behalf of consumers who bought car washes at the company's gas stations.
   Customers paid in advance for the car washes, receiving a paper receipt with 
a code that they entered on a keypad to activate the wash. 
   The problem? The receipt had an expiration date. 
   The suit claimed that under Minnesota law, the receipt is considered a gift 
certificate, and as such should not have an expiration date. Some 35 states have 
language concerning expiration dates on gift certificates, according to the 
National Conference of State Legislatures. 
   The lower court dismissed the suit in 2012, ruling the state's language did 
not apply to car wash receipts. The court said key language defining a gift card 
was too vague. Under the statute a gift card is a "value shown in record." The 
statute failed to define what is meant by the term "value," so the court applied 
the most common meaning - cash value. 
   The court dismissed the case because it decided that a car wash code did not 
have cash value. 
But in March 2013 in St. Paul, a Minnesota Court of Appeals' three-judge panel 
reversed the ruling, saying Wells had enough of a claim that the case could not 
be dismissed. 
   Specifically, the panel said that the car wash code is a means of storing 
information or value, thus satisfying part of the state statute's definition of 
a gift card. The appellate court sent the suit back to district court, asking 
both sides for more facts, but no date has been set for further proceedings.
   A similar Minnesota lawsuit filed in the same district court against Calhoun 
Beach Automotive, a BP dealer in Minneapolis, and supplier BP America was 
dismissed in July 2012. A Minnesota court of appeals rejected the case due to a 
procedural error - the defendant failed to serve the notice of appeal to the 
dealer's lawyer.    
   Attorney Randy Thompson, of Bloomington, Minn., represented the dealer in the 
BP case, and he also represents the Minnesota Service Station Association. 
   Thompson says federal law covering gift cards exempts paper car wash 
   Joseph Bush,
   Copyright 2013, Oil Express
Monday, September 09, 2013 12:01:00 AM
A growing number of franchisors are seeking multisite franchisees, upping 
the ante for potential investors.
   Franchisors such as Dunkin' Donuts and Taco Bell - that have courted 
convenience stores and gas stations - are getting entrepreneurs to commit up 
front to opening multiple outlets. 
   The attraction is simple: Multisite operators have capital and a proven 
track record.
   The trend in multi-unit franchisees is rooted in the recession's tighter 
bank lending practices. During the downturn and credit crisis, franchisors 
shifted recruitment to entrepreneurs who didn't need leverage.
   Don Boroian, chairman of franchise development consultancy Francorp of 
Olympia Fields, Ill., says the trend is real, and he spoke with Oil Express 
about it.....

Joseph Bush,
   Copyright 2013, Oil Express
Monday, August 12, 2013 12:01:00 AM
Lawmakers in as many as 20 states are debating bans on credit and debit card 
surcharges. At least two states - Utah and Texas - have passed laws that bar 
retailers from adding charges to the transactions. 
   The flurry of state legislation followed the announcement in July last year 
of the more than $7 billion landmark antitrust settlement in the large class 
action challenging the escalating swipe fees. The preliminary settlement 
permitted retailers to levy surcharges to offset their transaction costs.
   However, although retailers have the right to surcharge, intense price 
competition keeps them from tacking charges onto transactions.
   Banking analyst Rick Oglesby, of Boston-based Aite Group, says he has 
surveyed 20 merchant acquirers, including banks and independent sales 
organizations, and 491 merchants and has "not found much interest in 
   "Merchants are fearful of the competitive implications associated with 
surcharging," Oglesby says. "The rules allowing surcharging where legal are so 
complicated that the merchants that would be interested have largely walked 
away from the opportunity.".....
 - Joseph Bush,
   Copyright 2013, Oil Express
Monday, July 29, 2013 12:01:00 AM
Gas stations and convenience stores known to sell synthetic marijuana can be 
blacklisted by a U.S. military base. 
   That's just what happened to some stations in Maryland. At least two Exxon 
stations have been placed on the "off limits" list for soldiers at Fort Meade. 
The stations, located close to the base, were known to sell "spice," or 
synthetic marijuana.
   The blacklist is only one of a host of penalties associated with the sale of 
synthetic drugs, which have been banned by many states and localities, as well 
as the federal government. 
   Some operators have faced prison terms and steep fines. Many major oil 
companies also have threatened to de-brand stations caught peddling these 
   The Defense Department banned spice for service members in 2010, and 
expanded that ban last year to all synthetic drugs. 
   Company commanders also recently got the authority to order drug tests, 
which was once limited to law enforcement. The policy allows the tests to 
ensure soldiers are fit for duty. 
   Fort Meade spokeswoman Mary Doyle says in 2012 synthetic marijuana was 
detected in seven base members, who were subject to penalties.....
 - Joseph Bush,
   Copyright 2013, Oil Express

Monday, June 24, 2013 12:01:00 AM
The Racetrac chain is touting a new dollar menu on its website, following in 
the footsteps of many national fast food chains. Racetrac has recently added 
two menus featuring items for 99 cents and $1.99.
   The 330-unit, Southeast marketer with its 5,000-square-foot-plus stores 
spanning five states seeks to go head-to-head with quick service restaurants 
(QSR). The dollar menu is often seen as a competitive advantage in the 
restaurant business. 
   But analysts have recently been critical of the results that burger giant 
McDonald's has seen from its value menu, suggesting c-store operators 
considering a dollar menu should proceed with caution. 
   C-stores, because of the variety of inventory, are in a better position to 
offer a value menu because consumers are likely to add higher-margin 
merchandise to the bill, consultants say.
   Restaurant analyst John Gordon, principal at Pacific Management Consulting 
Group, of San Diego, says dollar menus are "awful," especially for QSRs. He 
cites the discontent from McDonald's franchisees with the franchisor's focus on 
low-cost items to boost same-stores sales for investors.
   Gordon says that there is a 60% to 70% cost on most dollar items, so stores 
typically make 20 cents to 30 cents on each. He notes that it is hard to offer 
food items for a dollar and maintain the quality....
 -Joseph Bush,
   Copyright 2013, Oil Express
Monday, May 20, 2013 12:01:00 AM
With slim margins on gasoline and falling tobacco revenue, fuel retailers 
are turning to food service to offset lost profits. 
   Like the fast food restaurant chains, retailers must learn to increase sales 
per customer by training store employees in suggestive sales techniques. 
   Oil Express spoke with Mark Wells, president of training firm LJT Management 
Services, of San Diego. Wells, a recent speaker at M-PACT (Midwest Petroleum 
and Convenience Tradeshow) last month in Indianapolis, is a former owner-
operator of Texaco and Marathon stations.
   OE: How important is upselling to gas stations?
   MW: The necessity is there. We're showing fuel declines each and every year. 
The best way to make up that profit is suggestive selling.
   OE: What can operators do to increase upselling?
   MW: It all starts with the hiring process. Do you hire salespeople or do you 
hire clerks? If you're hiring a clerk, someone who basically operates a cash 
register, don't expect them to be a salesperson, because it's actually two 
different people. If you want to be successful at suggestive selling first you 
have to have the right people, somebody that not necessarily has a sales 
background but the personality to talk to customers. A lot of times operators 
will have someone who's efficient at their duties but they're not salespeople.
   The second step is get the people trained. They have to have the product 
knowledge to know what they're selling. What are the benefits to the customer? 
Customers don't buy products, they buy benefits. That's another mistake: 
Employees often are not selling the benefit to the customer. They're trying to 
sell them a product.
   OE: What is one best practice that you preach?.....
   -- Joseph Bush,
   Copyright 2013, Oil Express

Monday, April 08, 2013 12:01:00 AM
In early 2010, restaurant franchiser Quizno's boasted plans to become the 
nation's dominant quick-serve restaurant at convenience stores. 
   Three years later, however, that title belongs to archrival Subway, which 
has used unconventional outlets to jump to the No. 2 spot among fast food 
chains and halved initial franchise fees as an incentive to lure major brand 
gas stations. Subway currently has more than 8,000 nontraditional sites and has 
passed McDonald's in total outlets worldwide.
   Though Denver-based Quizno's has multisite deals with big operators such as 
Hess, MAPCO Express and The Pantry, its plans for fantastic growth have 
sputtered. Quizno's - and some of its gas station partners - declined to share 
details of their operations. 
   But the business concept that helped make Subway ubiquitous was not enough 
to compensate for the Quizno's chain's high food costs and poor franchise 
relations. And its claim to fame - "toasted" premium subs - lacked the much 
stronger appeal of Subway's pitch as a "healthy" fast food alternative. 
   By 2011, Quizno's was on the verge of bankruptcy and by 2012 it had seen its 
store count plummet to 2,500 from its peak of 5,100 in 2008..... 
 - Joseph Bush,
 - Donna Harris,
   Copyright 2013, Oil Express
Monday, April 01, 2013 12:01:00 AM
Major juice bar franchisors could soon offer convenience store operators a 
healthy new profit stream. 
   Juice It Up executives say they are interested in installing franchises in c-
stores, and Jamba Juice is offering its concept in a smaller footprint. 
   Starbucks, the coffee franchise c-store operators often strive to copy, 
shined a spotlight on juice when it bought bottled juice company Evolution 
Fresh a little over a year ago and started opening juice bars. 
   The potential for c-stores to squeeze profits from a juice bar could be even 
better than that of a traditional quick service restaurant. 
Bonnie Riggs, restaurant analyst at market research firm NPD, says the 
incidence of specialty beverage purchases in c-stores is considerably higher 
than in QSRs. 
   And fresh juice could attract the upscale and female market segments c-
stores have been courting in recent years. 
   "The bigger issue is that juice and smoothies skew highly to women - young 
women in particular, 18 to 34," says Riggs. "They (c-stores) could be 
attracting a new customer."......
 - Joseph Bush,
   Copyright 2013, Oil Express
Monday, February 25, 2013 12:01:00 AM
When a retail innovator like Starbucks jumps on board with a new payment 
system, the industry has got to pay attention. The coffee shop giant started 
offering mobile payment in November through the Square Wallet App. The question 
is will it work for gas stations?
   Square can't be used at the pump. Gas stations are often bound to a major 
oil company's approved point-of-sale system. But some retailers like Wayne 
Howard's Chevron in Bellingham, Wash., are finding Square can improve their 
cash flow. 
   Wayne Howard's Chevron, which also operates a convenience store, already 
accepts debit and credit cards. The POS system Chevron provides ensures that 
customers can pay for fuel at the pump as well as inside the store. Still, 
Howard also uses Square, a well-known platform for small businesses to be able 
to accept credit and debit cards via a smartphone or tablet.
   Square launched in 2009, founded by Jack Dorsey, the man who also started 
social media platform Twitter. Dorsey's team developed the Square platform to 
provide hardware and software for anyone - from a gas station owner to the 
neighborhood garage sale - to accept plastic without going through a bank.... 
 - Joseph Bush,
   Copyright 2013, Oil Express
Monday, February 11, 2013 12:01:00 AM
Some 46 million U.S. households own a dog, reports the American Pet Products 
Association (APPA) in its latest survey. In 2011, the APPA says Americans spent 
almost $51 billion on their pets, nearly $4 billion of it on grooming and 
   The data suggest pet washes can be lucrative for c-store owners with the 
right location. Pet wash equipment has been sold for years, but often replaces 
one of several bays of self-serve car wash businesses. All Paws Pet Wash, a 
division of CCSI International of Garden Prairie, Ill., decided in 2009 to 
enclose pet wash equipment in a booth that can be placed anywhere there is 
water and electrical hookups.
   The booths include all that is needed to wash a dog and operate like a car 
wash, air or vacuum machine. Operators can choose coin or token, and All Paws 
will preprogram a price per time period. Maintenance involves at least once-
daily cleaning of surfaces and hair filters, and topping up of soaps/shampoos. 
   Two c-store executives with All Paws booths say the profit margin is similar 
to a car wash's 70%, and they have noticed no alarming rise in utility costs. 
While All Paws makes and sells booths with two sets of equipment, Jiffy Mart, 
Westminster, Md., and Tradewinds Markets, Eddington, Maine, use the one-dog 
   Chuck Lawrence, owner of five-store Tradewinds Markets, liked the concept so 
much he bought and installed three at once in the summer of 2012. Lawrence says 
he was drawn by the novelty and what it might mean for attracting new business. 
He was not disappointed. "The amount of publicity we got was amazing," says 
 - Joseph Bush,
   Copyright 2013, Oil Express
Monday, February 04, 2013 12:01:00 AM
Despite great fanfare, mobile wallets - applications that users load onto 
their smartphones and fill with their payment cards for point-of-sale 
transactions - have still yet to progress past the test phase. 
   A consortium of major wireless carriers named Isis, as well as Internet 
giants Google and PayPal, have created digital wallets and have dominated 
payment industry headlines since 2011. But obstacles such as limited compatible 
infrastructure and the low availability of capable smartphones have limited use 
to local and regional trials.
   In August, a new player emerged with a different genesis and motives. 
Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) is the initiative of major retailers such as 7-
Eleven Inc., Alon Brands, Sheetz Inc., QuikTrip Corp., Shell Oil Products US, 
Sunoco Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Wawa, Dunkin' Brands, Best Buy Co. Inc., 
CVS/pharmacy, Hy-Vee Inc., Lowe's, Publix Super Markets Inc., Sears Holdings, 
and Target Corp.
   MCX would be standard for participating retailers, which MCX says serve 
nearly every smartphone-enabled American and account for over $1 trillion 
annually in sales. Users with the application would be able to pay for items at 
all retailers in the network. 
   The platform would work inside each retailers' branded application and would 
be Cloud and barcode-based to include as many smartphones as possible while 
decreasing the need for retailers to invest in new hardware.
   Oil Express spoke with Dodd Roberts, a senior MCX executive. Giving no 
timeframe for launch, Roberts said MCX is working on a way to use the wallet 
for pay at the pump. The goal is not to reduce transaction fees, but to expand 
mobile payment availability and to keep transaction data in-house. That data 
helps retailers customize offers and coupons, which could be sent to users' 
wallets for all-in-one transactions upon future visits. 
   There is no information yet on participation cost, he said. 

OE: How is MCX different from the other mobile wallet ventures?......

 - Joseph Bush,
   Copyright 2013, Oil Express

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Feb. 2013 Shopper Marketing Magazine article on Social Buying and CPGs Feb. 2013

Related Search

In the spring of 2011, Shopper Marketing took notice as General Mills became the first major consumer packaged goods company to run an offer through Groupon. A couple of months later, Supervalu became the first national grocery retailer to test a vendor-funded offer for loyalty cardholders (with Unilever) through the collective purchasing website.
Later that year, Facebook executive Carolyn Everson, in an exclusive interview withShopper Marketing and then speaking at the Shopper Marketing Expo, talked about how shopping is inherently social, which creates "a great opportunity for both retailers and CPG companies." Everson spoke of the "social graph" that Facebook has built, connecting people, places and brands.

It was easy to assume that we were just scratching the surface – that a "social buying" trend was to follow. But two years later, the question remains whether CPG marketers can effectively use social websites to spur visits to the store. If nothing else, the relationship has been awkward.

"So far, CPG use of social networks for shopping and buying have been disappointing – too much couponing to Facebook and requests to 'Like' pages in low-engagement categories," says Nick Jones, executive vice president, retail practice lead, at Arc Worldwide, a Leo Burnett subsidiary. "Smart brands will work out what the underlying shopping need is – validation, information, inspiration – and use social media to answer that need."

In an effort to understand the relationship between CPGs and social buying, we asked multiple sources how they define "social buying." Most of the answers referred in some way to recommendations and opinions from social media friends or online reviews. One source suggested that "social shopping" is the more interesting and more relevant term in the CPG world, and that "social buying" is limited to crowd-source platforms such as Groupon and LivingSocial.

"Social buying to me would be specifically buying a product on a social site," says Meg Way-Edgin, director, digital strategy and planning, Kimberly-Clark. "And that's something we do very sparingly – and not for the purpose of getting sales, but more for making somebody feel like they're getting an exclusive offer, or for helping get more engagement with our pages."

There have been a substantial number of CPG deals on Groupon and LivingSocial, but mainly for online purchase. And retailers typically only dangle offers such as double the value of the purchase regardless of what's bought, not promoting any particular brand on its shelves.

"It's an interesting model, just because you better make sure that financially it makes sense for both sides," Groupon director of communication Julie Mossler says of CPG-focused offers. "There's not a lot of margin to work with. There's a lot of coordination required."

"The Groupon and LivingSocial model is not feasible unless it's for bulk," Way-Edgin says. "The margins are too low. It doesn't pay out."

Plenty of Room to Grow

That's not to say CPG and social buying sites can't be friends; CatapultRPM helped Kellogg Co. with its "Share Your Breakfast" program during National Breakfast Week in March 2012. When consumers either commented and shared what they had for breakfast on various social media sites or bought a "families" deal through LivingSocial, Kellogg donated the cost of a breakfast to the nonprofit Action for Healthy Kids. Still, the initiative was more image enhancement than purchase.

Jennifer Romano, director of digital shopper marketing at CatapultRPM, says price and availability are not barriers to purchase for CPG companies, and those are two hurdles that sites like LivingSocial help most with. Romano believes online reviews (e.g., are the most powerful of the social path-to-purchase tools. And she recommends practices that stretch the definition of social shopping tools, such as email marketing and online coupons.

"They're so important because you know they work," she says. "Sometimes it's not always the newest and the shiniest. If you're a CPG and you're looking where to put your digital dollars, personally I'd recommend a mix, that you do what you know works and keep a bucket of money for test and learn. Mobile coupons or Pinterest or some sort of in-store kiosk might be worth your testing dollars."

Jason Katz, senior vice president, digital, for Acosta Marketing Group, says the return on investment in social media for brands doesn't come with one-time offers.

"Social buying and social shopping are long-term initiatives," he says. "If you look at straight ROI and start getting into that one-off model within traditional shopper marketing or trade programs, you're missing the bigger opportunities. What is our long-term approach to engaging? One of the challenges that Groupon has, the payout [for merchants] is not there from an initial transaction, but how does that impact long-term buying behavior, and how do we measure that?"

Erin Hunter, head of global CPG marketing at Facebook, says that CPGs have a lot of room to grow in social media, and that there is much promise due to mobile's interaction with social. She says that 51% of smartphone users have searched for a recipe while grocery shopping, and 79% use their phone to help with shopping.

"E-commerce for CPG is a small space right now, and I don't think this will change right away; bricks-and-mortar stores aren't going anywhere. With Facebook reaching some 600 million people a month on their mobile device, we're seeing the ability of marketers to influence consumers at the point of purchase skyrocket."

One retailer successfully utilizing social media as a spur to not only action but repeat action is Walgreens. Social media manager Zach West says his company isn't interested in recreating its website on Facebook for online purchases because it wants people to visit its stores. Walgreens has demonstrated a close relationship with visit-intensive Foursquare, and the retailer's photo application on Facebook allows users to send their Facebook photos to Walgreens for printing and pickup.

"It builds on something that is already a core fundamental to what you do on Facebook, which is exchanging photos, keeping up with people, memories – which really plays well into our photo-printing business," West says. "It drives store business; typically you pick up more than just your photos when you walk in the door."

Opportunity Ahead

Acosta's Katz would like to see the ability to send a list of ingredients and coupons related to online cooking videos to a viewer's phone for a shopping trip. Matt Whitaker, vice president of strategy for Dallas-based agency MEplusYOU, thinks that it's time retail locations begin to recreate the online experience that shoppers are accustomed to by providing adjacent products complementary to a main purchase, and also terminals for search capabilities and reviews.

"Replicate what we love about e-commerce," he says. "These are experiences I can't [yet] have in the store."

And Pinterest has been on the minds of most involved with social media marketing for at least a year now. Marketers regard it as a "shopping list" site, effective for gathering and sharing users' interests. But for now, there's no commerce engine to complete the cycle.

Richard Rizzo, vice president, consumer, shopper and retail insights, at market research agency Vision Critical, says a March 2012 study of 500 Pinterest users his company conducted with Emily Carr University revealed that 12% purchased something they had pinned online, while 16% bought something offline.

Overall, one in five users bought items they had pinned. "In my world, that's a good conversion rate," Rizzo says of Pinterest. "It's an addition to the path to purchase and a change that we're looking at a lot harder."
Source: Path to Purchase Institute/Shopper Marketing

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Pet industry shopper marketing from Shopper Marketing Magazine

Related Search

Fido, Kitty, Buddy and Garfield can all answer to a new name: "Recession-proof." According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), even in the worst of the economic downturn of 2007-09, pet products sales rose. Americans spent more than $48 billion on their animal companions in 2010, and the forecast calls for $51 billion this year (to be continued after Institute POV).

Why do we buy like this? When it comes to pet products, the answer is simple: love.

"It's almost like a societal shift is occurring where it's become more socially acceptable for pet owners to really pamper their pets," says David Lummis, a senior pet analyst for Rockville, Md.-based Market Research Group's Packaged Facts. "And it's not just about frivolous products. It's about the health of the pet and increasing the nutritional profile so that prices can also go up."

Lummis says that the widespread and highly publicized pet food recalls of 2007 (largely centered around Chinese animal feed with melamine) placed a harsh spotlight on the industry's safety standards. Shoppers began to pay closer attention to pet-product quality, boosting business in the natural/organic pet-product niche.

With almost two-thirds of American households (72.9 million homes) having pets, this represented an irresistible opportunity for the $19 billion pet-food industry. Global CPGs like Procter & Gamble began to snap up niche players such as Natura Pet Products, adding the holistic pet-food brands Innova, Evo, California Naturals, Healthwise and Karma to its Iams and Eukanuba portfolio.

"The industry," Lummis says, "is converting pet owners to higher-priced foods based on the affection that they feel for their animals and the belief that good nutrition – just like human foods – will be important to their overall health."

Jeff Metzner, Iams brand manager at P&G, says that today's health-conscious pet-product shoppers fall into two categories:

"In general, Iams' core consumers consider their pet to be part of the family and think first about health when choosing their pet food. This consumer wants to understand the nutritional technology in their pet food and is very interested in their veterinarian's opinion. The second approach is through natural ingredients. This consumer is seeking a healthy food but believes that natural ingredients are the key. For this consumer, the ingredients in the food are most important."

A Fragmented Path

A few decades ago, pet food was a fairly straightforward business with 95% of sales coming through supermarkets. Today, the grocery channel's share hovers around a mere 50% as sales shifted to big boxes like Walmart (on the price-value side) as well as specialized retailers like Petco, PetSmart and Pet Supplies Plus.

Dustin Lehner, vice president of shopper marketing at Catapult Marketing, Westport, Conn., says that as a result, the path to purchase for pet lovers is no longer one lane. Catapult, which counts Mars Inc.'s Pedigree brand as a client, changes its approach when focusing on a shopper at Southeastern U.S. grocery chain Publix or one at any Walmart. It's all about shopper research, Lehner says.

"What we've started to hone in on is this whole idea of these varying levels and types of relationships pet owners have with their pet – it's really starting to be, from the shopper's perspective, one of the key drivers of what we say and how we say it," Lehner says. "At a Publix for example, where I've got a little bit older shopper, typically an empty-nester, their pet has basically kind of filled that void of the child that's no longer in the home.

"Their level of looking at the ingredient, really looking at accessories, things like that, to basically treat that pet like their child, is much more prevalent than it would be at a Walmart, let's say. At Walmart, you tend to over-skew toward outdoor dogs, they're a busy, dual-income household, so there's a lot of things happening. Their moments with their pets are extremely limited: on the way to the car in the morning or coming home from work and get dinner started, fill the dog bowl and rub them on their head, and that's basically the interaction.

"So with Walmart, it was more about giving (the dog) the best you can, because when we started doing the research what we found was that Walmart shoppers, the food that they give their pet is one of the few things they really do for them – 'I would never buy him private label food because the food, for me, is kind of like treating him. I'm willing to spend the three dollars more because that's all I really do for him, buy him food.' If you look at Walmart, it was really much less about the relationship and more about, this is going to make you feel good because you're feeding him good food."

Tug at the Heartstrings

As the pet-products path to purchase has become more complex, marketers have created a variety of social awareness platforms and social media campaigns that play off consumers' deep feelings for (and some might say anthropomorphizing of) pets. One of the most successful is Iams' annual "Home 4 the Holidays" platform, which began a decade ago through an animal shelter network on the West Coast. The campaign has since gone global, serving more than 3,500 animal organizations.

The latest iteration of "Home 4 the Holidays" (Oct. 1, 2010, to Jan. 4, 2011) leaned heavily on heartstrings-tugging social media and in-store displays to help get more than 1.1 million animals adopted. In the U.S., Iams added a food-donation program named "Bags 4 Bowls." Two million meals were donated online through pet blogger sites, the Iams Facebook page and Iams' Twitter account. Another 3 million meals were donated at grocery, big-box and pet specialty chains using more traditional tactics – specially marked Iams bags of dog and cat food and at-shelf signage.

Given the highly social context of pet ownership, it's no surprise that smartphone tools have now begun to figure more prominently in petcare shopper marketing. Iams launched a fairly basic mobile site in April 2011. Sean Lee, Iams assistant brand manager, says the main goals of the site are to "educate consumers on the go, help them locate Iams products, allow them to connect with our communities [like Facebook], and provide access to user reviews."

Nestlé Purina was somewhat more ambitious when it launched its mobile app, named "The Petometer," in June 2011. The Petometer is designed to help consumers care for and monitor their pets. Sherry Smith, senior vice president of advertiser sales at Tampa, Fla.-based Triad Retail Media, says that once her company's work on the Nestlé Purina microsite on was established, Nestlé Purina asked for interaction away from the store and PCs.

"They came to us and said, 'We want to make sure we're reaching them while they're at home and drive overall brand awareness,'" says Smith, who works at Triad's Bentonville, Ark., branch. "We recommended an app that could track the history of your walks with your dog because it is linked to Google maps. You can set reminders for yourself, what times to walk your dog. There's a list of recommended exercises you can do with your dog. There's a calendar feature for tracking vet visits or grooming appointments." The app is available at Nestlé Purina's Walmart microsite, the iPhone app store or Android app store. Users can upload photos of their dog and share the routes and details of the walk (date, time, distance and pace) with friends on Facebook.

Soft Sells

Smith says that Nestlé Purina doesn't try to "hard sell" anything inside the app; users are instead referred to the brand's microsite on for shopping tools like coupons, locational pricing or product availability by location.

"It is definitely seen as a sponsorship by Purina," Smith said of the app's value. "The brand specifics are not number one. Instead, it's really about giving consumers a tool that they can use to take better care of their pets. Who knows, as the app continues to develop and we make changes to it, we may include more on product information. But right now, it's about getting it into consumers' hands, letting them interact with it and seeing what they think."

Triad's relationship with Nestlé Purina and Walmart may be unique in the pet industry, says Smith, as it encompasses the brand showcase (i.e., a microsite) inside The site has several functions: Direct visitors back to Nestlé Purina's main site for more information; share games (currently "The Fast and The Furriest" and "Yarn Ball Blocker"); offer articles on pets (such as "Puppy Necessities" and "Functions of Fiber"); and most recently, show episodes of a Triad-produced series named "Real Pet Stories" that chronicles the lives of pets at Tampa-area shelters. There's also a tab at to help visitors find pets for adoption in their areas.

"What's nice about it is that it has a co-branded URL that Purina can leverage in their marketing campaigns and on their packaging," Smith says. "It is live all year. We're updating information at least monthly, working with Purina to make sure they've got the most up-to-date content and commerce information available."

Smith says what consumers see at the brand showcase will be consistent with what they see in-store:

"For example, last April, Purina promoted a puppy pack as 'Buy Puppy Chow, go to the website to enter a code, and get a free puppy pack to try.' It was a 360-degree approach that reached shoppers in the store and drove them back online, reaching them before they shopped again, driving them to the store, and giving them a nice giveaway based off their purchase of Purina products."

Nestlé Purina is involved with another campaign, this time in the grocery channel, that targets pet owners' human feelings for animals. "Tales For The Pet Lover's Heart" is sponsored by Nestlé Purina and grocery giant Kroger. It is also dependent on a website (, where visitors can tell a story about a pet to have Kroger donate $1 up to $25,000 to welfare organizations across the U.S.

The site also links to Nestlé Purina's Facebook page, offers downloadable projects owners can do with their pets, relates the two companies' donations (not tied to pet stories) to animal welfare organizations and informs visitors of discounts at Kroger locations if they shop in late July and early August