But they love you enough to wear your logo on a t-shirt…
A few years ago, my son and I made a trip through the Midwest to meet with college football coaches who had invited him to join their program. Interstate driving is monotonous at best and besides your car radio, the only source of entertainment are the billboards and signs you see along the way. Driving through the corn fields of Iowa, one business caught my son’s eye. “Kum & Go? What the…? Dad, we gotta stop!”
In 1959, William A. Krause and Tony S. Gentle founded the Hampton Oil Company in Hampton, IA. By the early 60s, they began to open a chain of convenience stores, which by 1975 were united under a single brand name, Kum & Go. The name was a play on the phrase “come and go” using the initials of Krause & Gentle.
Now, the euphemism that has probably entered your mind, dates back to at least 1650 with the bawdy song “Walking In A Meadow Greene” by Bishop Percy. Did Krause & Gentle consider the double entendre when selecting the name? The internet is silent on this subject, but there is no doubt it is a memorable brand name.
There’s an old saying, “If you try to please everyone, no one will like it.” This is especially true when building a brand. If the goal for your brand is to get the entire population to purchase your product or service, bad news, that simply isn’t possible. No brand has ever accomplished that. Not Apple, Coca-Cola, Nike… none of them. A successful brand has a contingent of extremely loyal followers. These are the people willing to wear your brand name and/or logo on a t-shirt, hat, flip-flops (yes, there are Kum & Go flip-flops), or whatever. These loyalists are what makes a local business brand, like a radio station, or a regional brand like Kum & Go successful in the long term.
These brand fans are incredibly difficult to obtain, but extremely valuable once you have them. They are willing to drive past seven convenience stores to buy gas and snacks from you. They will ignore all the other sources of entertainment available to them and choose to listen to your audio brand.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, he describes a phenomenon he calls the tipping point which is “that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” In the case of Kum & Go, this occurred when Johnny Knoxville wore a Kum & Go shirt in the 2006 movie Jackass Number Two. It was at that moment that a legion of young adults across America became aware of Kum & Go for the first time, and quickly became fans.
In April 2023, Kum & Go’s 400+ stores were purchased by Utah-based Maverik, and it was recently announced that Maverik would retire the Kum & Go brand altogether and rename all of those stores Maverik. The reason? Concerns over the name and that it was “probably easier to focus on one brand for efficiencies and brand/consumer awareness.” This decision has created quite a stir among Kum & Go’s fans on social media and even led to a mention on The Late Show with Stephen Cobert. The bit was a perfect reflection of the fun, cheeky brand position that the chain has enjoyed for years.
Back to my travels with my son, of course he wanted to buy Kum & Go t-shirts for all his high school friends. But, we quickly learned that the Kum & Go merchandise is delivered to each store on Friday morning and there are slim pickings by that afternoon. With this intel, we were able to secure some souvenirs. And now that he is in college, I see Kum & Go merchandise every time I visit him on campus. I doubt that the Maverik brand will be able to capture this kind of loyalty anytime soon.