Branding ampm Forward

During the last year, BP's ampm moved to a franchise operation, and by year's end, the remaining few conversions will be 'materially finished,' according to the company. It also gained a new president, Bill Fry, following former President Fiona MacLeod's departure on a one-year sabbatical. Two months ago, Donna Sanker became the chain's vice president of marketing, replacing Andrew Baird, who returned to his native New Zealand. Convenience Store News recently caught up with Fry and Sanker, learning of their plans to further develop the brand and its "too much good stuff" mantra.

At ampm, there's no such thing as "too much good stuff," or too much brand awareness for that matter. In addition to moving 400-plus formerly company-owned stores over to franchise operations, the chain this year ranked 21st on Franchise Direct's Top 100 Global Franchises, which Fry partly attributed to a (30-year) stable and growing brand.

Building on that momentum, ampm is looking to elevate its brand awareness even further. Some of those strategies include:

Continually add to the foodservice lineup -- After successfully expanding its fresh, hot breakfast menu this fall, ampm plans to forge forward with more "fantastic" offerings. "We have great position with our foodservice lineup -- customers have really taken to it in the last couple of months -- but every year we're going to add to it," Fry explained. "Foodservice is absolutely where we're going to differentiate ourselves and win customers for the long-term."

Position-differentiating choices -- Allowing customers to "customize" their coffee, sandwiches, hot dogs and more with fresh toppings and condiments is a "critical part of our offering," said Fry. "It's interesting to watch customers buy our foodservice items. They'll top it off the way they like -- many will start eating it on their way to the cashier -- and in 30 seconds be on their way. It's much more than self-serve, there are a plethora of condiments, toppings, crushed ice or cubed -- the customer has so many different choices." And ampm plans to continue to change-up relevant, fresh extras. "It makes us different, and it's a growth area at ampm," Fry stated.

Expand multiple media avenues -- A "huge amount of progress" was already made building the ampm brand, especially in its new franchise markets this year, utilizing TV, radio, billboards, in-store samplings, e-mail and even MySpace with a Texas Hold'em poker event, said Sanker. "We're using all avenues to leverage our brand awareness and drive sales," she said.

The company also reached out to customers by offering coupons through their cell phones and the Internet. "We've stepped into that space in a big way this year," Sanker added.

Moving ahead, ampm plans to further expand media avenues, such as social media including Facebook.

Balance more private label, where appropriate, with national brands -- ampm's Shadow Hills line of snacks, and Deluge sports drinks and waters, offered right next to their national-brand equivalents, have been well received by customers looking for value. The chain plans to add more items and leverage its brand equity.

Looking at the big picture, Fry is "very bullish" on ampm and c-stores in general. "We have great choices, particularly in foodservice, and we absolutely satisfy the time-starved customer better than any other channel out there," he said.
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