A Jones for Kum & Go
Convenience store chain's new senior VP reveals his marketing mojo
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- Through much of his career, Chris Jones has been passionate about building brands. The new senior vice president of marketing at Kum & Go LC spent 17 years with Mars Inc. After starting in the company's finance department, Jones shifted to sales, operations, consumer promotion and ultimately brand management for Mars brands such as Snickers, Twix, Milky Way and Pedigree dog food. In 2008, he joined life insurance provider Aviva USA.
"We focused on the customer experience, building brands and acquiring and maintaining customers who were really big fans of our business," Jones said of his time with Aviva. "Kum & Go is like moving back to my roots in consumer products."
Jones revealed more of his professional philosophy in a Q&A with The Business Record:
Q: Why are you passionate about marketing?
A: I think I look at marketing as the strategic engine of the business. It's not all about advertising and communication, that's only a tiny piece of it. To me, it's about business strategy, customer focus, demand creation and earnings enhancement. When I look at marketing, it's not just the functional part but the enterprise approach to driving demand, making customers and keeping customers happy.
Q: What appealed to you about this opportunity with Kum & Go?
A: One thing that's so great about Kum & Go is that customer focus is at the core of the business. Coming from financial services, there is still a question mark sometimes as to how much focus should be put on the customers. That's not a question here.
Q: What does your role at Kum & Go look like?
A: What I call the traditional marketing pieces of advertising and messaging are just one small sliver of what marketing means here at Kum & Go. Here, the role goes to choosing the items we put in the store, how we merchandise them, the pricing and external and internal communications, as well as the foodservice part of the business. There's a real breadth of what's in marketing, which is exciting to me joining the company. That's the brand experience, and we have the opportunity to manage, lead and bring the brand to life in a lot of different ways.
Q: What's a typical day look like for you?
A: A typical day for me is doing one of four things. I'm either working with my peers on the executive team to talk about the strategic direction of the business, or I'm working with the marketing team to figure out the right strategies and tactics to acquire and attain customers. Also, I'm collaborating across the functions to ensure we're all aligned about the executions of those plans at retail. The fourth thing would be learning. I'm just drinking from the fire hose as the new guy, trying to understand the business.
West Des Moines, Iowa-based Kum & Go has approximately 425 convenience stores in 11 states (Iowa, Arkansas, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wyoming). In addition to a wide selection of merchandise, Kum & Go provides customers a proprietary mix of products under the Hiland brand. Other proprietary product offerings include Java Ridge Premium Coffee, Napa Creek and Sea Ridge wines, Go Fresh Market sandwiches and Nuclear energy drinks.