Gulf Hopes to Shine With Sunrise

Gulf Express image concept designed to grow into c-store, retail identity

Greg Lindenberg, Editor, CSP

NEWTON, Mass. -- You've heard of morning in America? Well, it's sunrise at Gulf. Gulf Oil LP's announcement earlier this month that it will rebrand the 11 gas stations along the Massachusetts Turnpike to Gulf and unveil its new Gulf Sunrise Gasoline & Retail Centers featuring the Gulf Express convenience store is the dawning of a new era for the storied, phoenix-like brand.

When current CEO Joseph Petrowski took over leadership of what had been the Northeast portion of the once integrated oil company, the executives began hearing from its distributors [image-nocss] that there wasn't much rhyme or reason on what was allowed to be branded Gulf, senior vice president and chief marketing officer Rick Dery told CSP Daily News.

The street image and the motoring public's perception of Gulf was that it was a recognizable brand, but it was a tired brand, he added.

So they decided to create a new Gulf image. After presenting a dozen samples to the distributor advisory council, whose input they deemed critical, they decided on the Sunrise concept. We knew we wanted something that was environmentally sound and friendly looking. Our orange and blue was wonderful, and we introduced some clouds behind the logo, said Dery. We started doing some advertisingwe advertised behind the home plate with the Phillies, Mets and Red Sox with a Gulf logo slightly askew with a sky background. It bounced and really came to life.

The focal element of Sunrise is the canopy, which is an internally illuminated and back-formed Gulf Oil sign that rises above the fascia of the canopy.

Right now, the concept is a sign and image program, he said. Gulf has never had a c-store concept before, so we wanted to craft what the image is going to look like, build a little traction and then build a program around that. We're going to be launching the concept on the Mass. Turnpike.

Those will be the first Gulf Gasoline & Retail Centers featuring the Gulf Express c-store. Dery said the first Mass. Pike conversion should be completes by the end of August. The rest will follow in what he predicted will be a six-week conversion process. We've already begun an inventory and have already begun to ship out some of the elements of the new brand image. Our main ID at the stationsinstead of just having a colored backgroundwill be set on a cloud background. The canopy feature is the internally illuminated sign. And for high-profile sites, we have orange LEDs that go around the entire bottom of the canopy, he said.

He said the Newton, Mass.-based company is targeting between 24 and 30 months as a rollout schedule for all of its sites. The goal is, over that 30-month period, to put all of the 1,800 Gulf sites under the new signage, prioritizing the most visible, high-profile sites.

We're introducing a new image spec book which identifies what the station is going to look like, and then we're going to have a minimum image standards manual, said Dery. There are some sites that had joined the Gulf portfolio over the last decade that we're going to try to cull out. We have some sites in out portfolio that are doing 8,000 or 10,000 gallons a month, and that just doesn't fit what we are trying to do and the image we're trying to create for Gulf in the Northeast.

He added, Historically, they were putting signs on anything. It didn't matter whether it had a canopy or it didn't, or what the fascia or color of the building was. There were nonexistent image standards. We're trying to tighten up that ship. There was no store to speak of. If there was a store, if the dealer's name was John, it was 'John's Convenience Store.' There was no store affiliation with Gulf. We're going to change that. The first step is signage and image; the second step is interior; the third step is going to be setting up relationships with suppliers.

He said that the stations will also include other profit centers such as car wash and foodservice. We want to maximize alternate business centers at the retail site based in large part on what the demands are for that location. We're working closely with Subway, we're working closely with Dunkin' Donuts. We're affiliating ourselves with other players who I can't discuss at this time. We are going to be the partner in creating the Retail Center our distributors have been demanding.

Click the "Download Now" button, below to view the Gulf Express c-store logo.

Click here for previous CSP Daily News coverage on Gulf's Mass. Pike conversion.