Brand Stand

Spinks shares how the Spinx name arose, and why it doesn't work everywhere

Jennifer Bulat, Group Director of Editorial Production, CSP

Stewart Spinks

CHICAGO -- As Shakespeare so famously put it centuries ago, "What's in a name?" Stewart Spinks found out just how much, creating his own brand out of necessity and turning it into opportunity.

Spinks, founder and CEO of The Spinx Co., Greenville, S.C., explained during the 2011 NACS Show session "What's in a Name? The Value of Brand Identity," why the Spinx name appears on more than 50 of his stores instead of a major gasoline brand. But first, a little history.

Spinks started with one store in the '70s, and the location had to promote a private brand. He couldn't get a major brand to supply him because of oil allocations caused by embargoes. After abandoning his first brand, which he deemed "too generic," he developed the Spinx brand and logo, which at the time included a graphic representation of the Egyptian Sphinx. He shorted and changed the name partially because it fit better on signage, and because many brands at the time had an X in their name (such as Texaco and Exxon).

Spinks rolled out his private brand for another reason: In 2001, the Amoco brand went away. He was highly invested in Amoco, having gone so far as to buy three jobberships. When BP abandoned the name, Spinks had to, too.

"Everything we do now carries the Spinx name first," he said. That includes the company's Fresh on the Go foodservice offering, energy drinks and bottled water, to name a few products.

"When you build your own brand, unless you screw up, it's not going to be taken away," he said.

Even though the name Spinx resonates and connects with customers in areas of Spinks' base of South Carolina, it doesn't mean as much in other places. So in markets such as North Carolina, Marathon is the primary name on the store.

"I'm not capable of being a national brand," Spinks said with a laugh. Even being a regional brand is tough, he said.

But Spinx is the No. 1 gasoline brand in his area, which he attributes to how involved the company is with the community, with events such as local marathons, through the Spinx Family Foundation. He believes being a "family brand" gives consumers something to identify with, which doesn't always happen with a national gasoline brand, he said.

Private branding is not the answer for everyone, though, according to Joe Bona, president of the retail division of CBX, New York. "It's what's right for you and your business," he said. And even if you advertise a well-known name, "It's not the name on the front door--it's the products and services behind that name that build a brand over time."

By Jennifer Bulat, Group Director of Editorial Production, CSP
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