Circle K lesson: Successful rebranding should start from the employees

Interview with Kristīne Lazdiņa, marketing and communications manager of Circle K Latvia. Kristīne Lazdiņa will talk about Circle K rebranding case at the Balticbest festival of creativity in Tallinn on the 30th of August. Check out the program from 

What is the status of rebranding from Statoil to Circle K? 

It’s finished in Scandinavia, almost finished in Estonia and in Latvia about half of the stations are already rebranded. 

From this experience, what could be the lessons? If some other company would want to do the same and rebrand a company which has been around for more than 20 years, what would you recommend them to do? 

One of the most important factor of success was that the owners and the management of the company realized, before the rebranding process started, that it’s immensely important to sell the rebranding to the employees of the company. 

It’s the employees, who communicate with the customers every single day. Our company started with us, the employees and I think that it was the best thing they could’ve done. In the past, a lot of companies, which have rebranded have only thought directly about customers, but it’s important to understand that the employees are an essential link between the management and the owners and the customers.  

In our company, they started introducing the rebranding process to the employees a year before the customers saw the actual rebranding in stations. We had this target of engaging all the employees, including everyone who work in the petrol stations, down to every single sales person. There were several different activities to do that, which were very successful. Now we can see that the employees believe in the now brand and they are ready to sell it further to the customers. 

And then, of course all the other activities which were targeted to customers, including a new campaign. But also, in all the banners and commercials in the television, we have our own employees from the stations taking part. They don’t have a script or anything like that, they were just told to prepare to talk about rebranding and to answer some questions. 

Did you make any significant mistakes, anything that you would’ve done differently? 

That would be a better question to my Scandinavian colleagues, because they were the first ones. Of course, if there were some very significant mistakes, then we would know about these. But for us in the Baltics, we only took the best practice. Now, I cannot think of something that we would’ve done differently. 

What about the name itself, Circle K? It must be an issue in every Baltic language, to pronounce it? 

We definitely are not saying that there is no issue, but we think that it’s not that important, because customers don’t use our services because of our name or brand, but rather because of our values, which we provide, our quality service and our smiling and welcoming employees. For Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians, our name is not so easy to pronounce, but we give the customers the chance to choose the way they are calling brand and in Latvia and Estonia there are already different nicknames for it and we still see that many customers call our stations Statoil, so that’s probably a thing that will stay at least for a couple of years. 

In 20 years, your stations have changed significantly from the gas stations to cafeterias. When it comes to customer behaviour, what are the main changes, where are the trends moving to? 

We see that customers really value their time. We have less and less time every day, everyone is very busy. Customers want convenience and an easy choice, and that’s what Circle K is providing. We make sure that, whenever our customers come to Circle K, they can easily find what they’re looking for conveniently, with the quality they are used to and with good service. We can also see that our customers like to take things on the go, their coffee on the go, sandwich on the go and so on. Therefore, we always try to save their time so, that they can spend it somewhere else.

Also, what we can especially see in Scandinavia, is that electrification of cars is really booming. We try to look in the future and see what our business is like in 20 years. It’s not easy to predict, but we can see where the trends are shifting to and make conclusions. The trends are shifting to food and convenience, that’s why we also, all time, work on our food offers, so our customers could have more choices.

Interviewed by Hando Sinisalu, Best Marketing International