Unless you’re a stick-up man, you probably view convenience stores without enthusiasm. They’re not the best places to buy stuff–just the easiest. Granted, you’ll often trade off quality, friendly service and other amenities for the sake of convenience-store quickness. But the category doesn’t lend itself well to brand loyalty, since loyalty by its nature entails all sorts of inconvenience. (Just ask the Marines.) As such, Cenex has its hands full as it tries to give its image some warmth. The effort is worth making, though, since Cenex does much of its business in small towns. In such locales, a convenience store serves something of the function of an old-time general store. And one way these stores connect with the locals is through their low-tech message signs. The store may be part of a big corporation; its interior may be indistinguishable from that of a hundred other stores in the same chain. Still, its ever-changing sign is decidedly uncorporate as it lists daily specials, salutes the local high school football team, etc–often with misspellings and mismatched fonts. That being the case, it’s a suitable visual motif for Cenex’s effort to seem more than merely convenient. And “helpful” is a well-chosen word here. It’s not too much of a stretch from “convenience” to “helpful,” so we’re willing to believe Cenex may indeed be helpful. At the same time, it asserts (in a mildly self-mocking way) that there’s more than a strictly utilitarian nexus between store and customer. Another ad in the series says Cenex is “Helpful. Like a stranger with jumper cables.” Without overdoing it, these messages nudge readers toward feeling an emotional link to their local Cenex.
Colle + McVoy, Minneapolis
Cenex, St. Paul, Minn.
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