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Opinion: Kum & Go name change would be a loss for sentimental Midwesterners

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I can first recall seeing the Kum & Go name during a trip to play basketball in Arkansas.

The branding was instantly iconic for my teammates and me. I suppose the double entendre in the name appealed to our teenage sensibilities.

The name, an apparent reference to the phrase “come and go,” using the initials of founders W.A. Krause and T.S. Gentle, continues to be memorable and funny to this day for fans of the brand. That branding even made an appearance in a 2006 movie I like when star Johnny Knoxville was seen wearing a company T-shirt in “Jackass Number Two.”

Beyond the gas discounts, huge sodas on the cheap and friendly staff members that have contributed to my fandom, it’s also one of the earliest examples I can think of in my life where a catchy name resulted in brand loyalty.

So, when a January article by CSP Daily News reported on an impending name change, it caused some alarm for this sentimental Midwesterner.

Citing people familiar with the matter, CSP Daily News reported Salt Lake City-based Maverik would retire the Kum & Go brand by 2025 after buying the Des Moines, Iowa, convenience store chain in 2023. The Kum & Go stores reportedly would take on the Maverik brand name.

“I think there was some concern about the inadvertent double entendre of the Kum & Go name,” one of the sources told CSP Daily News.

I would argue that the double entendre is not all that inadvertent and in fact is a selling point for Kum & Go, especially when it comes to branding.

For this piece, I inquired with Maverik about the CSP Daily News report. I received a news release indicating that Maverik recently completed rebrands of Kum & Go stores in existing Maverik markets in Utah and Colorado.

The rebranding decision does not appear to be fully made, per the release.

“Feedback from our Utah and Colorado customers has been excellent thus far, and Maverik will continue to evaluate rebrands in additional markets,” Maverik CEO Chuck Maggelet said in the release. “Ongoing market research as well as the results from Maverik’s initial rebranded stores will help guide future branding decisions.”

I personally hope the Kum & Go name sticks around in this region.

Kum & Go’s brand loyalty appears to be especially present in the Midwest and the Springfield area, and the company in recent years has capitalized on that.

In a May 2019 Springfield Business Journal article, dubbed “Why is SGF so enticing to Kum & Go?,” a spokesperson said that through 2020, the company would have invested $140 million into the local metropolitan statistical area since 2012. Clearly, Kum & Go saw the demand. New owner Maverik does as well.

As far as branding, I suppose it comes down to why Maverik made the acquisition, as well as its corporate goals. Was it solely a real estate and retail play to shore up locations in profitable markets? Was the brand recognition of Kum & Go a factor in the decision, and how important is that in markets where Maverik isn’t well known, like ours?

Certainly, Kum & Go is a very well-known brand in the Midwest. As far as brands go, you’d be hard put to find a Springfieldian who doesn’t know the name and exactly what the company does. That’s pretty powerful in the marketing world, and I’m sure that buying into that brand goodwill isn’t lost on Maverik.

At the end of the day, it’s a gas station, and my life will go on regardless of the name on the building. I will choose to shop at Kum & Go/Maverik dependent on its offerings when it’s all said and done.

Still, I’d just rather give business to Kum & Go than Maverik. The latter name doesn’t have a sentimental place in my heart, and I bet I’m not alone in this area.

I’ll be here with my large soda and sausage, egg and cheese croissant sandwich, waiting to see what happens.

Springfield Business Journal Digital Editor Geoff Pickle can be reached at gpickle@sbj.net.

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markhill052@centurytel.net

7-11, Jiffy Market, Git N Go... once here and now gone. Who cares what the name is as long as the service and prices are good? Not sure why there is so much sentimentality about the brand name.

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