CITGO Overhauling U.S. Marketing

After navigating through a tumultuous 2008 marked by a slumping economy, hurricanes, volatile fuel prices and consumer unease, CITGO Petroleum Corp. said it will roll out enhanced brand programs that will continue to grow positive awareness and increase brand strength throughout 2009.

This package of initiatives and programs will allow CITGO to further enhance its partnership with local marketers and provide greater opportunities for successful operations at the more than 7,000 locally owned and operated CITGO stores in the U.S.

“The CITGO brand is a powerful and valuable asset and one which relies upon the hard work and dedication of the local jobbers––the men and women throughout America who are the face of CITGO in their own communities,” said Gustavo Velásquez, CITGO’s vice president supply and marketing.

The marketing plan for 2009 will be shared with CITGO Marketers in a series of roundtable meetings held in 18 cities over the next two months.

Brand Advertising
To fortify a foundation of awareness and convey core brand messaging, a multi-platform advertising campaign will launch in March. The campaign will consist of a combination of media vehicles from network television to billboards to Internet ads.

CITGO research revealed that there are specific brand truths that are unique to CITGO and are an intrinsic part of the way consumers relate to the brand. Since all CITGO stations are locally owned and operated, they are part of the fabric of each community, providing local jobs, fueling the local economy and giving back. Therefore, the company named the new campaign, “The Neighborhood?”

To tell the CITGO story in the ads, CITGO will be putting the spotlight on real-life CITGO marketers and retailers. The campaign will be highlighted by a virtual road trip through several one-of-a-kind American towns, highlighting the distinctive quirks and charms that make them special.

Digital Communications
In 2009, CITGO will tap into the power of social computing by connecting and collaborating with consumers on a topic relevant to everyone––helping those in need. Through a new Web site going live in May, consumers will be invited to post descriptions and needs for their favorite charitable activities, explaining how they benefit the community and who it helps. Visitors to the site vote on the cause of their choice, and winners will be awarded free gas and an expanded Web site profile on what they are doing for their community.

The online promotion will run for three months starting just prior to Memorial Day.

Brand Programs
Also new for 2009, CITGO is implementing the Quarterly Growth Incentive Program to reward branded marketers for growing with the CITGO Brand. This program joins the ranks of popular existing incentive programs such as CITGO Grow Bucks.

Another headliner in new brand programs is the refresh to the CITGO street image. The company recently selected a firm to assist in designing an evolution of the current brand look. A team of marketers, consultants and CITGO brand development staff are working with the firm to develop the new design. Unveiling is scheduled for later this year and the new image roll out could begin appearing at CITGO in early 2010.

To help retailers be more profitable, CITGO is introducing a newly revamped mystery shop program called the Image Impact Initiative. The program has broadened the instant rewards for a “gold” store rating to include the store manager in addition to the sales associates who already receive CITGO gift cards on the spot. Winning store managers will receive awards cards that enable them to shop online for appealing prizes. Another change in the program is a more extensive questionnaire that weighs various attributes according to their importance in gaining and retaining customer loyalty.

In the payment card arena, the new year starts with the roll out of the redesigned suite of cards that debuted in the latter part of 2008. On the leaderboard for 2009 is the roll out of the CITGO Business Select tiered-rebate program, designed to entice both new and existing customers to continually increase their gallonage volume, and CITGO Plus programs that focus on location-based solicitation.

CITGO also said it is committed to working with its branded customers to assist them in becoming PCI compliant. Marketers trying to get ahead of the game are already availing themselves of PCI consultations with CITGO payment card personnel in order to get on the PCI DSS bandwagon prior to the deadline for compliance of July 10, 2010.

Through these commitments and program innovations, CITGO wants to help local marketers and retailers to not just survive, but thrive in 2009, said Alan Flagg, CITGO’s general manager of light oils marketing. In doing so, these local business owners who help fuel the U.S. economy will continue to support their local communities by providing jobs, paying taxes, offering high-quality goods and services, and helping those in need.

“We know that our success is intrinsically tied to the success of our marketers and retailers,” Flagg said. “That’s why we spend a lot of time talking and listening to them. They are the ones who make it happen on the street every day, and so their input and ideas are invaluable to our marketing model.”

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