ExxonMobile Loyalty: Return & Earn. Really Folks?
When was the last time we saw a gallon of gas hovering in the two buck and change level? A long time ago, in a land far, far away. And, not coincidentally, when was the last time we saw television advertising from ExxonMobile, BP and Shell? Let’s just say it was in an earlier era when Exxon and Mobile had not consummated their bromance (corporations are people, right?, and these are both boy brands, for sure). Certainly well before BP had trashed the Gulf.
What’s up? The big guys are (like so many of the rest of us) in a share war and thus they are hitting the airwaves. Their strategy documents must be calling for increased loyalty as the shortest distance between lowered prices and higher profits. Interestingly, they seem (rightly to me) to believe there’s not much point in trying to differentiate on product performance. One brand’s gallons are pretty much the same as another’s and proving otherwise is a daunting mission, a seriously uphill slog.
Disappointingly to me, they don’t seem to be giving us a reason to believe based on service or types of products available at the ubiquitous, adjacent 24-hour marts. Wouldn’t these be the ideal places to introduce new food brands, or fresh, local products? Couldn’t they be intriguing for more than new flavors of beef jerky. Couldn’t there be fabby partnerships with Big Food or local start-ups?
But no. What we’re being offered is yet another loyalty-based program, as if we didn’t have enough airline and rent-a-car and Amtrak and hotel cards in our wallets already. Let’s just say, we don’t need to ‘fill-up’ on more membership programs.
I understand: Most of these stations are actually franchisees. They’ve enjoyed a seller’s market for generations. But perhaps when the loyalty programs don’t produce the desired results, the Street will demand a better path. The road so far not taken may lead to at-the-pump service models and Niketown-esque concept stores that serve as a beacon to drivers and franchisees alike, as well as investors.