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4 must-know branding facts for lube owners

October 11, 2010
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The brand is the essence of a company and a business owner’s most valuable asset. It’s what consumers think of when they hear a business’s name and see a facility.

Everything the company does, from the look and feel of the service centers and employee uniforms to the customer service procedures and advertising, contributes to the strength of the brand.

Even the manner in which employees answer the telephone plays a role in how the consuming public perceives a lube business.

Basic branding benefits
Why is motor oil branding important? Because a strong, well-communicated brand can separate a company from the competition, build an emotional relationship with customers, and motivate purchase decisions.

It can even enable the owner to charge a premium for the services.

Most motor oil companies work diligently to craft a powerful brand. Unique employee uniforms, center designs and customer service procedures can help communicate the lube’s commitment to providing fast, friendly service that people trust.

A business’s name, not the brand of oil featured, should be the central focus of communication efforts.

Consumers, after all, can purchase all motor oil brands from a variety of automotive stores and service providers; it’s the service the shop provides that differentiates it from the competition.

It is easy to enjoy a mutually productive and profitable relationship with a major oil brand name.

The decision to partner with a larger name should be based on a number of factors that every lube shop should take into consideration when selecting a motor oil partner. Four of these considerations include:

1. Strength of name
When reviewing oil companies, be sure to look at how consumers perceive each name and, as a result, how this will impact perceptions of the lube business.

If consumers view the oil brand favorably, that increases the likelihood that they will view your business favorably.

Having a powerful and respected global brand that enjoys strong recognition throughout the United States should be particularly important to any business exploring branding.

If the lube business is considering expanding into new markets where it has not yet established a strong presence, having that brand name standing behind the business is beneficial.

2. Communication
It’s important to be clear about the type of relationship expected from an oil company. Specifically, is a supplier or partner desired?

Communicate expectations to the oil companies being evaluated to ensure there are no misunderstandings.

A lube business should select a company with the understanding that the two entities will essentially work as partners, each contributing to the other’s success.

This type of relationship requires more commitment than a simple supplier agreement; it requires constant communication and a dedication to seeking new opportunities to grow both brand and lube business.

If the lube shop is not clear about its expectations, misunderstandings will almost surely arise.

3. Pricing
If an owner is going to measure potential partners based on their price structure — and the owner certainly should — he or she needs to be sure the analysis includes all of the oils utilized in the operation.

The days of pumping primarily one or two grades are long gone, so it’s critical that the price comparisons include the full breadth of offerings.

4. Marketing support
Oil companies offer a variety of advertising, marketing and promotional support packages. Determine what type of support is most important to your lube business and measure potential partners based on that.

The major oil companies provide co-op advertising programs, usually based on the volume of oil purchased.

These may help owners reduce their advertising costs. The oil companies may also offer loan packages to help improve facilities and/or expand to additional locations.

Developing innovative customer service and operational procedures enables lube centers to maintain strong ticket averages.

So, look to the oil company for programs that can help attract new customers to the center and expand the system by adding new locations.

The perfect partnership
A lube owner’s company brand is his or her most valuable asset, one that requires investment and constant attention.

Choosing which motor oil brand to feature at a facility is an important decision that directly impacts the company’s reputation and, as a result, the bottom line.

To ensure that an informed decision is made that best benefits the company, carefully analyze the brand strength, communication, pricing and support offered by the oil companies under consideration. After all, it’s the lube’s name that is at stake.

John E. Shepanek is chairman, CEO and majority shareholder of OCH International, Inc., the franchisor of Oil Can Henry’s quick lube centers. Since 2000, OCH has shared a partnership with Castrol Americas, owned by BP/Amoco. John can be contacted at

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