Friday, May 30, 2008

Inconvenient Brand

I swear: Driving past the highway off-ramp in lower Colorado at about 75 mph, the green sign said “Loaf ’N Lug.” I even pointed Barbara’s eyes to the exit, saying there was a convenience store called “Loaf ’N Lug.” (It’s the curse of speed, I tell you.)

I thought to myself, well, there are some pretty funny C-store names out in the world…I can see a billboard or TV commercial suggesting that customers “loaf on in and lug some stuff out.” Sort of a country-cousin approach to branding.

Come to find out the name of the outfit is Loaf ’N Jug. It’s a division of Kroger, headquartered in Pueblo, CO, that operates about 175 of them – mainly in Colorado and Wyoming, with a few other stores in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma and New Mexico. (Kroger owns or operates half-dozen different C-store operations, from Tom Thumbs to Kwik Shops, in 16 states. It purchased the Loaf ’N Jug chain in 1986.)

Opinion of one: Kroger doesn’t seem to have done much with the brand except keep the stores up to date. Checking out the website, one among many different Kroger C-store operations, shows a bland face to stakeholders. Google “Loaf ’N Jug advertising” and you’ll read old news about the chain’s support of March of Dimes events – worthy promotions, but not a strong regional brand-builder.

It hasn’t nearly the attention-generating horsepower of, say, Susser Holdings’ Stripes® chain, which I wrote about here. As a convenience store brand, Loaf ’N Jug is not very convenient.

Since I haven’t talked to anyone at Loaf ’N Jug – and the Kroger acquisition is more than 20 years in the past – I can’t help but wonder where the chain got its brand name originally. Rather, I do know; but how odd to find such a classical reference in the highly rural Intermountain West.

If the brand comes from anywhere other than The Rubaiyat, by Omar Khayyam, I would be flabbergasted. I wonder just how many customers, loafing into these C-stores and lugging out some diet pop and Doritos®, recall the Persian poet and his well-known lines:

A book of poems, beneath a spreading bough.
A loaf of bread, a jug of wine,
And thou beside me, singing in the wilderness.

We always forget the last line: And wilderness is Paradise enow.

Somewhere back at the beginning of Loaf ’N Jug, I’d like to think that the chain’s founders imagined they were bringing some extras into Colorado to make the wilderness a bit more of a paradise…even if they decided to skip the poems.

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