A Marketing Lesson from a Wildly Successful Gas Station

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If you live on the east coast of the United States, you may have filled up your car with gas at a Sheetz or Wawa gas station, not realizing that you were visiting a business that has experienced explosive growth in the past decade by revolutionizing the way we think about the commodity they sell.

Sheetz and Wawa are two companies with 50+ year histories of selling gas. But both realized the way to get more people to choose their gas station was to stop focusing on the gas and instead focus on providing an amazing customer experience. They dissociated their brands from the way people typically think about gas stations (as cigarette and soda-selling pit stops).

Walk into either of these gas station/convenience store chains, and you’ll be blown away by the clean, well-lit space, the made-to-order food (with many healthy options), the small-batch coffee and the incredibly friendly, helpful customer service. Sheetz and Wawa no longer focus on marketing themselves as gas stations. Instead, their marketing revolves around all these other elements that combine to make shopping at their stores an integral part of their raving fans daily life.

The shift in focus paid off, with Wawa selling 80 million hoagies and 200 million cups of coffee in 2017 and Sheetz pulling in $5.6 billion in revenue in 2018. Most importantly, both firms are recognized as “cult brands,” with loyal customers who feel a sense of ownership in the brands’ popularity and success (and who wouldn’t dream of going to another gas station).