March 13, 2017 Marty Donohue

CF Coffee

How one retailer transformed from a last resort to a first-choice destination.

There’s been enough news out there recently about the demise of the brick and mortar store. Brands like Sears, J.C. Penny, Ruby Tuesday and RadioShack continue to struggle and shrink due to the rapid growth of e-commerce and the inability of those brands to stay relevant in the hearts and minds of consumers.

But there are also some amazing success stories out there; companies firing on all cylinders because they saw the only way they were going to thrive was to provide consumers with an altogether different and better experience.

One of those companies is Cumberland Farms, a 77-year-old convenience store chain with almost 600 stores along the East Coast. They have been a client of ours for nine years at Full Contact, and their turnaround story is a remarkable one.

Our relationship all started with an extraordinarily candid conversation we had with Ari Haseotes. Ari is now President & CEO of Cumberland Farms, but at the time was their VP of Marketing. He also represents the third generation of ownership within this family-owned chain.

In Ari’s words, the Cumberland Farms brand had become old and tired, and consumers were only visiting stores as a last resort for things like newspapers, cigarettes, and lottery tickets. Ari and the rest of the leadership team at Cumberland Farms were determined to reposition and reinvigorate the brand from the studs out, and they were looking for a marketing partner to be with them every step of the way. We couldn’t have been happier when they chose Full Contact to be that partner, and we jumped in immediately. They needed everything, and everything is what we’ve been giving them.

“We were determined to reinvent our company – to build a truly special business and to transform ourselves in the eyes of today’s consumer. We viewed Full Contact then just as we do today – as the perfect partner for us and a team with so much talent and every bit as passionate as we are about our Company and our goals.” Ari Haseotes, President & CEO

Right off the bat, we helped them by zeroing in on a new positioning that signified a quantum shift in how we wanted consumers to think about the brand: “Welcome to your faster, fresher, friendlier, daily routine.” All the words were meaningful, but none represented a bigger change than the word “daily.” This was all about creating a new routine for consumers. And to make that happen, Cumberland Farms jumped in with both feet.

One of the many things that sets Cumberland Farms apart from other retailers who found themselves in a similar “change or else” situation is they have actually been doing what they say they are going to do:

  • They shifted their focus from occasional items to products that would create and encourage more of a daily visit from customers: hot and iced beverages and freshly prepared foods.
  • They didn’t simply refresh their stores, they reinvented them – with far less clutter and far more focus on attracting the breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snack crowd.
  • They greatly expanded and enhanced their private label products – everything from eggs and ice cream to candy and sparkling water.
  • They also launched a phenomenally successful and innovative mobile payment app called SmartPay that saves customers 10¢ on every gallon of gas, every day.

In fact, everything they have been doing has been focused on transforming Cumberland Farms to more of a first-choice destination for daily consumers.

The real kick-start of this transformation happened when Cumberland Farms decided to launch a new coffee product. They had sold coffee for decades, but it was exactly the kind of coffee that gave convenience store coffee its bad name. All that changed with the launch of Farmhouse Blend – a smooth, mellow blend that tasted as good as any coffee you would find at Dunkin’ Donuts or McDonald’s. Then came the real kicker – it was just 99 cents any size.

We knew right from the get-go this was a game changer. One of the amazing things about our relationship with Cumberland Farms is that we were involved in every step of this launch. We were part of the tasting team on the different coffee blends. We created the naming, the packaging, and all the advertising. We even had a hand in the “99¢ any size” pricing strategy, a strategy that was virtually unheard of at the time.

Farmhouse Blend took off like wildfire, and continues to do so. In the nine years since launch, coffee sales are up a staggering 600%. More importantly, Farmhouse Blend has become the cornerstone of an ongoing effort by a determined retailer to dramatically change perception and behavior with consumers who once thought them irrelevant. Cumberland Farms is nothing of the sort anymore. It is a vibrant, modern, beloved brand that more and more people are looking to for their daily routines. They saw the need to transform their brand, and went out and did something about it.

And while we at Full Contact have helped them with everything from strategy to packaging to POP to website development to advertising across every channel, the thing we are most proud of is being that marketing partner that also saw the need to transform their brand, and went out and did something about it.


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