Conquering the Rebrand

Feb. 5, 2024
Boost a shop's brand recognition with a national name while still retaining the service of a local business.

The Backstory

Today it sometimes feels more common to see a branded quick lube shop than an independent. But there are also opportunities for the two to come together.  

For The Lube Connection Automotive Services Center, a Port Clinton, Ohio-based shop that handles about 800 to 900 oil changes per month, the Castrol name on their marquee provides brand recognition, material, and marketing resources—along with the ability to remain an independent shop yet still enjoy the backing of a national brand. 

The Challenge 

The 20-year-old shop had existing branding as a NAPA Auto Care Center for services such as brakes, exhaust work, and tune-ups. However, the center was an independent entity for its quick lube side of the business.  

"The Lube Connection was built in 2001, and my partners and I bought the property and operation in 2010," explains Eric Schramm, managing partner and co-owner with Theresa Schramm and Will and Sarah Moore. 

The challenge was to build on existing operations while retaining autonomy. 

Operations since acquiring the shop in 2010 "have remained roughly the same with our focus on our two drive-through oil change bays that are supplemented with two service work bays," Schramm tells NOLN. 

The Solutions 

An investment from Castrol helped the partners strengthen their business. While branding is often in the form of a franchise or branch, Castrol structures its locations as partnerships. 

"As a Castrol Premium Lube Express, we are not a franchise and we do not have any associated franchise fees," Schramm explains. "Instead, we think of it as a partnership. Castrol has invested in our business by offering signage, funding, some building renovations, and providing other great benefits." 

The terms of the agreement are mostly time-based. 

"We signed a five-year agreement that obligates us to exclusively use Castrol's lubricants and meet certain annual volume requirements," Schramm continues. 

Castrol allows The Lube Connection to continue its relationship with NAPA for the service side. 

The Aftermath 

The partnership brought improvements to the shop. 

"The program is truly a win-win because we were able to upgrade our facility, lean on Castrol's worldwide brand recognition, and provide superior lubricants for our guests to complement our outstanding service," says Schramm. "In return, Castrol has guaranteed sales or our high-volume shop and great brand exposure at our location level." 

The deal took a few months to set up. 

"We were approached by our oil distributor over a year ago about joining the Castrol Premium Lube Express program," says Ryan Portales, general manager. "Initially, we thought it was just another franchise opportunity, but with a second look we realized that it was really an opportunity to foster a partnership between two great companies." 

The Lube Connection had several meetings with Castrol and the shop's distributor to discuss the program and structure the deal. 

"With minimal negotiation, we were able to settle on the improvements and signage that Castrol would provide, and the volume requirements that we need to meet over the next five years. The Lube Connection remains an independent small business with minimal requirements from one of the largest oil companies in the world—Castrol does not require internal changes of us, they just set oil usage minimums based on historical sales and expect us to respectfully represent our shop and the Castrol brand," Portales details. 

The shop got upgrades and beautification. 

"Castrol beautifully revamped the exterior of our shop with new paint and signage around the building," says Portales. "They also covered the cost to epoxy the entire shop floor, office, restrooms, and lobby, giving us a clean, new look. Castrol is also fair and competitive with its pricing and has been able to offer some of the prices on the market." 

The shop owners are pleased with the partnership. 

"Castrol has really upgraded the image of the shop," says Schramm. "Locally, The Lube Connection has already been known for amazing and friendly service, strong business ethics, and fair prices. By adding the Castrol brand to that mix, we have been able to increase our presence in the market and even further add to our already stellar reputation with the backing of a global brand." 

The partnership has also benefited the employees. 

"Our crew has felt an increase in their sense of pride for our ship and their work and they have enjoyed showcasing our professional look," says Schramm. 

An already successful shop appreciates the support it receives from the Castrol partnership. 

"Castrol offers support in many areas including marketing, technical, and supply that is equal and substantial," Portales reports. "For example, an initial direct mail program was included as an advertising option, in addition to website support, and training programs. I have lots of new resources at my disposal for new marketing options and technical support, if needed." 

While the rebranding took place, The Lube Connection was able to keep business going—with minimal interruptions to operation as needed to revamp the location. 

"We were able to stay open for full service during the printing and signage installation process but closed for a few days while our floors were epoxied," Schramm details. "All in all, it was a pretty seamless transition with minimal disruption." 

The shop held a grand reopening on August 1, 2023, with participation from Castrol and the local chamber of commerce. 

"Additionally, Castrol provided us with a free initial direct mailing program to reach out to our local market, and we have been running several social media campaigns," Schramm says. "The biggest impact has been from our striking new paint job and new large signs on our building. The road that we are located on is a major thoroughfare and Castrol really took advantage of that exposure with the exterior upgrades of the building." 

The Takeaway 

Schramm has prior experience as an automotive filtration engineer prior to owning The Lube Connection. 

"I can say with confidence that the technology that Castrol uses to engineer its products is second to none, which gives us a superior product and resources to help educate our guests," Schramm advises. "That technical support is matched with creative marketing options, like bounce-back coupons and free giveaways, that the Castrol team has provided to us to continue to help us grow our operation.” 

Initial reports are positive for The Lube Connection. 

"Our guests have been extremely impressed with both the inside and outside of our building and have commented on the clean look. They easily recognize the Castrol name and have said they associate it with quality and appreciate our effort to provide great products to complement our outstanding service," Portales concludes. 

About the Author

Enid Burns

Enid Burns is a writer and editor living in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and is a freelance contributor to NOLN. She has covered a wide range of topics from video games and consumer electronics to online advertising and business. When living in Manhattan for 20 years she did not own a car, and is often mistaken for that woman who brings her car to the shop and knows nothing. She has learned a great deal from writing for NOLN, but also learns from those shop owners who try to educate her on their services. Enid is a news junkie who spends evenings streaming TV shows and time off on long walks, bike rides, and fiber arts.

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Photo 110252172 © Sarinya Pinngam |
Courtesy of SpeeDee Oil Change & Auto Service
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