Norway is about to lose one of its biggest international brand names, when all of the hundreds of Statoil gasoline stations and convenience stores in Europe are converted to Circle K stations later this year. The conversions will begin soon in Norway and Sweden, and some Norwegians aren’t very happy about it.
The state council charged with strengthening and promoting the Norwegian language (Språkrådet) appears least happy of all. “The council encourages good language in the choice of names,” Åse Wetås, director of Språkrådet, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Tuesday. “The choice of a name that does not have a Norwegian pronunciation doesn’t seem to be the best choice.”
It’s been three years since the large Canadian company Couche-Tard bought a majority stake in Statoil Fuel & Retail, the former gasoline station division of Norway’s state oil company. After continuing to use the Statoil name, and securing rights to it and its logo until 2021, the Canadian company has decided turn all the 330 stations in Norway and hundreds more throughout Scandinavia, the Baltic countries, Poland and Russia into Circle K stations.
The move is in line with the shift to a single global brand for Couche-Tard. All of its Mac’s, Circle K and Kangaroo Express stations in North America and several other countries will take on the Circle K name, too. Only the company’s stations in the Canadian province of Quebec will continue to carry a different name, retaining the brand of Couche-Tard itself because of what the company calls a “special relationship” with that market.
Pål Heldaas, spokesman for Statoil Fuel & Retail, conceded there was “a certain risk” in replacing a well-known brand like Statoil in Norway and elsewhere in Northern Europe. “There aren’t many other brands that are as well-known in Scandinavia than Statoil, and especially not in our industry,” Heldaas told NRK. He claimed the goal, though, is that consumers will come to like the new brand better than the old. It will also be uniform and found around the world. “We are now part of a global chain, and a global process, and didn’t have any choice in that process,” Heldaas admitted.
It’s also not the first time that the stations formerly owned by Statoil will have changed names. They used to be called Norol stations until the Statoil brand was adopted 24 years ago.
“We have a long history of changing names on these stations and life has gone on without anyone running out of gas,” Tor Wallin Andreassen, a professor at Norwegian business school NHH in Bergen, told NRK.
Wetås of the language council still hopes Norwegians will get creative and at least give the Circle K name a Norwegian ring. “Maybe people will start saying that they’ll head down to the ‘K-en’ to wash their car, or pop into the ‘K-en’ to buy milk,” Wetås told NRK, using the substantive form of the letter “K” with its Norwegian pronunciation that sounds roughly like “Coe” with “en” attached: “Coe-en.”