In one of our most energy-filled episodes, we talk to Ernie Harker about how he built the $3 billion Maverik brand. The conversation is full of practical advice for companies of any size, and we even get into personal branding and why Ernie is not a fan of social media.

Note: this episode was recorded before the coronavirus pandemic began spreading across the United States. As such, there are some obvious topics that were not discussed.

Photo of Ernie Harker for his episode of the In-Convenience Podcast. Ernie is the founder and managing director of Ernbern, and a noted expert on branding.

About Ernie Harker:

After studying illustration at Utah State University, Ernie was recruited to be a concept and storyboard artist for Salt Lake City advertising agency, Dahlin Smith White. Two years later he established a creative production studio called 8fish that became well-known for animation, video production, ad design, writing, and brand development for a variety of clients including regional convenience store chain Maverik, Inc.

Ten years later Ernie accepted an executive position at Maverik where he led a rebranding effort that transformed it from an old western brand into a $3 billion adventure brand. Ernie left Maverik in 2018 to consult and present on brand development because, well, he’s really good at it. You can learn more at

Self diagnosed with Hyperactive Productivity Disorder, Ernie loves to draw, trail run, compete in triathlons, wake board, do yoga, lift weights, camp, mountain bike, watch movies, eat junk food, and spend time with his family and seven brothers. Ask him about his real life allergies to exercise and the TV travel show he hosted.

Connect with Ernie:

Links Mentioned in this Episode:


  • 5:15 – How Ernie created the “Nitro” character to boost card signups, and why the thing that made it so awesome is the thing that made it scary
  • 17:00 – Why Nitro was a success, and what this means for branding
  • 22:15 – How Maverik’s brand evolved from Western theming to “Adventure’s First Stop”
  • 33:02 – Why branding is more than a new logo or color scheme. How to go beyond gimmicks and find what makes you authentic. 
  • 41:30 – What some executives misunderstand about branding
  • 47:45 – Why independent operators have a huge advantage, and specific tactics they can use to build a powerful brand
  • 55:50 – Whatever you want them to leave the store saying, that becomes the lens through which you execute (and why Disney is two steps ahead of everyone)
  • 1:04:20 – Why don’t we just hire the right people? 
  • 1:07:00 – Why every tactic needs to be examined through the brand lens—including your corporate dress codes
  • 1:16:30 – Why do we struggle to break out of the norm? Why is it so risky for companies—and people—to look and act differently?
  • 1:29:05 – The challenges of personal branding and why Ernie hates social media. We all share our challenges with social media. 
  • 1:44:15 – What books, podcasts, and articles does Ernie recommend?
  • 1:50:30 – Ernie’s advice to folks who are new to fuel and convenience retailing