Brand reputation for any business, small medium or otherwise, is a fragile and valuable commodity that takes years to establish (or a moment to tear down). It's also a huge factor in a customer's decision making process in refining their consideration set when preparing to buy.
When we consider top of mind, franchise organisations from the top 10 list like Battery World, Muffin Break or Coffee Club, each of these brands elicit a clear and specific image in our minds that is no accident.
Why is brand reputation important?
To the consumer, the franchise branch is the ideal retail choice. What is better than the backing of a nationally recognised household name combined with the feel-good factor of purchasing from a local business? Many studies into consumer perceptions and buying motivations explore the effect that a well-known brand backing does for the perception of quality.
What affects the consumer's perception of brand reputation?
The reputation a franchisee builds their business upon is affected by many factors. Things like experience, consistency, customer service, presence in local media and word of mouth all shape the expectation that a person has before even making any tangible contact with your store or website.
It may seem trivial at first glance but the most critical element that can strengthen or weaken the franchise brand reputation in the eyes of the consumer is consistency. The idea that no matter where you come from or where you go, your interaction with a franchise branch that bares the badge of your beloved Bakers Delight, or Battery World will be the same from store to store.
Much like other aspects of life, consistency makes people feel comfortable.
If these basic needs are not met, the message to the customer is either that they're in a poorly performing franchise, or worse still, that the entire organisation is steadily circling the drain.
This consistency is achieved in micro-moments:
- Signage that is distinct and recognisable across all stores
- Similar tone of voice in flyers and social media across all stores
- A similar layout store-to-store
- Sizing and material: the paper feels and looks the same, the material sizing is consistent and your colours are the same in every store
While the overarching brand aesthetic is the component of the brand controlled by head office, the local business reputation that fuels the beast also plays a huge part in the perception of brand reputation.
Whether through the support of local clubs or initiatives, large scale signage or simply ad space in local publications or media channels, a franchisee's promise to be an integral part of the fabric of the local community is only as good as the actual presence in that promise.
Something as simple as a ready-to-go suite of templated posters or flyers that can be co-branded alongside a local footy club or charity, can be knocked up in minutes and take minimal effort. This simple action can be the difference between the perception of a shady salesman saying all the right things, and a supporter and ambassador of a community, backed by a trusted brand.
A franchise with strong brand reputation is one that is backed by a network of like-minded franchisees who know the names of their customers and deliver a consistent standard of service to each one.
What ruins the consumer's perception of brand reputation?
Rogue creation of material
Every franchisee on earth has been told that their artwork request isn't a priority, or will take 10-12 business days to complete. While this can be EXTREMELY frustrating for a business owner feeling as thought they are missing opportunities due to an overworked marketing team, the answer should never be [but frequently is] to go rogue and start a small-scale design agency in the privacy of Microsoft Word.
The implications of franchisees all conducting their own unique design activity can be very damaging to brand reputation. Firstly, a business owner, while expert in their field, can not be expected to intimately understand their organisations' brand rules or design principles in general. Yet without this underpinning skill, there is no assurance that any artwork produced by a franchisee adheres to even the most fundamental requirements.
The other primary element that is impossible to protect in an environment of rogue artwork creation, is the organisations' tone of voice. This includes everything from expert terminology, to brand personality, accuracy of content and appropriateness of commentary.
While we can spend time and money on training and technology, there is no substitute for well-designed collateral and a good approval process.
In the same way that sharing of ideas and information within a franchise network makes the brand look and feel like a cohesive family to the customer, the opposite is also true.
Franchisees who build healthy relationships with other franchisees and are working toward the common goal of strengthening brand reputation can better service the customer, create more powerful and collaborative promotions and make it easy for people to be fiercely loyal to their business.
Let's be real - most customers in 2019 can walk into a store, price match with an online retailer and never come back. If franchisees aren't working together to provide top notch expertise and experience throughout the wider network, that's exactly what will happen.
The reputation of a franchise brand is one carefully built over many years by many hands. Careful decisions and a cohesive strategy fuelled by a capable corporate team and executed by a network of passionate local business owners has the potential to create immeasurable success and create a powerful household brand, trusted by real people.
Warren Buffett earned the right to say it best “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”