McDonald’s, Boost Juice and Bakers Delight immediately call to mind the products, prices, and people you can expect at these franchises. McDonald’s means cheap and cheerful. Boost Juice means high-energy health. Bakers Delight means freshly baked bread.
These top franchise brands represent the same values for their customers through consistent branding and customer experience. This is no small feat: delivering a consistent brand experience for your franchise across many countries, to hundreds or thousands of stores and for millions of consumers is even more complicated by the billions of brand impressions consumers now have of your franchise on the internet.
However, one of the big advantages for franchisees joining a franchise network is that they become instantly known and recognised. With consistent branding customers will know exactly what their next experience with your brand is going to be like – whichever individual franchise they make contact with. In fact, a recent Nielsen study found that “nearly 6/10 global respondents (59 per cent) prefer to buy new products from brands that are familiar to them”. People flock to brands that they recognise, know and trust.
But achieving consistency is not an easy quest, for head office and franchisees alike. The increase in the number of digital marketing channels represents the challenge of maintaining brand consistency over a variety of online platforms. As Australia’s franchise sector matures (new Griffith University research shows a decrease in the number of franchises since 2014, but promising growth within the franchises that remain), branding emerges as a powerful way to make sure your franchise continues to grow and prosper among established competitors.
As marketing director of Outfit, a brand automation platform used by brands such as The University of Sydney, Health World and 12 Round Fitness to strengthen their brands, I’d like to share six dos and don’ts to help you take charge of your franchise brand this year.
1. Do Get Familiar with Branding Basics.
It may seem obvious, but I’ve discovered that while the majority of franchisees understand branding is an extremely powerful tool in any franchisor’s toolkit, many are less sure of how branding actually works. My definition of branding is a simple one: branding is the process of aligning what you want people to think about your company with what people actually think about it. Every possible interaction your franchise has with its customers is part of your brand: your logo, slogan, service quality, Facebook page, product, price, marketing materials – you get the picture.
When you maintain clarity and consistency around these emotional (such as your slogan) and functional (e.g. your price point) brand elements in a way that cuts through to your customers’ needs and desires, your franchise as a whole will become that much stronger. My tip: start to think about your franchise brand as everything that connects your company to your consumer, as well as your franchise network, and you’ll be well on your way to start managing each of these elements to your best advantage.
2. Don’t Underestimate the Importance (and difficulty) of Maintaining Brand Consistency.
Achieving consistency at every point of contact between your franchise and your customers is crucial to building a strong brand and a loyal following. Easier said than done though right? One of the major headaches franchise marketers tell me about is wrestling with their design teams, multiple external agencies and their franchise network to keep tabs on how their brand guidelines are being followed.
The challenge becomes harder to manage with the rise of digital media such as blogs, social networks and websites. While they represent a big marketing opportunity for franchises, they have also opened up a can of worms. Take just one platform as an example – Facebook. If you decide to say yes to having a franchise Facebook page, you take on the challenge of trying to manage as many Facebook pages as you have franchise locations.
Many say that your brand is how people describe you when you’re not in the room, so try asking some of your trusted colleagues, customers and other stakeholders to draw your logo and write down your slogan. If you asked five people and have five very different looking logos and slogans you may have a branding awareness or consistency issue. If this is the case, a strong positioning statement and brand guidelines will help you take charge of how your franchise network and customers talk about you when you’re not there.
3. Do Stick to a Strong Brand Position.
What does your franchise offer that no one else does? Boost Juice founder Janine Allis had a revelation about brand positioning during a trip to the US in 1999. She noticed their juice and smoothie market was booming, and that there weren’t many juice bars in Australia. She came back to start Boost Juice in 2000 with a brand positioned as “healthy and fresh”. It worked: Boost is now in 17 countries with more than 350 stores.
What is your franchise’s brand position? How do your customers describe your franchise? How do you want them to describe your franchise? Grab a piece of paper and write down a quick brand positioning statement for your key target audience using the template below.
Your franchise positioning statement:
For (your target audience) who wants / needs (what is the problem they are trying to solve), (your brand) is a (brand category/vertical) that provides (your key benefit). Unlike (your main competitor/s), (your brand) (your unique selling proposition/key differentiator).
For health-conscious mums who want to know their kids’ lunch is pesticide-free, Healthy Tummies is a packaged food brand that provides organic children’s lunches. Unlike Nestle and Uncle Tobys, Healthy Tummies is 100% organic and just for kids.
Your new franchise positioning statement will be a useful tool to ensure you stay true to your brand, like Boost Juice has over many years.
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4. Don’t Forget about Brand Guidelines.
Your franchise brand guidelines are there to help your teams contribute to your brand consistency when they produce digital or print marketing material. If you and your franchisees all know your brand guidelines like the back of your hand, that’s great.
If not, here’s a short list of what to include in your brand book: * Approved logo styles and placement instructions * Photography style description * Colour palette * Fonts, font sizes, colours and heading style * In-situation examples of what to do, and what not to do * Brand tone and positioning statement * Instructions for sign-off, printing and display.
Your brand guidelines should be revised regularly – at least every two years. If any aspect of your brand is updated or changed, this should be reflected in your brand guidelines and shared with your teams. Brand automation software such as Outfit can save you a lot of time when you’re rolling out a new brand or updating your guidelines by synchronising your marketing materials across head office and the entire franchise network. It manages your brand guidelines for you, so you don’t need to worry about stretched logos, incorrect fonts or wacky colours.
5. Do Automate Repetitive Design Tasks.
Shop signage, flyers, banners, profile photos, background images, social media posts, website images, digital ads… Part of branding in the digital age means you and your staff can automate tasks such as resizing existing assets to fit in different online and offline media, creating new assets from scratch, and collaborating on multiple rounds of design changes.
When you have your brand guidelines set, brand automation software works by locking in how you want your franchise brand to look in every possible online and offline scenario to avoid the brand inconsistencies that pop up when working across internal teams, external agencies, contractors and franchisees.
This helps your marketing staff and franchisees quickly create marketing materials that always comply with your brand guidelines, as they don’t need to manually check every piece for consistency.
6. Don’t Be a Branding Bore for your Franchisees.
Finally, I’ve observed the delicate balancing act between franchisors, who are tasked with managing the overarching franchise brand and local marketing efforts, and their franchisees, who are trying to drive local business themselves.
You may have (or you may be!) what some call a ‘rogue franchisee’ – the owners within your network who start taking their local marketing into their own hands without head office’s knowledge. Unfortunately, it only takes one poorly designed or inappropriate advertisement or a negative interaction on social media from a ‘rogue franchisee’ to damage a carefully built franchise brand.
Of course, your franchises don’t have to be an absolute clone of each other. For example, they can each sponsor a local sporting team, promote local deals and content on social media or organise an event in their community, while you have the peace of mind that your brand is consistent across the entire network. It’s all about staying fresh, unique and true to your brand positioning.
Turn these enthusiastic franchisee marketers into opportunities – you can partner with them on local marketing activities, while also doing what you can to keep the brand consistent. Brand automation platforms can also be an empowering tool for franchisees, who can churn out marketing materials for their local initiatives that will always be perfectly on brand.
You will spend less of your time battling with one-time ‘rogue franchisees’ and more time actually collaborating with them. And once you get them working with you to generate cut-through local content and collateral, it’s one less design job that you need to deliver from head office! Importantly, this is also a way to make sure your entire franchise network is on-board with your plans to strengthen the franchise brand.
With these branding do’s and don'ts, your franchise should be well on the way to achieving a strong, consistent brand, and some of the loyal customer following and growth that followed good branding for McDonald’s, Boost Juice and Bakers Delight.
The Outfit platform solved brand consistency and scaled marketing production for a global technology company across 85 offices in 35 countries. Now we’re solving these challenges for franchises like yours.
Download your free copy of The Ultimate Guide to Franchise Branding and get additional advice from our experts.