4 Ways to Build a Franchise Brand
1. Rationalize the Need to be Compliant with EducationMany franchisees don’t understand the complexities of creating and growing brand awareness because they’ve never been exposed to the role of brand management. The key to this strategy is to educate franchisees about the potential harm to the brand when they don’t follow guidelines. If the brand is weaker, their own individual investment may suffer. As reinforcement of the franchisee education, it’s important that all franchisee-facing personnel understand the practical reasons behind the brand guidelines. Show examples of the good, the bad and the ugly and explain how each impacts the customer and their loyalty to your brand.
2. Make it Easy to Follow the RulesLet’s face it, not all franchisees are created equally when it comes to graphic design skills and frankly, good taste. By their very nature, franchisees are do-it-yourselfers. When they’re looking for a marketing tool they can’t find or they don’t believe exists, then they’ll surely create their own. The second strategy is to provide a robust platform of tools for franchisees to use in their advertising and marketing efforts. The trick here is to control the overall brand identity and message, while keeping franchisees happy and giving them enough flexibility to tailor the tool to their particular need. Provide a digital platform with a library of marketing tools. This should include everything from point-of-purchase materials, free-standing inserts and print ads to outdoor banners, radio spots and social media. This nurtures the do-it-yourself mentality and even promotes it within the context of your brand strategy.
3. Avoid Brand ExtremismEvery franchisor knows how critically important it is to develop and nurture positive relationships with their franchisees. Otherwise, franchisee validation can suffer, which in turn impacts network growth. The third strategy is use common sense to avoid an overly harsh approach to brand management. It might be okay to use red and green during a holiday promotion, even if red and green aren’t part of the approved color palette. In the majority of situations, this level of flexibility won’t harm the brand. And if an individual unit happens to have an odd shaped wall, thereby making it impossible for customers to see the menu if installed per build-out guidelines, by all means make an exception. Brand extremism can destroy your cause and erode trust among the network. You must certainly maintain standards and manage the brand effectively. However, it is easy to get caught up in protecting the brand that we lose sight of the bigger picture. When that happens, flexibility and common sense get lost. Ultimately, guidelines become overly rigid and they suffocate creativity and enthusiasm for the very brand they are meant to protect.
4. Emotionally Engage your NetworkIf you’re successful with the first three strategies, the fourth can make the biggest difference. Successfully balancing franchisee spirit and brand management depends on your ability to motivate and foster emotional engagement of the brand across the network. It doesn’t happen overnight.
Unfortunately, the passion and enthusiasm felt at the beginning of the franchisee training process, or at the annual convention rarely last on their own. Many franchisors agree that the most important brand marketing you do targets the franchisees directly. Videos that celebrate the brand and position franchisees as heroes and leaders in their communities can be very inspirational and create an emotional attachment to the brand. Programs that recognize and reward franchisees for the way they represent the brand can also have a sustaining impact. You should complement all of this with an ongoing communication strategy that reinforces the value of the brand and franchise model.