To promote sales and increase market share, it’s essential that both franchisor and franchisees are vigilant about protecting and promoting their most precious asset, the brand. The franchise package normally includes a brand management, advertising or marketing fee, but franchisees still have a responsibility to help build the brand.
Franchisors should create and refine the franchise brand before bringing franchisees on board, but brand building is ongoing and the franchise chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
Buy into the brand
The challenge for franchisors is to get all franchisees to accept and appreciate the brand identity and then apply the branding guidelines consistently. This includes the look and feel of the outlets, posters, banners, flyers and all marketing and branding campaigns.
Franchisees must ensure that outlets comply with the operational standards, marketing strategies and campaigns and they must manage the day to day quality of the product or service.
Any franchisee activities that are contrary to the brand image and communication strategy are potentially damaging. To prevent this, there should be seamless and effective sign-off systems for local store marketing to reduce the chance of potentially damaging marketing activities.
Consistency is the cornerstone of franchising and brand development. If the right message is marketed consistently, target audiences can get a clear picture of the identity, product and service of the franchise.
Unlike corporations that are able to regulate their marketing messages and branding efforts from one office, franchises tend to be more autonomous and franchisees are likely to reinterpret the brand message in their own markets.
While consistency can be reasonably controlled by compiling and communicating a corporate identity, ultimately, the brand is delivered by people and it’s vital that all staff members understand the brand’s core values.
Frequency of communication is another key factor in brand recognition. The general public is bombarded with thousands of different sales messages every day and research suggests consumers often choose the one heard most recently. In today’s competitive environment, once-off communications is simply not enough to build customer loyalty and franchisees should constantly remind customers why they should be their supplier of choice.
Here the CI manual is very important as well as the ability to customise marketing material to reach the target audience.
Be aware of regional differences
In South Africa’s diverse markets, franchisees must be offered a range of marketing materials which can be customised to local needs. What works in one part of the country and in one demographic; may not work in another and the ability to customise marketing materials could make or break the business.
Tailoring marketing materials such as letterhead and specials offers to include local addresses and references can increase sales as marketing efforts are more persuasive coming from a local source. Providing scope for customisation benefits the franchisor and group as franchisees will be less inclined to “get creative” and create their own marketing.
Customisation of marketing material must be handled carefully as there is always the danger of delivering a confusing or non-conforming message.
Brand shelf life
According to leading brand specialists, retail brands have a typical competitive life-span of between three and five years. Irrespective of the type of franchise, brands need to evolve to stay in tune with their customers and competitors.
When franchisors and franchisees work together, they can build a solid, dependable brand that will result in customer growth and increased sales.