For better or worse, emerging franchisors lack the brand recognition that mature brands have earned over time.
Fortunately, this provides them with a clear runway to develop a recognizable and differentiated brand identity.
Why Do Emerging Franchisors Need to Pay Attention to Branding?
In the simplest terms, your brand is how consumers perceive and experience your business.
Emerging franchisors need to be able to establish expectations for what customers can anticipate when they:
- Walk into a brick-and-mortar location
- Purchase your products or services
- Interact with franchise owners and their employees
- Contact your customer support
- Engage with your website, social media sites or digital marketing assets
- Use your mobile app.
These are just some of the many examples of how important consistent branding is for emerging franchise brands. There are countless touch points that consumers and decision-makers encounter and help establish their perceptions of your brand.
As you grow your system, it’s imperative that your operations manual and marketing collateral provide the roadmap for franchisees so they can effectively and consistently deliver your specific brand experience.
In doing so, you put yourself and your franchisees in the position to develop credibility, trust and loyalty among existing customers and drive referral business through positive word of mouth.
How to Approach Branding as an Emerging Franchisor?
Like any business concept, an emerging franchisor needs to keep in mind six primary brand elements, which include a target audience, promise, values, perception, personality and differentiation.
Here’s a closer look at each of these elements:
It’s rare that a brand can say it has universal consumer appeal. As great as that would be, the more frequently occurring scenario is that your emerging franchise concept has a specific audience that gravitates to your business. Attempting to attract everyone under the sun would ultimately end up diluting your brand. Instead, it’s important for emerging brands to identify those with the highest lifetime customer value and develop your messaging and image – including logo, taglines, marketing and advertising – that speaks to this group.
Once you’ve determined who your target audience is, you need to ensure your messaging is effectively communicating what value your brand will provide them. When a customer purchases a product or uses one of your services, your promise is what helps set their expectations during the experience. Where emerging franchisors can stumble is having a brand promise and experience that don’t align. That’s why it’s imperative all your initial units are operationally sound so they can effectively deliver your brand promise to your customers.
Consumers increasingly make their purchasing decision based on how they perceive a businesses’ values and whether they align with their own. Whether it’s corporate social responsibility, food transparency, organic sourcing, charity, sustainability or luxury, the values your brand represents and espouse will influence the emotional response consumers have to your business concept and their decision to support you with their patronage. As a result, it’s critical your values align with your brand promise and your target audience.
Before you even begin to expand by awarding new franchise agreements, it’s important for emerging brands to get a third-party’s perspective of their brand – particularly through the lens of their existing customers. You can distribute surveys to get first-hand feedback. Other sources may include customer review sites and social media. You take a great risk by making assumptions about how consumers perceive your brand, and before you add new locations, be sure there isn’t a significant gap between how you want to be viewed and how customers see you.
The tone you strike with your branding is most notably reflected in your marketing and advertising, but it should also be apparent in your in-store experience or through customer support. Ultimately, you need a voice that conveys your brand’s messaging to your specific audience that’s consistent with your values and promise.
How do you stack up compared to your competition in the markets you operate in and within your industry segment? What differentiates your franchise concept and why should consumers within your target audience choose you over any other brand out there? These questions help to identify your position in the eyes of your current and future customers.
By drawing out each of these elements and using them to help codify your branding, you can determine how well you’ve differentiated your concept within your vertical and where you need to address any gaps.
In doing so, you set your emerging franchise concept up to succeed in attracting new customers and franchisees. You’ll be in a position where customers’ expectations are consistently being met, which yields brand trust and loyalty. Your franchisees will be recipients of this goodwill and will be able to capitalize on it when building their businesses.
With 30 years of franchising experience and more than 800 franchise owners representing over 1,250 locations for five brands, Winmark Franchise Partners can help emerging franchisors develop branding strategies that’s right for them. Contact us here or at (844) 234-8520.