Brand Engagement for the Franchisee
This article appeared in Issue 3#2 (January/February 2009) of Business Franchise Australia & New Zealand
What is the one golden rule critical to the success of a powerful brand? Jess Logan examines how branding and strong customer relationships interact to create hundreds of local brand leaders within the one business network.
Successful branding is simple, yet so many in the business industry – including those in the advertising sector – fail to understand the significance and power of a strong brand.
Marketers, advertisers and business owners continue to question the methodology behind branding. What creates a great brand; why do some brands work when others fail; how much time and money do businesses really need to invest in their brand? Questions such as these create confusion, not least of all when most business owners (including franchisees and franchisors) think they understand the integral nature of promoting their products and services. When it actually comes to putting it into practice and generating solid results through successful brand development strategies, finding true expertise is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.
The reason for this is a global misconception that the success of a brand is determined by its logo and marketing. Yet, anyone who tries to convince you of this fact has ‘no idea’ how to brand a company successfully. They need to understand that:
- A brand IS NOT a logo;
- A brand IS NOT a creative TV commercial;
- A brand IS NOT a fancy billboard;
- A brand IS NOT clever packaging;
- A brand IS NOT a well designed corporate ID;
- A brand IS NOT strategic marketing;
- A brand IS NOT even a fantastic product.
In its essence, branding has more to do with consumer intuition than a corporation’s sense of its own identity. A consumer’s perception of a brand is formed over time, as they get to know your business model and everything it has to offer, not by the pretty logo you put on your packaging. In other words, a brand is what your consumer says it is, not what you say it is.
A brand is a consumer’s gut feeling because people are psychological, intuitive, emotional beings and we connect with everything around us, the same way that we connect with people. We all know that the only way to build a strong relationship with someone is by getting to know them and learning to trust them over time.
With that said, if I pointed to a random person across the room and told you to trust them, would you? I highly doubt it! Isn’t it ironic then, that companies spend millions of dollars every year telling consumers to trust their business by forcing messages down their throats when at the end of the day, the consumer is going to make their own judgment about a brand, dependent on the personal experience they have with it? This is why it is so important for franchisors and franchisees to understand what their customers expect of the product and services on offer in order to build a positive brand perception in the mind of its market.
More often than not I see brands promising one thing and delivering another: a youthful logo on a brand whose product offering is dated and marketing that espouses friendliness when customer service proves otherwise.
Let’s put this into perspective:
- A brand is the sum of the good, the bad, the ugly and the appalling.
- It is defined by your best product as well as your worst.
- It is defined by award-winning advertising, as well as the God-awful ads that somehow slipped through the cracks, was approved and cost you a fortune.
- It is defined by the accomplishments of your best employees as well as by the mishaps of the worst hire you ever made.
- It is defined by the CEO’s public statement.
- It is defined by consumer comments overheard in the hallway and in internet chat rooms.
- It is defined by your receptionist.
- It is defined by the terrible on hold music you force your customers to listen to.
- It is defined by the excessive price tag you put on your products.
- It is defined by your service with or without a smile.
- It is defined by the hideous hand written signage you put in your windows.
- It is even defined by the state of your restroom.
As you can see, all of these “touch-points” from your business to consumer add to create the relationship that your brand has, and therefore create the brand in the minds of your customer. Your brand, in effect, is a hell of a lot more than the logo you put on the front of your store!
So if a brand’s success is defined by personal experience, which key element is more likely to help build a successful brand?
A) The look of a logo or television campaign created by a marketing team to try and convince consumers to like your business? Or
B) The 500 staff members across your 100 store network responsible for building positive relationships and brand perceptions in the individual minds of your 50,000 consumers?
In franchising, brand perception is often hindered by the number of chiefs in decision making positions. When there is more than one director, each with a personal interpretation of what the brand should be delivering to the market, then failure is imminent. Put it this way, it takes great collaboration to build a masterpiece. It takes a village to build a brand.
No matter how successful a franchise brand may appear, there are always a handful of stores who are failing as brand leaders within their local market. These are often the franchisees who consistently blame the failure of their stores’ performance on the poor level of marketing and support being supplied by the franchisor. I always challenge these franchisees by asking them to stand back and look at their businesses subjectively through the eyes of their consumers. Better still, I encourage them to engage a third party to run personal interviews with their local consumers to give them an honest understanding of how their business is being perceived by its market. The truth hurts, but those successful enough to create a well-known brand have fast learned that brand perception is not their own reality, but the reality of its consumers.
Every company has an idea of what branding entails, but very few know exactly what it means.
Branding is an end game, the sum of its parts, a conditioned response. It is no secret that the ultimate goal of branding is to create loyal customers. Do this and marketing becomes easier, sales increase at a faster rate, premium pricing is the norm not the exception and repeat business is expected, not wished for. There’s also the benefits of positive word of mouth, which creates new custom. Remember, however, that loyalty evolves through experience and time, not a hilarious advertisement or colourful logo. Loyalty may also unravel quicker than you can say, ‘Just Do It’.
ABOUT JESS LOGAN
Jess Logan is the founder and head strategist of Brands R People 2™, a leading strategic brand development agency. Jess is recognised as Australia’s leading independent brand strategist. Some of her clients include Hairhouse Warehouse, Healthy Habits, Mr Rental, Banjo’s Bakehouse, Oriental Teahouse, La Viette Baguette and Matchbox who have collectively won dozens of national franchising, marketing and branding awards.
Known for her holistic business approach to branding, her fervent consumer focus and her commitment to achieving bottom line growth for her clients she has achieved a combined turnover in excess of $200 million annually since her intervention in their businesses.
Prior to founding Brands R People 2, Jess was the national brand manager for Boost Juice.
Visit www.brandsrpeople2.com.au for more information or to book into the next brand seminar for business owners titled “How to Build a Brand Leader”.