Why is branding so important these days?
This article appears in the May/June 2014 issue of Business Franchise Australia & New Zealand
Branding vs. Marketing: What’s the difference?
Simply put, your brand is what you are and your marketing is what you do. In successful franchise systems a strong brand will be the foundation of all public relations, advertising and local area marketing activities.
Investing in your brand is essential as it has the power to become your greatest asset, not just another cost centre.
Pull vs. Push
Your branding will pull your customers towards you whilst your marketing pushes your message out to them. Marketing is tactical and says, ‘Buy me!’ whereas branding is strategic and simply states, ‘This is who I am’. Your brand attracts the customers who align with what you stand for and allows them to partake in your offer and support you. A strong brand is captured in just one or two words:
• Pizza Hut says, ‘Fun and fast’
• La Porchetta says, ‘Family dining’
• Crust Pizza says, ‘Gourmet quality’
The brand precedes any marketing activity and will still be around after a particular campaign has been and gone. Marketing can convince a buyer into a one-off purchase, but branding will create loyal customers that preference you over your competitors time after time.
“The art of marketing is the art of brand building. If you are not a brand, you are a commodity. Then price is everything and the low-cost producer is the only winner.” - Professor Philip Kotler
Consistent and strategic branding creates strong brand equity for your franchise. Your brand can add value to your products and services, which allows you to charge more for your brand than an unbranded yet identical product can. Central to brand equity will be the customer’s perception of quality or emotional attachment inspired by your brand promise. Think about the world’s biggest brand: Coke. It represents fun, youth and beach parties creating an emotional connection that sells it in greater quantities at a greater price than a standard (and possibly better quality) unbranded cola.
A customer’s loyalty to your brand will depend upon whether their lived experience was inline with the brand promise. This is where consistency is critical. Your brand needs to be reflected in all of your franchise communications from face to face interactions, to the look and feel of products and stores, to the largest scale marketing campaigns. Consistency must not however stop your franchise from responding to changing markets with innovative ideas and new approaches.
“Branding demands commitment; commitment to continual re-invention; striking chords with people to stir their emotions; and commitment to imagination. It is easy to be cynical about such things, much harder to be successful.” - Sir Richard Branson, CEO Virgin
Franchise leaders in branding know what they stand for and what they must do to meet the customers’ expectations. This is no small task given the ongoing and significant changes faced by marketers in the areas of technology, society, the environment and more. For example, in today’s world of social media, your brand is being co-created by your customer in real time - control of your brand no longer lies solely with the franchisor and a team of marketing executives.
Several branding and marketing trends to watch for in 2014 highlight the significance of strategic branding:
• Attention must be paid to branding: With increasing customer expectations it is no longer good enough to just be known. You need to be known for something meaningful to your customer.
• Brands will get emotional: Customer values driving brand decisions will become more emotionally driven. You need to understand these emotional values and use them to create differentiation.
• Real brand ‘engagement’ will be defined: This will be less about attention levels and more about how well your efforts affect brand perception. This will be correlated highly with loyalty, sales and profitability.
• Digital done right: Digital channels will be less about where you should be and more about what you should do when there. Success will be linked to brand differentiation and emotional engagement, more so than simple outreach.
• Integration intensification: Brand marketing and digital budgets will fuse as teams jointly work together. Multiplatform traditional and digital models will require social media integration into all marketing efforts, including customer experience, design, sales, and product development. (Source: www.forbes.com)
Getting it Right
“A brand is nothing more than a story wrapped around a product or service ... the reason we consistently refer to a small handful of brands is because they’re the ones that have got their stories straight.” – Richard Cordiner, Leo Burnett
Developing a strong franchise brand requires the franchisor to clearly communicate the vision for the brand to the franchise network. Importantly, maintaining brand identity also calls for franchisees to buy into the brand and spread the message throughout their communities. Franchise systems that work together to establish a reliable, authentic brand experience generate customer growth, increased sales and larger market share.
Remember, brand marketing is not just another cost centre, it is a solid investment in a franchise’s biggest asset - the brand! Many franchise systems execute brilliant marketing strategies but fail to capitalise on long-term benefits of such activity if they haven’t invested in creating a strong brand foundation.
“The future of branding is marketing with people, not at them.” - John Michael Morgan, Brand Against the Machine.
Samantha Roach is General Manager, Marketing Communications & PR at FC Business Solutions. Samantha has over 20 years’ experience in senior marketing management in the SME space through to large global players across multiple sectors including franchise. Samantha was also a sole Business Owner of a successful Dymock’s Retail Franchise in Melbourne CBD.
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