By A.S. Louken
A consistent branding is a key factor for a successful franchise. In order for a franchise to be successful, franchisees must deliver the same brand promise as the franchisor and pass on the same message to consumers.
What is a brand promise?
The reason we continue to patronize a brand, whether consciously or not, is due to the fact that it consistently delivers a certain promise. ‘You don’t have to be rich to be clever’ is IKEA’s promise. To offer affordable yet trendy furniture to their customers, IKEA looks into every aspect of their business to ensure that their products are low cost but of high value.
A brand promise must not be an empty promise. It should translate into one or two distinct customer benefits. The brand that promises too many things is likely to fail in some, if not most ways. By promising a distinct customer benefit, your company can align and prioritize resources to deliver this promise. When thinking about these benefits, consider both emotional benefits (e.g. positive feelings or a sense of status) and functional benefits (e.g. safety and durability).
Eu Yan Sang, a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) company, specializes in offering customers quality health care products. Besides promising this functional benefit, Eu Yan Sang’s strong assurance of care for humanity gives them the advantage of having an emotional benefit, one which evokes a sense of ‘trust and reliability’. For Eu Yan Sang, their brand has both emotional and functional benefits.
The Thing to Avoid: A Customer’s Disappointment
Making a brand promise is easy. Keeping this promise is often difficult but yet very important.
Without actually having engaged the product or service, a customer will have a ‘perceived’ value of the brand. This ‘perceived’ value is derived from what the brand has promised and communicated through marketing strategies like word-of-mouth or advertisements. Upon experiencing the product or service, the ‘actual’ value of the brand is determined. The ‘actual’ value should always match, or if not outweigh the ‘perceived’ value of the brand. Otherwise disappointed customers will decide not to purchase the products or services in future.
Franchising and Communicating the Brand Promise
A franchisee purchases not only a system but also a brand. The business system is clearly written out in franchise manuals and operating guidelines. On the other hand, the franchise brand is usually more difficult to define and uphold.
Creating and consistently delivering a uniform brand is a challenge for a franchise as compared to other organizations. Businesses are able to regulate their marketing messages and branding efforts with greater ease because they are one entity producing the message. With a franchised business, each franchisee is fairly independent and may reinterpret the brand message for its market. This independence presents a challenge for a consistent brand promise to be communicated and delivered.
On the flip side, franchising offers opportunities for greater market saturation and brand penetration within its local community. To keep local customization and branding in balance, it is essential to provide franchisees with clear guidelines for marketing the brand. Franchisees add value to their brand when they present a reliable and consistent message and service to customers.
Consumers make purchasing decisions based on the perceived value of the product or service. When consumers trust the brand, the loyalty of the brand increases and franchisees get to share this advantage. The difficulty is to get franchisees to consistently deliver what is being promised. The franchise systems provide their franchisees with guidelines but many franchisees fail to fully enforce those guidelines. This is why a customer can go from one store to another in the same brand and have completely different brand experiences.
The franchisor should start by communicating the brand promise to the franchisees. Skin Inc is a good example of a franchisor which does this well. Skin Inc kicks off franchise training by conducting brand training first. In this way, franchisees will first understand the Skin Inc brand promise, and then appreciate how the main franchise training supports the Skin Inc brand promise.
Giving some leeway to allow franchisees to localize marketing materials may be beneficial to the overall business. With the autonomy to localize their marketing materials, franchisees are less inclined to come out with their own marketing materials. In this way, the branding would become more consistent and professional. This will eventually lead to greater sales because customers are more inclined to buy products and services that they are familiar with.
Franchise systems can keep the DNA of the brand by ensuring that franchisees consistently deliver the brand promise. Providing franchisees with customizable marketing materials bridges the gap between franchisees’ interest in localization and the consistency of the brand. Franchisors can conduct site visits and customer surveys with the franchisees to help them keep to the core of the brand while developing their localized branding materials.
A good example of a franchisor who gives good support and also good management over their franchisees is BreadTalk. At BreadTalk, there is a dedicated team of franchise managers who are in constant contact with their overseas franchisees. The company understands the need to constantly communicate and interact with their franchisees. By providing the support to their franchisees in the aspect of marketing and branding, BreadTalk today has built a strong brand name for themselves and has over 300 bakery stores operating in 12 countries, all of which are delivering the same brand promise consistently.
It takes two to clap. Developing a strong franchise brand requires that franchise companies clearly and repeatedly communicate the vision for the brand to the franchisees and enforce compliance to the brand. On the other hand, franchisees need to do their part by communicating the brand accurately in order to build a stronger brand. This will translate to increased sales and larger market share.
A Promise to Keep
If the franchisor makes a promise to the customers, then the franchisees must also deliver that promise to their customers. To pave a promising future for the brand, it is important that both the franchisor and the franchisees work hard to keep that brand promise.
A.S. Louken offers branding, franchising, innovation, operations systemisation and other advisory consultancy services. Awards which it has won include the Marketing Magazine Top Local Brand Consultancy (Local Hero) 09, Marketing Magazine Top 10 brand consultancies (06, 07 & 09), Singapore Packaging Star Award (06 & 07), Asia Star Packaging Award (06), and Singapore Young Designer’s Award (02 & 03). For more information, contact
Tel: (65) 6299 0338 or visit www.aslouken.com