Consistency Theory in Franchise Network Communication

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Consistency gives your brand the power of being recognisable.

Picture any of the biggest franchise names in the world. You'll instantly be able to describe their logo and some of their values. Why?

Because you've been consistently exposed to those values every time you come across one of that franchise's locations, whenever you've seen their advertising, interacted with one of their employees, or any other time you've come into contact with their operation.

Sometimes you don't even need to have bought a product or service from a company to know all about their values and the service you "would" receive.

That's the power of consistency.

Here's how to create a brand that's consistent across your entire franchise:

What makes you different from your competition?

Clearly defining yourself helps you create a brand which has values which can be built into every aspect of your business's operation. Think of some of the biggest franchise names in the world...

It's pretty easy to instantly reel off a couple of keywords relating to what their brand stands for. It should be just as easy for a consumer to do with your brand.

Better, the more consistent and ever-present your chosen brand values are in every part of your franchise, the more a consumer will come to associate those values with your brand. It's a supporting circle.

To-do list:

  • Write a brand statement which encapsulates your vision for your brand
  • Make sure you set yourself apart from your competition by doing so

Step 2: Build your visual brand and make a style guide

Your visual brand is what most consumers will come to associate with your name. More than any singular product or service, that image, colour, and phrase combination will come to "be" your brand in the public's eyes. (Note: as an experienced business owner you'll know that's not where branding stops, but we won't get on to that until Step 3.)

It's vital that your rules stipulate where and how your visual brand should be applied. This is especially true if your franchisees are allowed to create their own marketing materials. If this is the case, don't be afraid to provide incredibly precise and lengthy details regarding permitted permutations of your visual branding.

If you ever update or edit your visual brand, it's absolutely vital that your franchisees are made aware of it. Any lack of consistency in your visual branding can cause dissonance in the mind of any consumers who view it.

To-do list:

  • Write down rules to ensure consistent visual branding - create a style guide
  • Provide very specific rules if your franchisees have permission to create their own marketing materials
  • Always explicitly communicate any updates or changes to your branding to your franchisees, with the requirement that all previous-generation branding be retired instantly

Step 3: Consider every aspect of your business

Your visual brand is important. But never forget that it isn't the entirety of your brand.

It can be tempting to an outsider to simply think of your brand as the visual element - your logo, trademarks, and perhaps your slogan. But your brand should be built into every single part of your business.

Because nothing harms the consistency of your brand as much as the perception that your values are only skin-deep.

Imagine the (general) damage to your reputation of having filthy customer toilets, but then picture the damage if you're a food company whose brand values are based around health and cleanliness.

Alternatively, picture the reception that the news your family-friendly brand treats its employees like dirt will find with your audience.

If you talk the talk, now more than ever you need to walk the walk - and be seen to do so.

To-do list:

Consider your brand and its values as they apply to:
  • Staff attitude, demeanour, and customer service
  • Staff uniforms and presentation
  • Internal company communications and memoranda
  • Individual store layout and interior decoration
  • Ease of parking and external facilities
  • External appearance and location of your individual franchise stores
  • Cleanliness of your establishments

Step 4: Communicate your vision and reasons to your network

The hotel franchise wanted to gather information to improve their services, and decided that a Facebook survey would do the job nicely. And it did.

Also featuring a pop-up tour across the United States, the campaign revolved around a specially created Facebook tab that included three questions for users to answers - with a chance to win a small prize for a small number of lucky participants.

They also incorporated premium newsfeed ads and marketplace "like" ads to attract non-followers to participate.

The campaign received over 4000 entries, gained the brand over 25 000 new likes, 19.3 million total impressions, and helped it shape that nationwide tour.

It also started a near-exponential growth in the franchise's Facebook community. Not bad for one campaign.

To-do list:

  • Even more than other forms of business, a franchise works best when everyone is pulling together.
  • This means that your individual franchisees need to do more than simply follow your brand guidelines because you've told them to do so...
  • They need to follow them because they know it's the key to making their business, and your franchise as a whole, more successful. And thus, more profitable.
  • This means education and the inculcation of the importance of your brand values needs to happen to every franchisee during their time with you.
  • Only by showing the value that a franchisee will get out of your brand will you make them properly engage with your systems of operation.

Step 5: Monitor and enforce...

Once you've communicated your brand standards and the benefits of adhering to them to your franchisees, it's time to make sure that you can check that your standards are being rigorously applied.

It's never too early in a franchisor-franchisee relationship to start doing this. In fact, it's highly recommended that you build your franchise standards into your original franchise agreement. This serves both to highlight their importance to a franchisee, and gives you a supporting reference in the event of any future dispute surrounding them.

For larger franchise systems, consider regional or master franchisee-controlled devolution of brand standards monitoring (this will be useful when considering Step 6 below).

To-do list:

  • Have monitoring systems in place to ensure your brand standards are followed
  • Consider allowing master franchisees to enforce brand standards in their own territories
  • Build your brand standards into your franchise agreement to ensure that their importance is understood and can be referred to later

Step 6: But allow for local variation

This can be one of the most difficult things to judge when entering new local markets:

How will your branding fare when meeting a whole new set of local competing brands, local attitudes and preferences, and all other aspects relating to operating a business in a different locale to where it originally started.

The key is to allow some flexibility when enforcing your brand in different locations.

You can either provide a framework to make sure that any local franchisee innovation is on-brand, invite new franchisees to contribute to a discussion on the subject, or devolve the decisions to your master franchisees - with appropriate oversight of course..

To-do list:

  • Consider regional variations when enforcing brand standards
  • Make sure there are systems in place to allow local franchisees to at least question the wisdom of enforcing certain brand elements in their territory - clear communication is key here

Step 7: Make your online and offline personas cohesive

There should be no difference between the tone of voice you use in your online and offline activities. Your brand voice is your brand voice wherever it can be found.

To-do list:

  • Compare the tone and language used in your online and offline communication. They should be identical

Step 8: Choose the agency and partners which fit your brand

Because of the resource-intensive nature of creating and enforcing a brand identity across all platforms and all locations at all times, many franchisors choose to hire a professional company whose sole responsibility is to monitor brand standards and reputation.

When deciding to do so, ensure that you're choosing a company that not only has the skills and experience to accomplish the task, but also one that fits in with your brand values themselves.

The same is true when partnering with any other firm.

You can tell a lot about a company from who their friends are. What do yours say about you?

To-do list:

  • Only match yourself with partner companies who you can demonstrate share your values

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