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Rebranding a franchise without the identity crisis

Written by Jon Card on Tuesday, 07 October 2014. Posted in Sales & Marketing

Brand is key to the success of franchises, so extra care should be given when alterations are made

Rebranding a franchise without the identity crisis

Rebranding a franchise business is not a job to be taken lightly. It’s expensive, time-consuming and can have a major impact on the fortunes of the business as a whole. For franchisors, complete rebrands, including a name change, are largely off the table as an idea. The valuable intellectual property (IP), such as trademarks and logos, which enable franchisees to become a part of  a successful business make this a no-go. However, franchises do regularly overhaul their brands to keep up with the times, reflect their current offerings and, ultimately, ensure they are appealing to their customers. 

The big questions

Any franchisor considering a rebrand needs to ask themselves a few simple, but revealing questions:

  • Why are we rebranding? 
  • What problem are we attempting to solve? 
  • How will this affect customers?
  • What new message are we trying to convey?
  • What are our aims and hoped-for results?

Bringing in the experts

Any established business planning a rebrand would be wise to seek out an agency with past experience of successful rebrands. Attempting a rebranding in-house can lead to costly mistakes and has the potential to undermine the entire company. Furthermore, the UK has great strength and experience in this sector and so finding the right agency shouldn’t be that difficult. Franchisors should seek out a number of potential candidates and invite them to pitch for the business. 

When deciding on the agency, it’s important for a franchisor to feel comfortable with the people they are engaging and to be convinced they share their passion for the project. Cost is a factor but franchisors shouldn’t simply select an agency based on price as this may only prove to be a false economy. 

Choosing the right brand

For a franchise, choosing a new brand is a big decision as it will impact on all the franchisees across the network. It should not be a solo effort and a team of people needs to be assembled prior to the work beginning. These people should be involved in answering the initial questions and ensuring they are fully explored. Franchisees should also be involved in the process, if practical, as they are stakeholders and need to be kept on-side. 

The new brand, of course, needs to reflect where the company is and where it feels its main appeal now lies. Kerry Noble is part of the marketing team that has been working on the Esquires Coffee rebrand in the UK. She says much of the company’s rebrand was about highlighting to the customer the provenance of its core product. “We needed to reflect the fact that we are organic and Fairtrade. Before, our logo was a penguin and many of our stores were blue. Now they are orange and yellow, and the whole feel is more earthy,” she says.

Communication

Franchisees not only need to be brought on-side but also educated on how the new brand will affect them. The franchisee manual will need some updating and there 

will also be extra training days to schedule in. But the key message that all franchises will want to hear is how the new brand will help their businesses and, ultimately, help them to make money. 

Sian Williams, local communications co-ordinator of Kumon, the education franchise, recently worked on the company’s rebranding exercise, which it hopes will propel the company into the 21st century. Figures from the company suggest a surge in take-up since it relaunched its online offering. Williams says communication with franchisees is key. “We would advise that franchisors consider what it is they want to achieve through their rebranding, and to think about what they want to put across before communicating it with their franchisees. In order to get franchisees to buy into the idea, they should have an understanding of why the changes are taking place and how they can be beneficial to them,” she says.

New phase

Roll-out can also take time and doesn’t need to be done in one go. Noble says that Esquires is starting with one store in Durham, which is currently being refurbished, before rolling out the new look across the UK. Also, the rebrand is part of a new phase in the business with new IT and till systems being implemented. “Our first fully rebranded store is due to open in Durham city centre in early October. We are hoping that that the fresh new look will attract the same loyal customer base as before, as well as converting new customers to regulars. Each store is to be installed with a brand new till system, which will allow for better tracking of sales and profitability.”

Signs Express

Rebecca Dack, marketing manager for Signs Express, recently led a team of people that worked on the rebranding of the company I had been pushing for it for a couple of years and we were ready to do something different in terms of our look. Firstly, we undertook a series of focus groups with customers, asking them about their opinions of the brand look, their experiences with our franchisees and how they felt about the company as a whole. We then carried out a survey of 1,000 businesses, asking them what they look for in a supplier, what frustrates them and how they view signs and graphics within their own business. The results showed that customers value input from their suppliers and are frustrated when suppliers show a lack of professionalism, knowledge and customer service skills. 

We had a convention with franchisees, showed people what our market research had found and what was going to happen, and everyone was up for it.

We used a brand consultant and an agency. They really helped and it was really useful getting a perspective from someone not in the company. We thought about changing the whole look but decided to modify it, as we have a really recognisable logo and I think it would have been too much for the customers to change it completely.

When the recession was going on, a lot of people decided to rebrand and refresh their look. It seemed almost contradictory for us that we still had the same look when our customers were modernising. The time was right for us to move into a different era. 

About the Author

Jon Card

Jon Card

A writer and journalist specialising in small business and enterprise, Card works as a freelancer for The Guardian and was previously editor of Birmingham Living magazine. He is a proud father of a gorgeous little boy and a big fan of the USA.

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