Determining When It’s Time to Rebrand

Marketing

Change isn’t just good — it’s a must.

By Lee Knowlton

A system-wide rebranding can seem like a daunting task, but smart franchises will see it as an opportunity to not only elevate brand awareness, but also highlight aspects of their brand consumers may have been ignoring. It’s a given that most established brands are constantly modifying their logos and slogans to align with shifting consumer tastes. Yet, small-to-mid-sized franchise concepts often overlook that this isn’t just for the 7-Elevens and McDonald’s of the world. There is a lesson to be learned for every franchise regardless of its size and category. Most franchises make the mistake of waiting until after their message has become muted to take action. And it’s easy to do. As you start out, your message is simply communicating who you are and what you offer. But as your franchise grows and consumers become familiar with your product, it is imperative that your message evolves.  After all, it doesn’t take long for a consumer’s perception to lock in that you can only be one thing or offer just one main product.  The truth is, your franchise can offer so much more than just a service or product, and the key is to deliver a memorable experience that leads to an emotional connection. This starts with first understanding your core customer. In our case, it’s largely moms. Upon further research, we learned that Generation X moms have different preferences than the up-and-coming Millennial moms (people between ages 16 and 35) who have an entirely different set of behaviors or values than the typical customer just a decade ago. For example, Millennials value experiences over goods, they search for unique localized offerings, and when looking for places to take their children, imaginative, creative activity is paramount and active, immersive, experiences are especially prized. Understanding the key traits and values of your customers should guide your brand’s offerings, look and feel, from your advertising to the in-store experience. Every aspect of your business from the color scheme, the interior decor, your website, logo, even an employee’s uniform is speaking to your customers. You need to make sure the message on all of these communication channels is one they want to pay attention to. And, while every franchise rebrand presents its own set of unique challenges, there are three strategies you can use to ensure that your rebrand speaks to allof your customers regardless of your category.

Set Realistic Standards

When you start your rebrand, it’s crucial that you launch the program in a way that is easy for your franchisees to activate on a local and regional level. This means defining your goals clearly, setting a timeline and creating a budget.

Focus on Your Strengths

Sometimes what we do best is taken for granted, as we tend to focus so much on what might not be working.  It’s important to take a step back and look at what your customers tell you they love about your franchise. Often you’ll see that there is no need to change your offerings, but instead a need to emphasize what makes you stand out.

Be Prepared to Go All In

A rebrand demands that everyone involved with the brand believes in the new branding (and that starts at the top). It can’t be just messaging, meaning all of your locations need to reflect a unified message. If you say it, you need to deliver on it. Here are two key factors to ensure that you do.

  1. Be immersive. Offering an immersive experience begins with compelling visuals. From the moment a customer walks through your doors they should be presented with a clear and welcoming message highlighting the best of what you have to offer.  At Pump It Up, we specialize in active play for kids, so our in store images are designed to visually cue imaginative play. No matter what category you serve, it’s important to evaluate how your color scheme, layout, even your collateral material helps immerse and direct customers to your unique offerings.  Your franchise location must make sure that all of the design elements reinforce the experience you are promising.

  2. Be engaging.  Customer engagement is arguably the single most important aspect of your franchise. No matter who your customer is or what market you serve, you should strive to make each customer’s experience as personal as possible.  Every interaction a franchisee and its employees have with a customer is a chance to create a lasting connection. This means listening to why your customers chose you and what you can do to ensure that you’re providing what they expect, and then looking for ways to exceed that expectation.  In most cases this means allowing for a level of flexibility with your offerings.  Tailoring your services to a customer’s specific need can lead to life-long return visits and most importantly help generate invaluable word-of-mouth endorsements.

It all comes down this: without offering a high-quality product, any image change is superficial and consumers will recognize that instantly.  While an emotional connection is a crucial part of every successful brand, you have to find ways to make that connection tangible.  The best way to do this is to listen to your customers and anticipate ways to meet and exceed their needs. Also, while it’s important to evolve and adapt to current styles, you need to celebrate your past.  Try to incorporate forward-looking slogans that appeal directly to your customer’s core values. In the end, change isn’t just good — it’s a must. And to rebrand successfully, you need to be aware of your core consumer’s tastes, values and motivators.

Lee Knowlton is president and CEO of Pump It Up, indoor inflatable playgrounds specializing in private parties, and programs such as corporate events, school outings, field trips, and more. Find him at fransocial.franchise.org.