While a tried-and-tested and robust business-in-a-box format is the backbone of the franchise model, expanding internationally requires a whole different approach, writes Andy Knights, COO at Stagecoach Performing Arts.
When venturing overseas, considering cultural nuances and what is influential in a new market is vital. A brand has to question what motivates their consumers and prospective franchisees in this new country and respond to those motivations, all without diluting what makes the brand and the franchise model great in the first place. With schools across Hessen, Cologne, Frankfurt and many more, Germany is a great example of where the Stagecoach Performing Arts franchise has had to keep up with increasing demand in a market with marked differences to the U.K.
First and foremost, a key consideration for children’s services franchises like ours are the reasons behind why parents send their children to performing arts schools or workshops. In Germany this differs from in the U.K.. Therefore, it was crucial that we adapted our messaging to incorporate these differences.
With extracurricular activities for children in the U.K., an emphasis is often placed on them serving a purpose in terms of enriching educational experience. In Germany, parents don’t place as much pressure on extracurricular activities as a tool to boost future educational prospects for their children – they are more focused on children socializing, having fun and making friends. Parents want their children to take part in once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, which is what the Stagecoach franchise, across all of our international markets, aims to provide.
In the U.K., the Stagecoach tagline is ‘Creative Courage for Life’, whilst the tagline for our brand in Germany has been altered to ‘Play on the Stage of Life’ – ‘Auf der Bühne des Lebens Spielen’. This is a direct result of what students and parents in Germany want from the Stagecoach experience as opposed to what students and parents in the U.K. want. Shifting the focus of this message has been essential for our brand to be successful in Germany.
Interestingly, the tagline has not changed in any of our other territories. However, this doesn’t mean that adaptations were not required. Direct translations often catch brands out. When KFC first tried taking on China, their slogan ‘Finger-lickin’ good’ directly translated as ‘Eat your fingers off’ – probably not the image they were going for. So, language translations are another key element to consider when expanding a franchise network on an international level and important to acknowledge from the outset. Luckily for us, our central support team include those with multi-lingual skills whilst partnerships with colleagues in-country ensures language is not a barrier to development.
From strength to strength
I believe that our business model will go from strength to strength as we head into a new year, in part due to our success in adapting the brand to new markets. Seeing Stagecoach rapidly growing across an international market is fantastic, approaching each new country in a methodical manner. It’s testament to the already successful formula that, by making minor changes where appropriate in perhaps language, marketing campaigns or choice of teaching material, we can successfully adapt to new markets and cultures.
Spending essential preparation time, researching and gaining local knowledge is worth the effort in the long run. Sometimes we have people contacting us, requesting we bring the franchise to their country and that really is exciting.
Think global, act local
We know that consumers in all of our markets value performing arts, enjoy theatre and recognize it as a worthwhile activity for their children, so one thing we never change is the original winning Stagecoach service. Ultimately, whether in the U.K. or any of our other international territories, Stagecoach is still doing what it does best.
“Stagecoach is more than a leisure activity for children. Sessions teach confidence, social skills and give a whole generation of performance lovers the chance to meet and have fun,” said the team behind Stagecoach Performing Arts in Berlin.
A helpful phrase to remember when taking a franchise international is: ‘Think global, act local’. The idea of giving local relevancy to a global brand can help you maximize your impact in each new target market. Another phrase to remember is: “Trust, awareness and reliability are excellent starting points.”
With significant growth across eight countries despite a pandemic in 2020, newly acquired rights to operate one of Australia’s oldest theatres and a national award win in Canada last year, Stagecoach is a prime example of how to achieve success when expanding a franchise internationally.