In this third installment of a four-part series on brand experience, Scorpion’s Justin Mink sets the stage on why identifying, defining and living the brand plays a crucial role in the success of your system, especially in these tumultuous times.
In part one of The Franchise Brand Experience series, we explored the opportunity for franchises to reimagine their brands and align brand purpose — a franchise’s “reason for being” that extends beyond pure business goals. Part two made the case for leveraging research-backed market truths to craft a brand experience that wins the hearts and loyalty of customers, franchisees, and corporate teams alike.
In today’s part three, we investigate the next stage of this franchise branding evolution: constructing a foundational brand blueprint built to consistently orient stakeholder decisions, actions, and behaviors around a core set of guiding principles.
The building blocks of a brand
There’s an old marketing motto that goes something like: “There’s no such thing as a boring sector. Only boring brands.” As we reach the halfway point of our branding journey, it’s a good time to take stock of the progress you’ve made on the road to creating a brand that people care about — one that carves out a competitive advantage for hiring talented and motivated teams, attracting committed and passionate franchisees, and earning loyal, enthusiastic customers.
You’ve identified your brand’s soul, the special qualities and values that makes the brand unique amidst a crowded field of competitors. You’ve conducted market research to help identify what the market truly cares about, then calibrated to align the brand’s ethos with market requirements. With these crucial building blocks in place, the long- haul work of constructing a strong and compelling brand can now really begin.
If it ain’t written, it ain’t strategic
This is the time to create a strategic brand blueprint, designed to document and memorialize the many components that, in sum, define the brand. A mentor of mine once said: “if it ain’t written, it ain’t strategic,” and nowhere does this adage hold more true than in the realm of branding. A franchise’s brand blueprint should provide a detailed, 360-degree view of the brand, firmly and proudly declaring its place in the world.
Building a powerful brand is akin to constructing an architectural marvel — what starts as inspiration ultimately requires a formal record: a tangible and material document that designers, project managers, construction workers, investors, onsite staff, and occupants can reference to inspire continued commitment and devotion to the project. Without a formal blueprint in place, franchises risk letting the work they’ve put into laying their brand foundation go to waste, forgotten or marginalized amidst the daily hustle of working in the trenches of the business.
So what exactly does a ‘brand blueprint’ look like in practice? Just as an architectural blueprint brings together design elements, dimensions, and other technical specifications within a unified, cohesive document, your brand blueprint similarly combines and synthesizes the many elements of the brand. This includes components like a company’s ‘Why’ statement, brand values and promise, detailed customer personas, brand personality, tone, style guide, and more.
A brand manifesto is a powerful way to bring your blueprint to life within a single statement. Marketing strategist Mark Di Somma sums it up this way: “A powerful manifesto stems from a disruptive premise. And an inspiring narrative. Don’t write a piece of prose. Write a rallying cry in the media of your choice, with: The anger of a placard. The commitment of a doctrine. The beauty of a story. The hope and excitement of a vivid dream. The sense of a philosophy. And the call to action of a direct response ad.”
In other words, this declarative statement should remind customers, franchisees, and corporate teams about what your brand stands for, its perspective on the world and the brand’s place in it. It provides a crystal-clear picture of the brand’s vision, inspiring emotion and attracting stakeholders who support the same mission. It serves as the catalyst for creating a roadmap to guide marketing efforts, product design, and delivery, while also communicating the company’s own understanding of the value of its brand. Ultimately, it provides the ‘why’ for franchisees, employees, shareholders, executive management, and the marketplace, encouraging confidence and loyalty.
Bringing the blueprint to life
Your brand manifesto can be put into motion by way of internal corporate memos, newsletters to franchisees, annual conference themes, company-wide awards, website and social content, email marketing, ad campaigns, employee reviews, and more. While internal and external messaging may look different, you should never stray from your documented and archived brand identity. For example, if your brand purpose is built upon a foundation of trustworthiness in an industry where customers overwhelmingly distrust service providers, any betrayal of this for the sake of short-term gain will ultimately cause all stakeholders to lose faith in the brand blueprint.
Without a blueprint in place, the entire organization living the purpose of the brand on a daily, long-term basis is destined to be about as lasting as the buzz your team ties on at a branding-session happy hour. Customers are also likely to forget about the ‘why’ that makes the brand special and unique unless they are constantly reminded of the ‘what’ through marketing communications and the experience that the brand consistently provides.
In the fourth and final part of The Franchise Brand Experience, we’ll provide actionable insights on how to communicate and market your brand internally and externally (at the national and local levels) so that the brand experience attracts and retains like-minded stakeholders, differentiates you from the competition, and ultimately drives growth.
• Once you’ve identified and validated your brand purpose, the next step is to construct your brand blueprint as a means of formally documenting the elements of the brand.
• The elements of a brand blueprint serve as ongoing reference points to ensure continued alignment around the values of the brand, as well as to orient behaviors and actions of corporate teams, franchisees, and customers alike around this identity.
• A brand manifesto is a foundational document of a brand blueprint: a single, declarative statement that helps customers, franchisees, and corporate teams understand what your brand stands for, its perspective on the world, and the brand’s place in it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Justin Mink, CFE, is senior vice president of franchise growth at Scorpion. His passions for branding and digital marketing has guided a career that includes owning an events company in Washington D.C., brand marketing for USATODAY.com, leading the franchise team as an early employee at digital marketing firm ReachLocal, cofounding the marketing technology start-up Music Audience Exchange, and serving as chief marketing officer at New Frontier Data