With Brexit negotiations still ongoing, brands expanding to the UK may be unsure of the reception foreign businesses will get
The British franchise industry has always been welcoming to new brands who take an ethical approach to expansion, whether from the UK or overseas. Even when direct competitors enter the market, franchisors and franchisees can be seen at events, sharing best practice, talking about challenges and innovations.
But do consumers react so positively to a new non-UK brand?
Learning from past reactions
It took some time for Brits to accept a ‘Marathon’ bar changing its branding to ‘Snickers’ and ‘Jif’ to ‘Cif’– these were changes forced on us to align with the name used in other countries. So how do consumers react when an entirely new brand from overseas enters the market?
US brands often do better than others from outside the UK because British buyers, both franchise and consumer, feel more comfortable with, or can find similarities between, the US and UK markets.
The language barrier is the most difficult to overcome for consumers, which is another reason why brands from the US and Australia seem to ease their way into the UK market a little better than others.
Embracing new brands
How will consumers react when a new brand is introduced at a time when we’re all feeling more inclined towards British products and services as the EU negotiators clamp down? Will it make a significant difference to franchisors looking to expand to the UK now and in the next couple of years?
My feeling is that unless it is a completely new product or service or there’s a huge price difference, we may be inclined to support British.
But we Brits are a forgiving lot and thanks to our love for travel, some franchise brands we know from trips abroad get off to a good start when they reach our shores. Food and retail franchises often get a head start as raving fans, bloggers and influencers spread the news about their UK launches. This can also happen with business-to-business franchise brands.
The role of the media
The media certainly has a huge part to play in the British market’s acceptance of overseas brands. Just now, those entering from outside the EU have more of a fighting chance than those from within. The media interest surrounding the story of a French supplier winning the contract to produce British passports reflects the feeling that now is a time we should be ‘keeping it in the family’ and supporting British companies.
Now, more than ever, international franchise brands looking to join us in the UK will need someone fighting their corner with media relations skills and a solid understanding of the franchise, wider-business, consumer and political climate.
3 tips for entering the UK market
1. Research, research, research
People so often take business decisions based on just a short visit to the target market. Or perhaps think that consumers will act similarly to their current market because they speak the same language or have happily adopted a similar brand.
Taking that approach will set you up for failure. You need people who understand your target audience. If you don’t know someone directly, ask for a referral.
Brands entering new markets can often fall foul of financial and employment law regulations, so make this part of your early research – for example, minimum pay rules may decrease your profit margins to a point where the business model isn’t viable.
Similarly, you need to understand your specific industry sector inside out. Regulatory requirements can be vastly different in the UK – the care sector is an obvious example, with stringent Care Quality Commission regulations in England and different organizations covering Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
2. Speaka da lingo?
OK, whilst this may not be an episode of Allo Allo, (a popular 80’s Brit sitcom – Ed) even the best of brands can get language wrong when moving in to new markets. Whilst the UK is culturally diverse, you’ll make more of an impact on picky consumers and foster better relationships with the media if your promotional content is accurate for British English.
We’re not saying that the British public don’t want to buy from a brand with a Spanish or American heritage but it’s easy for important product or service benefits to become lost in poor translation.
3. Harness your network and grow it
You’ll have a few contacts and friends through franchising and maybe a couple of media contacts, but you can never have too many friends when it comes to breaking into a new market.
Inviting the right people to an event is a great way to start the ball rolling and it will give you the chance to get initial feedback on how people feel the brand would fair in the UK before you spend a large budget on publicly launching it.
Invite franchise and industry media, suppliers, professional advisors and regulatory bodies – a good PR agency can help you with this type of occasion. When it comes to officially launching the brand to the public, you’ll be able to call on these people to support your launch campaign of both the franchise opportunity and your consumer offering.
A solid communications plan of introduction, launch and consistent follow-up is important for a successful entrance to the British market. Working with UK-based suppliers is a good way to ensure success. Acknowledging that they will have a firm grasp of best practice, language and cultural nuances will put you ahead of the curve.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
At Rev PR, we help you to move your business forward. We do that by getting your brand into the press and by creating valuable content that feeds your online and offline presence. By combining consumer, corporate and franchise PR, you can improve individual franchise businesses which, in turn, will benefit your franchise recruitment efforts. Franchisors and franchisees all benefit from more media coverage, consistent cross-channel messaging and audiences who engage with valuable, insightful content. www.revpr.co.uk @RevPRuk