In order to stand out today, brands have to present a consistent image and have their own personality. Branding is what stops them from disappearing into a sea of other, similar businesses and keeps customers coming back for more.
The problem arises when you have a multi-location business. Each location might have its own unique personality and image, but it still needs to align with the other locations and the overall corporate messaging.
First of all, let’s recap why branding is important:
- It helps differentiate your business from your competitors
- It injects your business with personality and an identity that prospects can relate to
- It generates trust and authority
- It creates customer loyalty and raving fans
- It helps you position your brand as a leader in your industry
Keeping your branding consistent across all communication channels reinforces all of these benefits and works to create a solid base for your business.
The Struggle With Multi-Location Marketing and Branding
While all of these benefits are easy for most businesses to tap into, marketing managers in multi-location businesses might find things a little trickier.
Think about it:
Say you work for a multi-location franchise in a small town in rural America. The customers that live in this area are going to have different goals, challenges, and needs than the customers of the same franchise in the center of New York.
But, like with any major franchise, corporate will want branding to remain the same. You don’t see big fast food brands or major clothing stores changing their colors, messaging, and imagery depending on where in the world their franchisees are based.
More often than not, corporate will have a strict set of branding guidelines that need to be followed by everyone, regardless of location. While this helps to create a sense of brand consistency, it can also be detrimental as it may mean that customers in certain locations aren’t getting their individual needs met.
So what’s the solution?
How to Maintain Consistent Branding in Multi-Location Businesses
1. Stay Consistent But Listen
Every franchise in a multi-location business serves a different area and potentially a different type of customer.
While you want to give each of the local marketing managers some control over their own marketing initiatives based on data and feedback from their local area, you also don’t want your stores to be inconsistent across your brand. This will only confuse customers and harm your brand identity.
The key here is to offer some leeway and have a set of non-negotiable branding elements and a set of negotiable or changeable elements that each franchise owner or local marketing manager can choose.
For example, all franchisees should use the same logo, imagery, and colors, but you might compromise by offering different discounts to different franchise locations and launch different products or lines in different areas depending on where they’re most relevant.
2. Communication is Key
Like with anything, communication is key. Even if you have hundreds of franchisees across the country, it’s important to stay in touch with all your locations and keep everyone in the loop.
This can be easier said than done when everyone scattered around the country, but there’s a simple solution.
You can use a central dashboard or tool, like SOCi, that all marketing managers can access that hosts non-negotiable branding assets and a set of guidelines that everyone needs to stick to, regardless of location.
Utilizing an easily accessible centralized platform will help keep your branding in check across multiple locations while empowering marketers to create individual campaigns that are relevant to their areas, but that are also on-brand.
3. Create Approval Workflows
Approval workflows are great if you have lots of different people doing a similar task – like different marketing managers working on campaigns for different stores or locations.
Creating a workflow helps solidify your brand consistency by building a set of guidelines, and providing approval processes to ensure everything is given the go-ahead to check it’s on-brand before it’s put out there for the world to see.
Your approval workflow should run through the central dashboard you have, or it might be a process that starts in individual locations and then moves up to corporate for final approval.
Avoid Confusion With a Consistent Brand Message
Yes, it’s hard to maintain a consistent brand when you have hundreds or even thousands of locations across the country (or maybe even the world).
But, if you want to avoid confusion and keep your brand identity strong, it’s important that you put some guidelines in place to help local marketing managers stay on-brand, but still give them the flexibility to create campaigns that are suited to their own specific audience.
Communication is so important here, and a central dashboard or tool that everyone can easily access can really help. To add another layer of consistency to your process, you can also create an approval workflow, where location-specific managers have the freedom to create their own campaigns, but they have to get sign-off from corporate before they can go ahead and run them.
All this results in a much stronger brand image and works to build trust and authority amongst your audience to better position you in your industry.
Thank you to our guest author, Scott Miraglia, for this blog. Scott is the CEO of Elevation Marketing. He is a balanced risk-taker with nearly three decades of experience starting and growing advertising and marketing agencies. His business acumen is matched with a drive to build creative teams that thrive in open, collaborative work environments. Scott seeks out the best creative individuals, not only to provide quality service to clients, but to also help shape the future direction of Elevation.