Customize Your Franchise Without Compromising Your Brand: Part I

Author: E. Cotner Date: September 22, 2011

Customizing for local markets can help your franchise reach a broader range of customers.

An established franchise offers instant brand awareness—that’s part of the appeal. But sometimes slight customization of products, services and even store design can boost a franchise’s success. 

“There are some franchisors that are very wary of making changes to the brand based on demographics or different markets,” says Marc Plaisted, founder and CEO of Brandchise, a franchise consulting firm in Lakeland, Fla. “In my experience, there’s great value and power to a brand that has enough flexibility to be able to make strategic tweaks based on the consumers.” 

The challenge lies in making sure the customized offerings don’t compromise your brand identity. Here’s how to overcome that challenge:

Consider Market Needs

Make sure there’s a market need for a new product or service. Just because a few customers request a certain product or service doesn’t mean it’s going to resonate with the entire market. The franchisor and the franchisee should work together to research demographics, competitors and needs. 

For example, ExtraInnings, a baseball training franchise based in Middleton, Mass., with 40 locations in 19 states, adapts its children’s teams and training programs for different states. In Texas, a travel team starts at age 6, but in other states the demand starts later.

Related Resource: The Best and Worst Franchise Sectors

Maintain Your Core Identity

Make sure your new offering doesn’t distract from your core product line and brand, Plaisted says. If it does, it will create customer confusion—and you may lose business. Plaisted, whose family has operated more than 200 Dairy Queen franchises over 60 years, recalls a time in the 1980s when the franchise introduced a product line of hard ice cream called Queen’s Choice to a few of its franchises. Since customers associated Dairy Queen with soft-serve ice cream, Queen’s Choice didn’t last. “It was a miserable failure,” Plaisted says.

Think Outside The Box

Franchise owners can make their stores more appealing to local markets without changing product lines or branding. Plaisted says a Dairy Queen near Yellowstone National Park is built from logs and stones rather than wood panels. “It’s recognizable to the customer as a Dairy Queen, but it also blends in with the local community.”

Another Dairy Queen in Minnesota used a log pole instead of a metal pole for its sign, which blended in with the natural environment of the hunting and fishing community. “You’re adapting the area so you complement the beauty of the area, but you’re not doing anything to compromise the brand,” Plaisted says. 

Read Next: Customize Your Franchise Without Compromising Your Brand: Part II

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