New Tools Help Smaller Franchisors Compete with National Brands in a Tough Economy

Atlanta, GA (PRESS RELEASE – August 16, 2009) — In today’s challenging economy, smaller franchisors face what seem like insurmountable barriers to growth. In normal times, between 75 and 100 franchisors go out of business each year, representing 3 to 5 percent of all franchisors in operation.

There are a host of management and marketing reasons for these failures. The latter include the inability to compete against well-established brands; difficulties attracting qualified prospects; ineffective PR/marketing strategies; and the weakening of the brand through decentralized advertising.

Despite these obstacles, smaller franchisors have much better opportunities today to tear down the name-recognition barrier to growth. According to Michael Higgins, president of Design Coup, an Atlanta-based marketing/design firm, “The key to growing a franchise system is to look and behave like a national brand. Today’s tools and technologies make this easier than ever.”

Design Coup Inc., has developed B.I.T.S., a system specifically designed to move smaller franchisors up the ladder. B.I.T.S. stands for Brand, Identity, Technology, Social Media/PR. “We think of B.I.T.S. as the drill “bits” in our marketing tool box,” explains Higgins. “You need a structured approach to penetrate the marketing barrier.”

BRAND is more than logo and color palette. It encompasses the larger brand story – how the company was formed, the founder’s personal story, and the benefits the company brings to the world. “For many young companies, brand story comes later,” explains Bruce Miller, a Design Coup principal, “but in practice, the story forms the core DNA for all marketing efforts. Brand story (think Wendy’s, Papa John’s, Chick-fil-A) is part of the corporate mythology that franchisees want to buy into.”

For Wing Zone, one of the nation’s fastest growing take-out/delivery chains, Design Coup elevated the founders’ story to a piece of legend. Hungry for an alternative to delivery pizza, University of Florida students Matt Friedman and Adam Scott started by cooking authentic Buffalo wings in their fraternity kitchen and delivering them to fellow students. The story now plays a prominent role in all their marketing efforts.

IDENTITY encompasses the visual look and messaging of all marketing materials. The key is to create an identity template that builds brand equity and can be easily applied to advertising, inserts, and promo items. “You won’t see so much as a Post-it note on the cash register at a major chain,” says Higgins. “That’s the level of attention to detail needed to maintain a consistent brand experience.”

Franchisees build local campaigns that are seamless with corporate brand standards by pulling from an online catalog of elements that form the Identity — product photography, design files, logos, print materials, customizable TV spots etc. This also minimizes the large corporate resources traditionally needed to promote the brand in multiple markets.

TECHNOLOGY is the great equalizer. With good design, any size company can convey a “big-company” presence on the Web. Franchisors need, at a minimum:

* Consumer Web site – Here we see the brand in action – with bold messaging, animation and attitude.
* Franchising Web site – Hosting the franchising story on a separate URL allows franchising companies to present a business-to-business message to potential partners.
* E-marketing – Loyalty programs, customer retention and e-promotions are inexpensive to mount, but you need effective opt-in methods to capture customer email addresses.
* SEO or Search Engine Optimization – Prospects search the Internet for investment ideas. You want to guarantee that your franchise opportunity is visible via SEO, online PR and social media.
* Online Digital Assets — Let’s franchisees build marketing materials with unifed brand consistency.

SOCIAL MEDIA/PR is about building a media presence. Design Coup partners with No Limit Media Consulting to build brand awareness via social and traditional media. “Traditional media is about pitching story ideas,” explains Nick Powills, president of No Limit Media Consulting. “Social media is about creating buzz. We work to inject the client’s brand into the Web universe and into the larger consumer dialogue. Blogging builds online presence and boosts search engine rankings; social media builds brand loyalty. We also stage events, promos and giveaways to create excitement and to get noticed by the mainstream media.”

Bottom line, the goal is to grow the business. “We had twenty-five units when we started our brand-building efforts,” explains Matt Friedman, president of Wing Zone. “Design Coup was able to give our brand a life that has helped us grow to nearly 100 units today. I particularly appreciate the fact that all of our marketing components plug seamlessly into our overall brand.”

About Design Coup

Design Coup, an Atlanta-based marketing firm, creates marketing/design communications for leading corporations, franchise systems, organizations and new business ventures. Located in Atlanta, GA (Decatur), Design Coup has been in business since 1998. For more information about Design Coup, visit

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Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

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