For anyone acquainted with the field of graphic design, Pica9 will sound somewhat familiar, if only due to the word’s reference to the industry. Generations of graphic artists have spent countless hours meticulously sizing ads to fit in columns as narrow as nine picas, the equivalent of 1.5 inches of space. To that end, Pica9’s name denotes a sense of the precision they believe a brand’s integrity rests upon. Brand cohesion and solidarity is of the utmost importance when a company has franchises operating in multiple locations. Pica9 also understands that the average franchisee, while certainly an entrepreneur, may not necessarily have a background in graphic design or marketing.
Pica9 was born from its founders’ realization that the efforts put toward graphic design not only cut into marketing budgets, they take away potential time spent engaging with customers. Their solution provides companies with effective tools that reduce production costs while preserving a brand’s unification, ensuring efficiency, accountability, and cohesion to major brands that operate in multiple locations.
Pica9 offers a SaaS platform called CampaignDrive, which offers solutions for marketing automation, brand compliance, and digital asset management. We recently spoke to Kevin Groom, founder and “Chief Evangelist” of Pica9, and Charles Groom, marketing manager, to learn more about brand compliance for franchises and effective ways to not only educate, but assist franchisees with their marketing.
Pica9 Recommends Providing Training That Isn't "Training" At All
Pica9 takes a fresh approach to the idea of training. "You use the word 'help' instead of train," Kevin told us. “Most local franchisees don’t want to be trained in the use of brand voice, they want to be assisted in the use of brand voice.” The basis behind that core concept is that if you alter your nomenclature, you're also changing your entire approach to the field.
Pica9's strategy is one that relies heavily on empathy, essentially putting themselves in the franchisee's shoes. “Empathize with the fact that marketing is just one small task in a day filled with many different kinds of tasks for entrepreneurs," Kevin said. A typical marketing initiative should not be something that monopolizes an hour and a half or two hours of a franchisee's day, but 10-15 minutes, and no more than that. He recommends looking at tasks that one would normally spend an entire day completing, and distilling them down into something that takes a matter of minutes.
Beyond setting realistic expectations for the amount of time a franchisee spends on marketing, when it comes to brand voice and cohesion, Pica9 recommends balancing empowerment with discipline and control. "Most of the time, the brand is seen as a police officer: there to prevent you from doing things that are mistakes," Kevin observed. "It’s good to prevent mistakes, but it’s not good to prevent activity itself." He suggests giving franchisees a little freedom with their campaign drives, allowing them to create a rough draft that they can submit for approval or review. Instead of rejecting it because it has mistakes, brands can correct those mistakes and send it back, perfected.
The trick is to show, not tell. "These systems allow a brand to show the franchisee how to implement the brand voice, rather than merely telling them how to do it, and then leaving them to their own devices," Kevin explained. "It’s remarkable how franchisees will turn around and begin using your brand voice and using it effectively, and learning from what you showed them how to do, rather than what you told them how to do"
Franchisors Lead By Helping Their Franchisees
“If you want to be a leader, be a servant, as well,” Kevin suggested. When brands adopt a service mentality with their franchisees, they receive appreciation in return and franchisees are quicker to adopt a brand's voice. At Pica9, Kevin actually spends a lot of time on the customer support lines because it allows him to learn about the human reality that franchisees face every day. Franchisees have bought into a brand, but they're still trying to achieve leverage and scale of their own in their local markets. "The frustration they express, time and again, is either that the brand doesn’t empathize with what they’re trying to do at the local level, or they haven’t made the brand accessible enough for them to be able to leverage it in the way they believe their investment commands," Kevin noted.
Franchisees need to feel empowered, but most importantly, they need to feel supported. When a brand changes its approach to one of servitude, "you find yourself with a leadership core in the franchisee community that is ready and eager to take that assistance and run with it," Kevin said.
Big Brands Need To Think Local
Pica9 believes that brands should always create marketing with the franchisee in mind. It's easy to run with the next big idea, but the field should not enter into the equation as an afterthought. A brand's marketing will ultimately need to be deployed at the local level, which is why it's important for branded materials to have some flexibility for adaptation to a franchisee's local market.
Pica9 also suggests crafting marketing systems that are designed for laymen. After all, most local entrepreneurs are not typically graphic designers by trade. “You have to translate the rules of the brand into dynamic templates that automatically implement those rules, rather than trying to define them for people - for entrepreneurs - who don’t know what ‘clear space’ or ‘secondary leading’ or what ‘CMYK’ even means," Kevin explained.
He also offered some critical advice for brand agencies and in-house agencies. "By all means, define your brand guidelines, and do it with the care and discipline that job deserves. When you get to the end of any particular section or rule, build a template that embodies that rule. Make that available to your users so they can see it, they can activate it, they can use it, and from that, they learn what it means," Kevin advised.
Sympathy for the user experience is absolutely vital when it comes to designing any marketing campaign. "Speak the language of your user community, rather than your own," Kevin said.
Recognize Franchisees For Their Own Successes
Pica9 recommends that brands offer recognition for local franchisees who are executing and activating the brand in a way that is both compliant and inspiring. "If you recognize the folks who are doing this effectively, you create kind of a cycle where folks are learning from each other," Kevin said. Franchisees share the experience of being franchisees of a given brand; seeing another's success being recognized not only shows them what works, but it helps to build momentum and they actually become ambassadors of the brand to each other. "Everybody likes to be a hero every once in a while," Kevin added.
Most franchisees buy into a brand because they have an emotional connection to it. "They feel that thing," Kevin explained. "They buy into the emotional concepts of a brand. Make that accessible to them. If you do that, the rest of the marketing equation will take care of itself. Actually, your franchisees will take care of your brand for you."
Once that momentum is firmly set in motion, franchisees become a force that cannot be stopped.
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