A successful franchise network requires a disciplined, innovative business strategy. This may seem contradictory; how can a business be disciplined enough to stick with a key point of difference and simultaneously be innovative? The challenge in a mature franchise business model is that the business strategy has already been proven to be effective. The innovation needs to come from the implementation of the strategy which is then applied by such a wide landscape of people: dedicated and diverse franchisees, employees and importantly customers.
Innovation can come from a range of tools or silver bullets that assist to reinvigorate the network including new creative concepts and applications, marketing communications, product development, creating a fresh in-store design, implementing a new approach to people culture, or a natural combination of these elements.
All of these strategic elements are potential silver bullets for a business. However, silver bullets are effectively useless without an application for implementing their purpose – a gun. The guns are the franchisees and employees. We’ve all heard the saying a poor strategy executed flawlessly is more powerful than a great strategy executed poorly. So it is the reinvigoration of the people within our business that hold the key for a fresh outlook. Retail market conditions continue to constantly change and it is a sign of confidence to change with it and maintain the crucial consumer relevance of a brand.
For Bakers Delight, prior to June 2010, our brand strategy had been in existence for 12 years and was very much built around being light-hearted and fun – everybody remembers the jingle – which had worked well in making the business an iconic Australian brand. With the market being in such a period of change in 2008/2009, we thought it a good time to re-evaluate our platform to position ourselves for sustained growth when the consumer confidence returned.
The first step in undertaking a brand reinvigoration is research. Finding out what makes your customer tick and what it is about your business that they value. This information then underpins every business activity and decision, whether small or big, and is key to developing a successful long-term strategy.
In 2009, Bakers Delight consumer research allowed us to assess our strategy and develop a new business approach that was focused on consumer needs for fresh, natural, and above all real produce. Research showed our ads were becoming less effective. People were amused by the ads, but they couldn’t remember what products were being promoted or the key messages and our point of differentiation. We’re not in the business of making 30-second movies so a fresh approach was required.
This undertaking also revealed that people are unclear about what fresh bread is and are unwittingly buying bread that claims to be fresh when it is days old. Finding this out meant we were able to address these communication challenges in our reinvigorated approach.
Following research comes strategy development, and central to developing a successful brand strategy is ensuring that your messaging resonates with your franchise network and consumers.
For Bakers Delight, the key principal that the network was founded on is that our bread is baked fresh, from scratch each and every day. So for us, it was a case of the brand getting back to its roots. Based on what our consumer research revealed, our new strategic platform would focus on the expertise and authenticity of our bakers and baking methods.
The Bakers Delight underlying philosophy – real bread, real people, real delight – was to underpin the new brand position. This would be reinforced through the We’re for Real, tagline in all communications moving forward. Getting this step right was extremely important to make sure the next two phases: franchisee buy-in and customer rollout, were a success.
For a franchise business, ensuring buy-in from franchisees is vital to ensuring the success of a new business strategy. After all, these are the guns we need to execute the strategy. Inviting input, feedback and communicating to the network effectively are essential in bringing a new strategy to life.
Listening and working closely with our franchisees, Bakers Delight invested time and resources in making sure the whole business was ready to hit the ground running when it was time to execute the new strategy. Franchisee input was sought in the lead up to the network launch which was vital in making sure the strategy was brought to life across the whole business and our franchisees and staff supported the reinvigoration.
A microsite was also developed where bakery owners could log on, read support materials and ask questions to better understand the shift in brand direction. Franchisees felt a sense of ownership and involvement, and were ready to jump into action at launch date. Our franchisee network in totality saw our new brand strategy weeks before customers. It was a calculated risk, sure, but we knew we were on a winner and our franchisees agreed with us.
The launch campaign also included in-store merchandising, packaging and uniforms, rolled out across all 630 bakeries Australia wide. A sense of freshness and vitality to the look and feel of the store in turn injected energy back in to the franchise owners and their staff.
Launching a new business strategy also involves creative execution to consumers. Communicating to existing customers that the business is undertaking a change in messaging, however also tailoring communication to attract new customers is the central challenge.
Bakers Delight’s new brand communications included digital and above the line TV, magazine and online advertising and focused on dialling up consumer emotions towards fresh, authentic and real bread. The new direction has proved to be extremely successful in resonating with customers, and an initial positive response has demonstrated that we are on track to meet targets.
Invigoration simply means to energise, to fill with creativity and vigour. Reinvigoration means to do this process again, essentially allowing you a do-over of your existing business strategy; the immediate benefit being the ability to use key learnings from the previous strategy to build a stronger business platform and ensure continued growth in an ever changing and evolving market.
The underlying reason behind any marketing strategy and campaign is business growth. An increase in sales as a result of new advertising and marketing activities is not surprising, however ensuring long-term and sustained growth, and capitalising on market opportunities and customer demands requires evolving the strategy and working closely with the network towards a common goal.
This is also the case not just for large franchises like Bakers Delight, but also small franchises. Whether you have three franchises or 300, the principle is the same. Re-positioning means making sure each and every stakeholder involved in the business is on board and supported from start to finish.
Change is always an intimidating undertaking, however the reward for inspiring successful change is well worth the effort. Reinvigoration is about fostering a desire to move forward and what better way to do this than empowering franchisees and customers to inject new life in to the business through transforming communication messages.
Remember to always keep questioning: is our brand communications resonating with consumers? Is our marketing strategy translating into positive, and growing sales? Will the strategy contribute to business growth long term? Do our franchisees believe in our current communication strategy? Keeping on your toes and being at the ready to understand your internal and external market is essential for business success.
Most importantly are the people of the business ready and willing to execute? If yes, then you are on a winner.
–Chris Caldwell is General Manager of Bakers Delight.