Franchise Branding

What is branding?

If you ask me, it is the most important facet of franchising. Ask anyone who’s worked with me and they will attest, I am absolutely incessant when it comes to branding. Sure, unit economics are also critical, but without a great brand, positive unit economics probably won’t be there. Branding is an effective strategy that helps a franchisor boost sales and effectively compete in today’s marketplace. Your brand is a subconscious commitment that you make to your customers. One that sets you apart from your competitors. It helps people identify with your business’ culture and what your business does. Most importantly, it must appeal and assure your customers.

Are you an innovative and dynamic company? A hospitable and comforting company? A quick service company? A trustworthy company? A fun company? Maybe your business’s brand incorporates more than one quality. These are some of the questions you need to ask. Every business has a persona and fundamental values they want to express to potential customers; an impression that can often be conveyed in 3 seconds with the right branding.

Your logo should be the foundation of your brand. It should be integrated into everything you do, including your marketing, promotional materials, website and social media outreach. Your brand strategy is a set of rules and procedures that you follow when it comes to communicating with your customer base, wherever you advertise and distribute your messages. 

Your brand is also your culture. It is imperative that your brand is not only conveyed throughout your marketing endeavors, but also in your staff’s actions [e.g. customer service], their tone of voice, body language, facial expressions etc. Everything must be seamless; a great franchisor cannot afford to have any contradictions with their branding. Consistency is key. A brand is not a thing, it is a customer experience.

Brand Equity

Having strong brand equity is a vital component of any company’s success. As it allows a business to evolve and even charge more for its products and services than its competitors. For instance if McDonald’s decided to charge more for its burgers, it is likely customers will continue to pay.

Brand equity is also linked to perceived quality. For instance, Nike uses athletes as endorsers. The company hopes that fans will carry their emotional attachment to a professional athlete, over to their brand and products.

Distinguish your brand 

– Ask

Defining your brand can be a daunting process. It may seem simple, but it should always involve great thought and effort. Perform some research, learn the needs, habits and desires of your current and prospective customers. Don’t assume you know what they think or want. Know what they think and want. Do not hesitate to ask your customers or potential customers questions, which provoke responses you may not want to hear. Remember, your business and brand is not about you, it’s about your customers.

Below are some questions you should be asking yourself and your customers:

  • What is your company’s purpose?
  • What are the benefits and features of your products or services?
  • What do your customers and prospective customers already think about your company?
  • What qualities do you want them to associate with your company?
  • What feelings do you want to evoke in your customers? 

Ask many questions.

Branding Strategy


Once you have defined your brand, how do you share it? Below you will find some time-tested advice.

  • Design or redesign a great logo. Ensure it is seen everywhere.


  • Write down your brand’s persona. What are the key messages you want to communicate about your brand? Every employee should be aware of your brand and your brand’s persona.


  • Create a brand manual [Brand Style Guide]. Use the same color scheme, logo placement, look and feel throughout. One of the most important assets for any company is their brand manual. Being consistent in brand communication is crucial to the growth and success of a brand. A brand manual does the job of ensuring this consistency.


  • Integrate your brand. Branding covers to every facet of your business–how you welcome your customers, answer your phones, your staff’s attire, your public relations, everything.


  • Create a “voice” for your company that reflects your brand. Your company’s voice should be a reflection of your brand’s character and culture. It should be communicated in all mediums, including written and visual. Does your brand deal with the public? Be inviting and social. Is it service oriented? Convey competency and customer centric service. You get the idea.


  • Develop a tagline. Come up with a memorable, meaningful and succinct statement that captures the essence of your brand. Ideally 3-6 words.


  • Never stray from your brand [your commitment to your customer’s experience]. Customers will be underwhelmed and disappointed if you are not true to your brand. They will not return if you don’t deliver on your brand’s identity.


  • Be consistent. Last, but not least, franchising is about branding and branding is about consistency. If you are not consistent, your attempts at establishing a brand will fail. Your attempts at franchising will fail. Sorry for being blunt, but I want you to succeed.

In closing, a well executed brand is what separates leading franchisors from the mediocre. When you really think about it, franchising is entirely dependent on a sound brand. Every great franchisor consistently offers a positive customer experience, through their logo, marketing, imagery, communication, uniforms, ambiance, products, service and culture – that is their brand.

Author picture

Mr. McLean is CEO & Managing Director at X Franchise Group. He is also the Managing Director at Xavier Capital, a leading Mid-Market M&A and Private Equity Firm. Previously, between the years 2001-2012, Mr. McLean was CEO of FranSys, INTL, one of the largest franchise development firms in North America. He possesses over two decades of franchise consulting experience, working with over 400 franchisors and participating in the development of over 700 franchises, both domestically and internationally. Mr. McLean was also the Founder of Franchising.Org, a premier online franchise opportunity marketing platform, which was acquired in 2010, by the International Franchise Association (IFA). Mr. McLean has advised and participated in transactions totaling +US$650 million in the Franchise, Private Wealth, Venture, Private Equity and M&A universe; he has been principal, advisor and investor in numerous ventures.

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