First Franchise Consumer Marketing Conference Launches Successfully

The following is a review of the first Franchise Consumer Marketing Conference. The complete article is available online in Franchise Update magazine).

The first-ever Franchise Consumer Marketing Conference attracted marketing executives from 57 franchise brands with more than $11 billion in annual system-wide sales - all seeking better ways to connect with customers in today's digital marketing environment. Attendees at the groundbreaking event this past June, included CEOs, presidents, chief marketing officers, and ad directors, who gathered in San Francisco for an in-depth examination of the latest consumer marketing techniques and strategies.

Hosted by Franchise Update Media Group (FUMG), the conference - the first to focus exclusively on how franchise brands can more effectively reach consumers in today's rapidly evolving marketplace - provided an unprecedented opportunity for franchise marketing executives to meet with leading marketing experts, engage with their peers, and discover new strategies for reaching consumers and maintaining brand growth. Attendees also took advantage of the networking area, where suppliers ranging from social media experts and agencies to marketing leaders and technology innovators explained how their solutions can help brands better connect with consumers.

An advisory board of CMOs and other marketing and branding pros helped shape the content and direction of the conference. And a survey of more than 250 franchise CEOs and CMOs found respondents most interested in learning more about (1) acquisition of customer knowledge, (2) consistent messaging in brand awareness efforts, and (3) franchisee buy-in, engagement, and execution of local marketing plans.

Brand recognition

The event kicked off with in the networking area, followed by welcoming remarks from Therese Thilgen, CEO of FUMG. "Never have technology and marketing been so intertwined. The next digital decade will be disrupted - in fact, we already have been disrupted," she said, noting that the challenge for CMOs is how innovative and adaptive they can be in the face of rapid, ongoing change.

Keynote speaker Rick Barrera presented strategies from his book Overpromise and Overdeliver. In an overcrowded marketplace, he said, "Take the time to define and articulate your overpromise. It will help you determine, internally, what to do and what not to do. The same goes for your franchisees. It's your North Star."

Next came a CMO Panel of the Pros who fielded questions from FUMG President Steve Olson and provided insights into how they are addressing issues such as franchisee buy-in and how national marketing campaigns affect local franchisees.

Reputation management and more

The afternoon kicked off with a general session in which another CMO panel tackled reputation management. Marketing executives on the panel stressed the importance of franchises being actively engaged online through like Facebook, monitoring what's being said online, and having an active and engaging online strategy.

Franchisee buy-in

Day Two of the conference kicked off with a keynote address by Rohit Bhargava, a strategy and marketing expert at Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence. His talk was based on a list he created: "10 Unexpected Social Media Lessons for Franchising." He began by asking attendees who had a social media strategy--then quickly noted that this is not the way to think about marketing today. Rather, he said, the question franchisors should be asking themselves is, "How do we socialize our business?"

Fittingly, a panel on online marketing followed, with panelists tackling how to integrate social media into an overall marketing plan, as well as customer retention, toolkits for online marketing, and whether the franchisees or franchisor should control the brand's Facebook presence.

A late-morning breakout session examined the emergence of mobile technology and its tremendous marketing potential. Since most people carry a cell phone everywhere, what better way to engage customers, said one panelist. Afternoon breakout sessions ended with a Mindshare Power Session, where attendees broke into small groups to brainstorm on selected topics.

The immediate and overwhelmingly positive feedback from attendees at this inaugural event has Franchise Update already busy planning next year's event. A look back at the 2011 conference debut, and a look ahead to next June's Franchise Consumer Marketing Conference are available online.

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