Franchise Development Lessons from a Two-Headed Turtle

A few weeks ago I introduced your franchise consumer marketing colleagues to a two-headed turtle named Ditto. I then challenged them to see similarities between Ditto and franchise marketing. Get ready, because I'm about to do the same with you.

First, meet Ditto, a rare two-headed turtle found on the shore of a pond in Massachusetts. While each head had its own brain, they shared one heart, one stomach, one shell, and one common fate.

Despite all they shared, Ditto's two heads would fight like crazy over whether to go swimming or to sleep, to walk left or right, and, most especially, over food to feed their single stomach.

If the two heads could have learned to work together, Ditto could have been a super-turtle. One head could have stayed above water breathing while the other hunted for food without ever needing to surface for air. Or, one head could have been on the lookout for predators while the other was sleeping. But alas, they never quite mastered living within the same shell.

In many ways, franchises are much like Ditto. They have one marketing "head" concerned with franchise development, and another "head" focused on consumer marketing. Despite their shared desire for franchise success, these two heads don't work together. They use different brand strategies, advertising agencies, messaging, internal resources, and more. Yet, just like Ditto, they could accomplish many amazing things if they'd just work together.

If your organization has more in common with Ditto than you'd like, here are some tips to get your two "heads" to start working together.


1) Understand their perspective
The first step toward working together is simply to understand that consumer marketing people have a different perspective on franchise marketing than you (and your department) do. To learn what you can about their perspective, take a day, or even just a few hours, preferably offsite and without BlackBerrys, to sit down with a consumer marketing pro and ask question such as:

  • What do you think are the most important parts of our brand? Why?
    • What messages and/or offers appeal most to our customers?
    • What advertising mediums are the most effective for you?
    • Why do customers choose us? Why would they choose our competitors?
    • Who do you think are our biggest competitors? What can we learn from them?
    • What's the single greatest challenge to our franchise growth?

Since these people work day-in and day-out with the franchise brand, you may be pleasantly surprised by how many good ideas, suggestions, or resources they might offer you that can make your development marketing more effective.

2) Walk in the same direction
The single most important asset of any franchise is its brand. Even though your franchise has many unique audiences (potential customers, existing customers, potential franchisees, current franchisees, investors, employees, etc.), you have just one brand. This means that your franchise development website, sales presentations, FDD, recruitment advertising, and more need to use the same brand assets that consumer marketing does. This includes logos, colors, themes, values, and more.

While this sounds simple enough, all too often one marketing head makes critical brand changes without including the other head in the discussion -- a lot like one head of Ditto deciding to go for a swim while the other wanted to keep basking in the sun. Over time, this kind of unilateral decision-making results in two very different brands, one for consumer marketing and one for franchise development. Very few things are more crippling to a franchise organization than a fractured brand, so be sure that all "heads" have a say in choosing which direction to take the brand.

3) Share your "food"
All franchises have limited resources, namely time, money and expertise. Whenever a resource is limited, it's natural to become protective of whatever stores you may have. But no matter how natural this may be, it's still silly to watch franchise marketing departments fight over them -- just like its was ridiculous to see Ditto's two heads fighting over food.

Now I'm not saying that you should pool your marketing budgets (although you might get some great media and printing buys if you could figure out how to do it). Instead, I'm suggesting you share your time, expertise and perspective to help your counterparts solve some of their problems.

Remember the conversation you had with that consumer marketing pro? More than likely you learned about several challenges or frustrations they have. If you can, provide your own expertise to help them create a solution they might not have considered or even been aware of.

In my experience, this "help to be helped" philosophy is one of the surest ways to make friends, create alliances, and, at the same time, make your own job both easier and more effective. Certainly the next time you need help, they'll remember how you were there to assist them and then be much more willing return the favor.

Hopefully, with these three tips, you'll be on your way to becoming what Ditto never could be -- a team.

Melinda Caughill is Partner, Strategic Marketing at Third Person, Inc., a marketing, advertising, and web design company based in Milwaukee. Contact her at or 414-221-9810 x302.

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