Reflecting on Marketing Trends in 2018: What Worked and What Needs Improvement?
Reflecting on Marketing Trends in 2018: What Worked and What Needs Improvement?

Franchise industry experts provide insight into learnings from 2018 and plans for adjusting marketing budgets in 2019.

In the last few years, franchise marketing has been turned on its head, as many brands get hip to the fact that digital marketing is rapidly becoming arguably the most cost-effective form of marketing, not to mention the easiest form to target a specific audience.

Andrew K. Smith is the CEO and Co-Founder of Four Foods Group, which owns and operates 154 locations nationwide Little Caesars Pizza, Kneaders Bakery & Café and R&R BBQ. Smith notes that 80 percent of the group’s marketing dollars go toward digital, with only 20 percent toward local traditional marketing.

“[In 2019] we will be putting more money toward public relations, contributing articles, localized marketing around our stores, and more social marketing,” he said. “Traditional [marketing] is not cutting it as much anymore. You have to put more money into social marketing, in store customer experience and support, and quicker follow up to customer complaints. This is essential nowadays.”

Smith notes one particular marketing initiative, LocalFluence, as making the largest impact on the group’s business in the last year. “No tech comes close to performing as well as [LocalFluence has from a social front,” he said. “Radio and TV have really not yielded much for us over the past several years.”

Julie Turner, Vice President of Marketing for Camp Bow Wow, a pet care franchise with 150 locations nationwide, adds, “As many brands do, we find that digital tactics work better for us because of the ability to track results and performance. Hyper-focused targeting in digital also ensures our advertising is only running markets in which we have a Camp location so we can spend our budget most effectively.”

Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh’s Director of Marketing Devin Handler points out the advantages that emerging franchise brands have with the continued movement to digital marketing.

“Not too many years ago, the ‘well-known franchisors’ had the advantage because they had deeper pockets and teams or agencies to market their franchise opportunities,” he said. “Back then, the marketing and media options were very expensive, and the new emerging franchisors were priced out of the game. The internet has now leveled the playing field because the barriers of entry are lower, giving creativity and not big marketing budgets the advantage.”

One form of digital marketing that the majority of franchise brands, both emerging and established, are engaging in is social media, including leveraging video content and utilizing new features on social media platforms.  

“Video continues to outperform static social media content, so we plan to expand our video library with more short, engaging videos designed for social media, especially mobile users,” said Turner. “Additionally, users are seeking authentic, behind-the-scenes footage so we’ll enhance our Stories and Live Video strategies to share more of those moments, and train our franchise owners on best practices for their own Stories and Live Video to highlight what is special about their location.”

In addition to the shift to more dollars going toward digital marketing, Turner notes that another trend in franchise marketing that has emerged.

“With consumers having more choices than ever, it’s important for all brands (franchise and non-franchise) to find a way to connect with their target customer. One way to do this is through charitable programs – customers feel good about spending their money with a company that gives back,” said Turner. “Camp Bow Wow has a non-profit organization, the Bow Wow Buddies Foundation, that provides medical grant funds to sick and injured dogs. Our franchise owners know they are part of a brand that is making a difference in the lives of animals and our customers know they are supporting something bigger.”

For Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh, Handler plans to focus on developing the brand’s social media channels, as well.

“We continue to build a positive online reputation via our social channels and then cross-pollinate our existing franchisee’s glowing guest reviews with our own to create a sense of ‘I have to be a part of this thing,’ either as a guest, an investor, operator, or all three,” he said, adding that the brand plans to focus on building up its LinkedIn channel and point many of its online efforts to the development website to be able to promote franchise “taste and learn” events in key open territories.

At the end of each calendar year, it’s important for brands to take a hard look at the dollars they spent on marketing that year, and the results that those efforts drove, whether from a franchise development or a consumer standpoint. From there, brands can adjust their marketing plans accordingly as they look ahead to 2019, and continue testing and learning to maximize their marketing budgets.