‘Media hacker’ Mitch Joel shares his insights on where franchise marketing is today and where it may be going tomorrow.
Mitch Joel has come a long way from interviewing the drummer of Mötley Crüe for a living. Before he was a keynote speaker at the 2015 Franchise Consumer Marketing Conference, and before he was chairman of the board of directors of the Canadian Marketing Association, and well before he was named one of the top 100 online marketers in the world, he was a teenager interviewing Tommy Lee for a music magazine.
“As much as I loved interviewing infamous rock stars, I was more into the publishing aspect,” Joel said. “I was always interested in how businesses work.”
It could be something he picked up from his father, a pharmacist who joined one of the earlier pharmacy franchising concepts. Joel was also interested in technology, specifically how it could change the relationship between brands and consumers.
“I was fascinated with the model of connecting people that wasn’t interruption based,” he said. “Putting ads in front of people that were relevant – it was exciting for me.”
“Relevant” is a word that comes up again and again when speaking to Joel, but he also highlighted the unique challenges franchises must contend with beyond simply making their marketing efforts pertinent to consumer needs.
“Part of what makes digital so effective in this day and age is hyper-local targeting,” Joel said. “The amazing distribution channel digital provides makes it very efficient, but it’s the hyper-local targeting that’s most important. Franchises need to be leveraging both of those. If you’re trying to convince me that you’re a local franchisee that runs a business I should visit, your advertising should reflect that. Hyper-local targeting makes that possible, and it’s more effective than simply using digital channels to convince me.”
At the same time, Joel believes franchise brands should embrace some of their more low-tech advantages in marketing.
“[Franchises] have the missing link a lot of digital brands don’t have – the physicality,” he said. “Your physical entity is a point of activation.”
If a brand has recognizable visuals at multiple locations in a single area, it almost acts as a sort of billboard that’s spread out across a city instead of standing in one place. Brands would be wise to consider ways to utilize these physical spaces for marketing.
However, consumers are only one part of the equation. No franchise brand can survive without franchisees. So what can companies do to better appeal to these individuals?
“Two words: Shake Shack,” Joel said. “If you look at that as a model, how did they get so successful? They’re so digitally led. They encourage people to share and talk about their brand online, which drives engagement and word of mouth. It creates attention among consumers and people who want to invest in a winner, a progressive company. They don’t have the dogma of the legacy system, so they’re forced to use these channels that are more outside the box.”
It’s that outside-the-box thinking that Joel believes is vital in today’s marketing landscape. But what about tomorrow? According to Joel, we will likely see a day when marketing goes beyond demographics and focuses solely on the individual.
Two people may visit the same website today and see completely different advertisements based on their previous browsing habits. Joel believes that trend will grow exponentially, perhaps even changing the very way we pay for products.
“Prices will be predicated off who you are, time of day, where you’ve been, what you’ve done,” he said. “Menus will be dynamic and change pricing based on the customer.”
However, no matter how the world of franchise marketing changes, human beings will always respond to the simple beauty of a well-told story.
“The way a brand tells its narrative is so important,” Joel said. “The tools have changed, but the importance of the story remains the same. It’s so dynamic now, you don’t have to yell and hope someone notices. It’s all about your internal culture and helping us believe the narrative.”
Marketing is constantly in flux thanks to technological advancements, but a well-told story will always resonate with human beings, and it’s human beings that drive success for franchises.