A Tale of Brand Compliance Rescue

A Tale of Brand Compliance Rescue


The Road to Hell is Paved With Good Intentions

Jake started his career as a general manager, working at his former employer’s fitness studio.  He connected with the community and ran the studio like a well-oiled machine.  Years went by and because Jake ran the studio so well, the community actually thought he was the owner.  He was proud of his frugality and ability to confront and fix anything without hiring a specialist.

The thought that Jake’s hard work and the sense of community that he built was going unnoticed by the owner was starting to eat at him.  Despite his hard work, at the end of the day, he was making more profit and building more brand equity for the owner of the fitness studio than for himself.

One day, Jake approached the owner with a proposition to buy the fitness business.  After some negotiation, they struck a deal and Jake was now the proud owner of the neighborhood health hangout spot.  Jake found that he had created and documented systems so well that the fitness studio ran like a well-oiled machine.   He shared the secrets to his success with some friends who worked downtown and they saw more potential in this individual location and Jake’s system and suggested that he build a franchise.

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

A decade went by in the blink of an eye – and during that time Jake built his franchise to 54 fitness studios.   Life was good.  After more than a decade, it was time to refresh the brand.  As part of “Jake’s Fresh Refresh”, he updated the brand guidelines and specified all of the new requirements that his franchisees would need as part of the refresh rollout.

Jake provided each of his franchisees with a huge binder that contained specifications on budget, brand standards, colors, sizes, manufacturers, placement, channel letter component colors, brick demolition tips and tricks, as well as landscape and workout regime changes.   The binder also contained vendor contact information where each of the new components could be bought and a list of approved sign vendors, installers, and a list of the required permits.  Although there were a lot of branded components that needed to be changed (9 external signs, 8 internal signs and the printing of new studio workout sheets), Jake felt confident that anybody could pick up his binder and follow the instructions to knock out the brand refresh in just a few months.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Jake’s altruistic sentiment was quickly crushed when franchisees started calling him.  Initially, they didn’t see how they could possibly run their fitness studios, order all of the rebranded items, coordinate sign vendors, pull permits, and teach new workout routines to their employees – and they were right.

Many of the fitness studio owners were also savvy business leaders and they figured they could ‘comply’ with the new brand standards by producing materials locally and hiring local handymen to install the signs.

“I Should Have Left ‘Well Enough’ Alone!

Jake was excited to start visiting the newly-branded locations.  Unfortunately, what he found instead was a disaster.   Of the handful of local studios that he visited, almost none complied with the new brand standards.   Signs were in the wrong places, manufacturered in the wrong colors, and in some cases, evidence of the previously removed sign was still visible.   Once inside, Jake found that even some of the new workout instructions were printed with the old logo.

“This will never do!” thought Jake.   “We invested all of this time and money and the end result is worse than before we ever messed with anything.  And on top of all that, our franchisees were pulled away from running their studios in order to do these tasks.  I should have known better.  No one was sitting around with nothing to do before we decided to rebrand.  How could I think they could take this on on top of everything else they were already doing?”

Light At The End of the Tunnel

Frantic, Jake and his team began scouring the internet searching for brand compliance rescue companies and anybody who understood their dilemma.  What he found was a video about a company called Implementix that could help them implement and maintain brand consistency across multiple locations:

  • Cost Certainty – research and up front planning guarantees a set price for the entire project
  • Supply Chain – qualified supply chain experts are vetted so the work is done right, by the right people
  • Execution – by managing the removal and installation of all assets through to completion, the brand is refreshed per the Franchisor’s exact requirements
  • Ongoing Management – identification and documentation of all branded assets are maintained on a cloud-based portal
  • Brand Compliance – Brand Guardians identify brand compliance gaps during changes or moves
  • Workflow Tasks – Brand guardians are able to create workflow alerts and corrective action tracking for brand compliance and usage issues

Even If You Are On The Right Track, You Will Get Run Over If You Just Sit There

At first, Jake was skeptical of a company that could make outrageous claims like guaranteeing the price per franchise unit but the clock was ticking and his brand was suffering every day that the old mismatched items were in place – not to mention the growing frustration of his franchisees.

Jake engaged Implementix and within 4 weeks, every single location in their system had the old assets removed and the new ones in place, exactly as Jake’s new brand standards specified:  interior and exterior signage as well as their marketing collateral.

The online compliance portal was an added bonus.  With one point of contact, the portal allowed Jake and his studio owners to share the burden of brand compliance so that everyone spent more time in their studios and less time on tasks that don’t generate any revenues for the system.



This article was contributed to the National Franchise Institute by Colin Thomas with Implementix  (888) 831-2536.

Millennials: Who Do We Think We Are? Part 4 – Millennials as Employees

Millennials:  Who Do We Think We Are?   Part 4 – Millennials as Employees

Continuing our 5-part series about Millennials, Part 4 focuses on Millennials as Employees.

My goal with this series is to share first-hand information from the Millennial generation that will help restaurateurs and business owners who serve and employ them.  By interviewing a group of Millennials, I came away with expert-worthy commentary and a newfound appreciation for at least some of the quirks that make Millennials a generation unto themselves.

As with most generations before them, hospitality roles are often a Millennial’s first job.  With a significant portion of our country’s overall economy dependent on Millennial employees, your competition needs Millennials as much as you do.

We posed an interesting question to our subject group of Millennials:  “What are some of the challenges to attracting and retaining Millennials as workers?” 

As a business owner, it should come as  no surprise that the person who interviews, hires, trains and manages your employees is critically important to the success — perhaps even the survival — of your company.  When your team includes Millennials, the person who serves as your hiring ambassador is HUGE!

As workers, Millennials proudly profess that they are “very entitled and don’t want to settle for anything less than we can get”.  Whether it’s a higher hourly wage, a signing bonus, or flexible hours/flexible schedule, Millennials readily speak up for what they want/need in order for the job opportunity you have to fit into their lives.  It would seem that once a job offer has been extended and accepted, work life as we all know it would simply pick up and continue on.  But not so fast…

Paradigms & Assumptions

Not surprisingly, the Millennial attitude accompanies them into the work place.  “Whatever is better, we will go after it.”  If you are not a Millennial, that sentence would likely translate as ’more money, more time off, not always getting stuck as the closer’, etc.  The Millennial feedback we received, however, is quite a bit different and offers a glimpse into the ever-changing employment landscape.  “If we have a crappy boss, we leave.  There are so many places to choose from and they all pay pretty much the same rate.  $12 per hour with a great boss vs $12 per hour with a crappy boss makes our decision a no-brainer….we’ll just leave and go somewhere else.”

Another hot button with Millennial employees is when the scope of work that they are asked to do does not mirror the title they hold.  “If the duties of our hired role don’t fit our liking, we leave.”  I asked for an example.  “Well, if we work at a retail store and are given the role of Sales Lead, we should be selling merchandise and giving good customer service – not cleaning light fixtures or mopping floors!  We may be at the bottom of the bottom but we’re above cleaning floors.”

Return on Investment

Our conversation moved on to talk about the issues that are important to Millennial employees.  Financial compensation is obviously important yet Millennials say they want to be shown their value through money which translates as being adequately compensated for what they are being asked to do.  “If I’m going to be running a store, I should be paid to run a store, not $11 an hour.  We are given keys to the store, alarm codes, etc. and we have the responsibility to get the store open on time, run it throughout the day so the owner doesn’t have to be there, and handle customers, employees, no-shows, money, merchandising, etc.  That is not an $11/hour job.”

To Know & Be Known

On the more personal side of employment, Millennials say they want to have a relationship (or be known by) the owner of the company.  Said one Millennial, “I worked for Target for a couple of years and was not known by the Store Manager or the District Manager.”  Millennials inherently know that they are an important part of running a business.  Unfortunately, when the owners of the business or the people running the company don’t even know their name, they don’t feel valued.

“We have ideas about how to make things better for customers, more profitable for the company, or more efficient for the employees.  But when we don’t know, have never met, or don’t have the chance to talk to the owners (or the ‘real’ people in charge vs. just another hourly employee who probably doesn’t care anyway), we can’t help.”

To feel known is one of the most basic human needs.  While time is definitely one of every business owner’s most valuable commodities, it can be a very valuable currency in the eyes of Millennials who often won’t admit that they would like to find a mentor but will often gravitate toward a natural leader who takes a personal and professional interest in them.

With necessity being the mother of invention, business owners are always on the lookout for inexpensive and cost-effective ways to improve their companies.  While not ‘free’, taking time to get to know the people who keep the doors open and the cash registers ringing could offer huge ROI for any business owner.

Millennials:  Changing The Workplace (for the better!)

We wrapped up our conversation talking about how Millennials are changing the workplace.  “We stick up for ourselves,” was mentioned by one and affirmed by others in the group.  “We are showing companies how to treat their employees – because we leave so easily if we are not treated well.”  Said another, “We are raising the bar about how bottom-of-the-totem-pole employees should be treated.  We decide what we will allow.”  Millennials know that jobs are pretty easy to find these days and if one job doesn’t work out, they have options at several other places.

We mentioned earlier about the competition among business owners to attract and retain Millennial employees.  Millennials know this.  “We are challenging employers to come up with things that will make us want to stay,” citing tuition reimbursement as an appealing incentive.  While hourly jobs are allowing Millennials to ‘get by’ today, few see themselves job hopping from hourly job to hourly job over the long haul.  By offering tuition reimbursement, Millennials appreciate the hand up and feel a sense of loyalty to the employer who is helping them today and into the future as well.

As a business owner, there is definitely a fine line when it comes to employing Millennials.  Every policy, rule or decision can be second guessed to keep the tail from wagging the dog.  Millennials are making their way in the employment world as best they can – which is pretty impactful, you have to admit.  While it can easily feel like the ball is completely in their court, the “employees first” expectation that they are redefining has the ability to create a new, better norm for all sides:  employer, employee, and customers.

Food For Thought:  Common ground can almost always be found at the bottom of a coffee cup or maybe over a beer on the other end of a game of beanbag toss.


The Brand Consistency Problem: Policing vs. Promoting

The Brand Consistency Problem:  Policing vs. Promoting


Once upon a time, Pete could do it all.  The year was 2002 and he had just launched Pete’s Bar & Grill in downtown Atlanta. With only 8 employees under his wing, there wasn’t much he didn’t see or do.  Who handled marketing?  That was Pete.  Accounting?  Pete did that too. Design?  Pete was no designer himself, but he oversaw design as well.


In Pete’s mind, he had set himself up for success. He knew his food was really good, that his branding was on-point, and that no one would be able to pass up Tuesday night “Karaoke & Kabobs”.  Pete’s Bar & Grill was his pride and joy, and so long as he was in charge, not one thing was going to mess it up.


But that was back in 2002 – the good ol’ days when Pete could do it all.  Fast forward 15 years to the present. Instead of managing 8 employees at a single location, Pete now managed a small kingdom of 30 franchised locations.  From the outside, it would appear that Pete was living the franchise-owner’s dream.  In reality, Pete had a big problem.

‘Close Enough’ Is Good Enough


When Pete’s Bar & Grill first expanded into the hands of franchisees, everyone was gung ho and had no problem adhering to brand standards and design guidelines. They understood how important it was for the brand to look consistent across every marketing medium so that customers would know without a doubt that they were at the one and only Pete’s Bar & Grill.


But as the success of the brand grew, so did the pressure.  In the hustle and bustle of feeding hungry customers, keeping the bars clean, placing orders, managing inventory, and keeping up with food safety regulations, spending time and energy on the ‘proper’ use of logos and colors seemed less important – especially since sales were going so well at all of their locations.


Rachel, Pete’s corporate designer of six years, began to notice the company’s branding was slipping.  Franchisees were just too busy to dot the ‘I’ of every font choice or cross the ‘t’ of every color option and began throwing together hodge-podge variations of Pete’s Bar & Grill branding just so they could get some semblance of marketing in front of customers.  Rachel tried pushing brand regulations with the franchisees, but the more she persisted, the less his franchisees seemed to care. You could cut the tension with a knife.

Good vs. Great

Now, Pete was a smart man. He’d done the research and knew that the difference between a good brand and a great brand was consistency.  After all, consistency is the cornerstone of franchising and was one of the key reasons that Pete decided to franchise in the first place.  Consistent food, consistent service, a consistent experience, and a consistent ‘look’ is exactly why he chose the franchise model.  Clearly the franchisees were delivering consistent food, service, and a consistent customer experience.  But how could he achieve branding consistency without either policing his franchisees or bogging down his creative team?  That seemed to be the question of the day.


Desperate for a solution, Rachel began to do some research.  She jumped on Youtube and did a search for brand consistency and found a quick two-minute video by Lucidpress that was exactly on point with the growing pains that were happening at Pete’s Bar & Grill.  Rachel couldn’t wait to share her huge find with Pete!  


“Hey Pete… ever heard of Lucidpress?” Rachel greeted him at the office the next morning with a surprisingly hopeful disposition. They sat down and took a look together.

The Evolution of Brand Management

“Wow, Rachel, you are a genius – this is fantastic!”  Pete couldn’t have designed a better solution himself He discovered that Lucidpress is a cloud-based brand management tool that:

  • Streamlines marketing by allowing any franchisee to customize marketing collateral on their own without waiting on the help of a designer.
  • Protects franchisees from going off-brand with custom, lockable templates — that way “close enough” variations are never a possibility
  • Reduces the custom collateral request turnaround process from weeks to minutes.
  • Provides publishing and printing services, delivered right to everyone’s door.


So they gave Lucidpress a try.  Rachel began designing flyer, menu, and business card templates based on Pete’s Bar & Grill brand guidelines.  From there, she locked down the logo, colors, and other branded elements that should never be altered, and then she shared the templates with Pete’s franchisees.  The franchisees loved it and immediately began dropping in the local details for their individual locations.  After all, that was much easier and less time-consuming than the hodge-podge creations they had been doing on their own – and Rachel was now a valued part of Pete’s franchisor support team instead of the adversarial ‘branding police’.  Franchisees were excited to send their finished projects to the printer, to publish them online, and to post them to social media.

Light at The End of The Tunnel

Pete wasn’t fully aware of how well the new solution was working until two months later when he stepped inside the building of his most frequent brand offender.  When he couldn’t tell the difference between his franchisee’s designs and Rachel’s, he knew he had finally struck brand-building gold.

Pete recognized that he — like a lot of other franchisors — had been unintentionally wasting precious time and resources policing brand standards instead of promoting them.  What a relief it was to know that now he could encourage everyone to get back to doing what they do best…build their businesses! 


This article was contributed to the National Franchise Institute by Nick Hatch with Lucidpress  (385) 557-5117

Millennials: Who Do We Think We Are? (Part 3 – Marketing to Millennials)

MILLENNIALS:  Who Do We Think We Are?

Part 3 in a 5-Part Series:  What Restaurateurs & Business Owners Need to Know About Millennials

Marketing to Millennials


In case you live under a rock, let me be the first to tell you that Millennials are addicted to their phones and technology.  With that in mind, it would be logical to think that the best way to market to Millennials is through electronic devices – and you’d be right.  But, what is the best message to craft so that your marketing dollars actually hit their target?  Continuing our series about Millennials, Part 3 focuses on Marketing to Millennials.


Headline:  Attract Other Millennials!

Whether you sell a product (and especially food) or a service (think entertainment-related), one of the best ways to attract Millennials to your establishment is to market to other Millennials.  A candid comment that was shared with me during my Millennial group interview session was that “we (Millennials) don’t want to go to places filled with 40-year-olds” – or, even worse, “our parents”.

Like attracts like and this is especially true with Millennials.  During my interview I asked the group, “What are the most effective ways to engage Millennials?”  It took less than two seconds before I heard, “Engage other Millennials”!  In other words, focus on letting Millennials know who else is going to be there – i.e., their friends and especially attractive members of the opposite sex!).  While online dating continues to be very popular and new dating apps are springing up for every demographic group, Millennials prefer to meet new friends and prospective mates in a social setting.

Meetup-type events that show how many people (and exactly which people) will be at a specific place – perhaps your restaurant – could be a fun campaign.  If radio advertising is part of your marketing budget, switch things up a bit to attract the Millennial crowd.  Your radio spot will plant the ‘Welcome!’ seed and if Millennials behave like, well, Millennials, their social media activity could be the perfect fertilizer.

Happy Hours, Independent Ownership & ‘Your Purpose’:  Millennial Magnets

  • Millennials are big users of happy hour specials, citing ‘value for your dollar’ as a draw.  Said one Millennial, “I would definitely pay $8 for a bucket (which I now know, because I had to ask, is a sandbox bucket with a lot of shots in it and a shovel) but would not pay the normal price of $11 to $13 if I know I can get them cheaper by going during happy hour”.  Despite the fact that Millennials have disposable income that they often choose to spend on food, beverages and social activities, a ‘deal’ allows them to do more eating, drinking and socializing more often.
  • Is your company independently owned?  Millennials like to support non-franchise business owners and they feel especially endeared to them if the owners are Millennials themselves.  I have a feeling that if you are a Millennial franchise owner and your marketing message is properly crafted, your peers will show up in support of your efforts.  Millennials already eat at franchise concepts – quite a bit, in fact – so if they have an added incentive to help one of their own succeed, they’ll be there!
  • While everyone expects companies to make a profit above and beyond their operating costs, Millennials want to know that you – and thus THEY — are part of a bigger purpose.  Again, pulling comments from Part 2 of this series about the animal shelter that offered free adoptions for dogs over 3 years old, your marketing should highlight a cause or purpose which shows Millennials that your company cares about more than simply making money.  Do you sponsor community events?  Do a portion of your sales get donated to a charity?  Does every member of your team log volunteer hours with various organizations?  Tell your company’s story and, better yet, let your Millennial staff help share your ‘why’!

Epic Fail Marketing Message

In talking with my test group of Millennials, the question was, “What are common mistakes restaurants make when trying to reach Millennials?”  Without hesitation, the response was, “When they (restaurants) reach out on social media or in commercials, they use someone who is too far out of my age bracket to be effective (my Mom vs. the cool guy down the street).”  When I asked for a bit more clarification, they mentioned the “wrong (too old) language”.  Ad copy should be written in Millennial-friendly speak not the Queen’s proper English (okay, I’m ad-libbing there – they didn’t actually mention the Queen’s English but you get the idea).

Like It Or Not, Like Attracts Like

Adding to the question above about mistakes that restaurants often make when trying to reach Millennials, another specific comment was, “Being taken care of by a server who is 25 or 45…who am I going to connect with better?”

So what does that have to do with marketing to Millennials?  Well, like attracts like and Millennials generally like each other.  They bond over tattoos and piercings which is often an ice breaker, they listen to the same music, they typically have the same sense of humor, and they speak the same language (“Millennial”).  Keeping these comments in mind as marketing messages are created will help to position your company well with Millennials.

   Attract Other Millennials (“tell us who else will be there”)

+ Value (happy hour/tappas)

+ Your Company’s Higher Purpose (beyond profits/altruism)

+ Tell Your Story (who owns your business)

= Your Winning Marketing Message

Upcoming articles in this series include:

  • Part 4 – Millennials as Employees
  • Part 5 – Millennials as Business Owners