Month: May 2015

Is Your Brand Honest?

Men_HandshakeWe’ve all become aware of the recent media incident involving an employee of Hydro One acting inappropriately, resulting in his swift dismissal due to their code of conduct policies. Although it has raised several social issues, it has also given many of us pause to rethink the importance of brand honesty.

Strong brands are built on a business’s values and beliefs, and as a business owner in the marketing industry, I know how challenging it can be to stand behind those values and beliefs, particularly when faced with an issue in the public eye.

While it’s clear a brand exceeds far beyond just a logo, and integrates into the lifestyle of your consumers when they interact with the brand, we need to be mindful of and be committed to upholding our brand values even when it may not be the most popular thing to do. The public’s perception of Hydro One now as opposed to a couple of weeks ago lays bare just how important brand values can be and the role they can play with your audience.

McDonald’s relies on the public’s opinion and/or perception of them to sell their products. They are often in the media with bad press related to the quality of their food, which may be influencing a public shift to healthier fast food alternatives elsewhere.

To combat this perception, McDonald’s created the “Our Food Your Questions” campaign, which introduced a series of videos to address some of their customer concerns. The campaign features hundreds of video questions from actual “real people”, which are then answered from third-party suppliers to McDonald’s. Questions like “Is your McChicken actually made from chicken?” and “Is your burger 100% beef?” are posed, and are then answered by chicken and beef farmers respectively.

Although it appears that these videos are honest and unbiased, I am not convinced that they have changed customer perception of their food quality. I find myself wanting to believe but still questioning the sincerity of these farmers and testing labs.

Changing the perception of a brand is no easy task. Acting swiftly and with conviction as in the case of Hydro One sends a powerful message not only to their employees (i.e behaviour outside the workplace is just as important as in the workplace), but also to us as consumers. Regardless of how you feel about their decision, there is no denying their brand honesty – to stay true to their values and beliefs.

How do you think consumers perceive your brand? What challenges are there in changing the way people perceive a brand? I look forward to discussing this further!

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How Canadian Brand Identities Get Lost in American Franchises

UnknownAn interview with a Canadian owner of the U.S. brand Edible Arrangements

As a Canadian marketer, I am often faced with the challenge of trying to market an American franchise to a Canadian audience. When a Canadian buys a U.S.-based franchise they must deal with the many trials and tribulations that arise when defining a nation specific brand identity for a well-known U.S. brand.

In today’s blog I decided to interview Tiziana Cannella, the owner of the Edible Arrangements franchise in Vaughan, Ontario. Edible Arrangements is a U.S. franchise originating from East Haven, Connecticut. They handcraft fruit baskets to customers all around the world. With over 1,100 stores in 14 countries around the globe, they are all about making a customer say “WOW” to every product they create.

I sat down with her to discuss what her experience has been like as a Canadian operating an American franchise.

Q: Do you feel the need to create a Canadian brand identity? Why or why not?

A: I believe that although it is really important as a franchise to maintain brand and product consistency across the board, it is equally important to identify with my Canadian market too. I’d like to have a brand that reflects Canadian practices, habits and lifestyles which are different from Americans. For example, when our customers see the Edible Arrangements TV commercial they automatically assume we are only available in the states. Canadians shouldn’t be surprised to find us locally when searching online, but they often are due to much of the advertising coming out of the U.S.

Q: What are some challenges you face with creating a Canadian brand identity?

A: When marketing is approached from an American mindset, Canadian franchises are not taken into account. We have different spending habits, and lifestyles that cause different marketing tactics to be adjusted when reaching out to different audiences. For example, in the U.S. most advertising is done around large holidays such as Mother’s Day and Christmas, however, Canadians don’t buy just for these holidays, in fact, they spend more for everyday needs. When the recession hit the US a few years ago, heavy markdowns were issued in both US and Canada, but Canadian sales were doing just fine. This caused Canadian buyers to believe they were overpaying the rest of the year because the recession was not affecting the Canadian market. Prices did not need to be adjusted in Canada and this is something that challenges us as franchisees trying to be that brand for Canadian consumers.

Q: Do you know of any examples of how brands can have a U.S. and Canadian brand?

A: Yes. Starbucks is a great example, just by visiting the homepage of their American website and their Canadian website you can see different messages coming across as proof that they are speaking to different audiences. On both sites the home page features are the same except the U.S. site is advertising the health of a breakfast sandwich, while the Canadian site is promoting the new feature pastries they’ve brought into Canada. Starbucks feels the need to talk to their audiences differently by the things they want their different audiences to see.

CANADIAN HOMEPAGE

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USA HOMEPAGE

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This example shows the importance of talking to your consumer and creating a brand experience for your consumer. By creating a region specific brand identity, you are letting the consumer know they matter and letting them know that your brand is accessible to them.

Q: What do you think is the first step to changing this problem for Canadian franchises?

A: Somebody at the head office in the U.S. needs to understand that since a percentage of my sales is spent on marketing, the way they spend the marketing budget and promote their brand needs to be different in Canada. Once we have their buy-in and approval for a separate Canadian marketing budget, then we can work with an expert like an agency or a marketing professional to tell us where we should be focusing our marketing efforts, where our audience is and when we should be doing marketing activities.

Many thanks to Tiziana for taking the time to discuss this provocative topic with me and providing me with her insights and frustrations.

If you are a Canadian franchisee of a U.S. company, how do you define your Canadian brand? What challenges and solutions could be offered to this solve this issue? I look forward to a lively discussion on this one!