Franchisors do stupid things

Franchisors do stupid things
Franchisors start paying attention!
Last year I joined a health club that is part of a chain of clubs. As a marketer, this taught me a lot about where franchisors do some pretty stupid things in their efforts to control the marketing and sales efforts at the level of the individual franchise. As a customer, this compulsive need to do so also became a minor, but daily irritant.

A little background. The bulk of the franchise locations are quite large, and many  include space for a swimming pool, as well as racquetball and basketball courts. The free and machine weights areas, and the exercise class spaces are standard at all locations. My site only has the weight and classroom spaces. That’s fine.

What’s wrong? The corporate franchise owner's compulsion to control the marketing message from the top with no recognition of regional differences, as well the physical differences between franchise sites is glaring.

Let me give a few examples. First, the gym has a few video monitors tied into the sound system. Music videos are played, but also promotions for the club are constantly dropped in between music segments. This would be fine, but members at my location are repeatedly encouraged to sign - up to join and form racquetball and basketball teams. These promotions are pretty silly, given that the gym doesn't have these spaces. The voiceover also highlights the health value of these sports. Does this make sense from a marketing standpoint? Wasting marketing space on product features that are not available is counter productive. Even worse, it reminds members every several minutes that they are working out in a gym that is run by a faceless corporate entity completely untethered to the reality of that location. That isn't a good method to encourage loyalty when the next chain opens up down the street.

Also, what marketing opportunities are being lost for the operators of that particular franchise? How does it potentially diminish their local bottom line?

Second, they provide health tips. The problem is that the tips are all generic tips, some of which are clearly not relevant to all demographics. My location is in an area entirely dominated by young professionals and college students. Pretty much the entire membership base is under 30, with a corresponding concern about building muscle, sports health and the other interests of that demographic. No doubt other locations in settled suburbs skew older where the interests begin to change. And the health concerns also shift as the demographic ages.

It is obvious individual franchise owners might attract more attention if they could pick and choose from tips that seem best suited to their demographic, but clearly they aren’t granted that option.

Third, the social media initiative is entirely corporate-based. They promote Facebook and twitter, but they only have the  corporate-based page, and thus  are completely face less! If facebook should give a face to an organization, should it not  be the face of the individual location? What a great opportunity this would be to introduce the location’s personal trainers, a member of the week and offer tips that make sense locally. (Think “how to stay fit in winter when it is snowing outside in the Northeast?”).

When franchisors control everything at the corporate level, they make 2 mistakes. 1)They market themselves to their clients as a generic corporation and much of the messaging is irrelevant or just annoying, and 2) they waste their marketing message depriving themselves and their franchisees of revenue.

 Post coming in few weeks. What can marketing automation do to fix this?

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