Though each franchise business is unique and has its own guidelines and procedures determined by their parent company, what is common between them all is a sense of uniformity with branding across the branches owned by the franchisees. That way no matter whether you’re in a franchise in Miami, Florida, or Juneau, Alaska, you recognize what establishment you are in and you get a similar sense of place. If you are a first-time franchise owner you’ll be given a lot of information from your corporate headquarters to let you know what you can and cannot do with your business. Today we wanted to break down what those guidelines could look like as it relates to branding, exterior signage, and interior signage.
Though the physical location of a business can vary drastically, especially in rural places compared to metro cities, the exterior signage will usually be incredibly consistent. One example of this can be found with Starbucks. Starbucks may have stand alone properties in suburban areas, and sometimes they’ll take up a tenant space in a larger commercial property. While the larger, suburban business space may have more signs and a drive-thru (not typical for all Starbucks), there will usually be one or more signs on the building itself that you can find at every Starbucks in the world.
Starbucks as well is a great example as they over the last few decades have increasingly franchised into other businesses, such as Target, Food City, hospitals, and colleges and universities. This means they are not the dominant business in the property; however, they still need to brand their space and traditionally do so with exterior signage to let visitors know they are present.
The world of interior signs is often far more vast than people realize, and it can include everything from ADA signs, to menu boards, vinyl graphics, electronic message centers, electronic kiosks, environmental graphics (i.e. wall art or mural art), and interior neon and LED signs.
While the interior of a business allows opportunities for franchises to customize their space to match their community, it’s also a space to use familiar branding and signs to create a familiar sense of place.
Panda Express is one such business that due to the layout and interior colors and graphics presents very quickly to customers a sense of who Panda Express is and a familiarity with all other Panda Express locations. Even in universities with Panda Express, where there is often less physical space and perhaps competing restaurants in a food court environment, once you approach the cashier you’ll see familiar colors, designs, vinyl/graphics, and menu colors.
This isn’t just true with fast food establishments though, as franchises include everything from hotels to escape rooms to travel and gas centers and more. Hotels especially are often licensing the branding from a major company, be it Marriott or Hilton, but the hotel itself is run by a franchisee and not the corporation itself.
No matter how small the business or how large the property is, the use of interior signs and branding can help visitors immediately feel at home in these businesses.
Exceptions to the Rule
Again each franchise has their own rules, but there have been a few notable exceptions to the rule that “all must match”, as some corporations have now started to allow for increased personalization to promote community ties.
In 2021 for instance, 7-Eleven reached out to local artists to commission murals for their stores exteriors and interiors.
“We kicked off our mural program with a local artist at a new 7-Eleven Evolution Store, an experiential testing ground where we test new concepts, products and services before we scale them across the 7-Eleven system,” said 7-Eleven Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Marissa Jarratt. “It’s been a hit so far and I’ve seen my fair share of excited customers stop what they’re doing to take Instagram-worthy photos in front of the larger-than-life mural. This positive customer behavior and feedback has encouraged us to expand the concept to more stores in 2021.””
Covid’s Impact on Franchisee’s Signs
Covid also meant individual franchisees had to adapt especially to any local restrictions imposed by their municipalities. Though this hasn’t changed permanent signs as much as it has temporary, it still means that you can walk into one Taco Bell and see an touchscreen menu board off to one side, while the next may simply have antimicrobial screens at the counter.
For a fun example showing specific exceptions to the rule with McDonald’s check out BoredPanda.com’s “Non-Standard McDonald’s Architectural Design” list.