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Speech on Branding from a Franchisor Founder


I was asked today by a group of students; What do you feel is the best way to build brand name and why? And what significance do you feel are relevant to a strong corporate identity?

Well obviously this is a group of marketing students. And it almost sounded as if I was being tested on an essay question. My answer will differ from those you maybe use to hearing. That is fine, but I am right. They may also be right and it may not be a black and white issue in all markets, sectors or areas. Here is some of what I know in relation to building brand name.

I would like to say a few words on this subject, which I feel of important. For instance the universal sign for a barbershop, the candy cane striped pole, for happiness the Belgium born happy face. But let us look deeper. In the grocery store on the Soda pop isle, look at it from the distance let us say the end of the row. Let us say you want a citrus soda? We all know that drinks that taste like citrus have green color bottles, Yet the appropriate color would be yellow or even orange, if you were to think of it. Some use these combos. Orange is for Orange soda, Yellow with green would be lemon type soda. Green for Mountian Dew and all the copy type generic sodas. Red obviously for cola. But why? Red is the color of blood not soda, and green is not necessarily the color of Mountain dew, that would really be crystal clear. Yet green tint and die coloring is added for effect, why to create brand identity. Has nothing to do with anything else. 7-up is clear yet the bottles were green. Then Mountain Dew came along and simply used this color theme. They used the other brand to build their identity.

Pizza Hut buildings are all the same, so are IHOPS and McDonalds restaurants. Even if they were to close a store you can always tell what use to be a Hubble House, Wendy's, Der Wienersnietzel, or Blockbuster store. Why? Brand identity. But colors and brand are also important. Think about the bear companies they almost have to have the cans gold or silver or at least some showing. Coors, Miller, Bud, but also Mickey's (yuk), Red Dog, Sapporo, but why those. Why not, why recreate the customer's perception. The customer wants everything in their perspective, they want order, but why? It is a chaotic world and some postulate that chaos is the only given in the random order of the universe, and that the only thing constant is change, yet the consumer buys what they are familiar with? This that go against this familiarity concept, must spend money to change customer perception. A risky ordeal and if they succeed? No problem, some one will copy that theme and cash in on the progress made and the marketing dollars spent.

Why do I as a Car Washer submit these facts to a bunch of hungry knowledge seeking students? It is our job at WashGuys (my company) to create brand identity, We have, we are, we will. What do you pay for when you buy a franchise? You pay for brand identity and future growth in customer recognition of that brand. Sometimes with a small franchisor, (using the franchising industry due to the many examples and my familiarity on the subject), that can be risky and it is one topic that is often discussed in academia, yet few really understand it as well as franchisor.

It is a current trend of corporate identity people to create an image that brings with it thoughts of the conditions needed to affect a customers desire to buy. So a logo created need to instill reliability and honesty and strength in a Phone company or a bank. In a tech company; state of the art, innovation and vision. In a sports shoe company; winning, comfort, effortless versatility and power. There maybe other reasons but let us look at the logos for AT&T, Nike, Addias, Silicon Graphics, Apple Computer, etc. Think of all the symbols you know like Coca Cola, Levis, California Cheese, Starbucks, Kinkos, Frito Lays, etc. What do these brand names need to retain customer base and extend market mix. If they are too limiting they lose and if they are too diverse they do not hit their intended audience. Band names; some many of them remember and they for the most part achieve their objectives.

Frito Lays logo tends to promote longevity in the market place, your grandparents ethics, reliability. Coca Cola Classic says it all, An American Tradition, precisely what the company wants it to say. This is one reason the New Coke failed, people drink coke because it is a tradition and it is a coke sometimes even if it is a Pepsi or RC Cola. Often our customers call the people who wash their cars "The Car Wash Guys", yet it likely may be Jose's Mobile Wash in Albuquerque, Schmit's Detailing in Couer D Alene ID, Winslow's Washing Service in Boston, Chang's Car Wash in South City San Francisco area, Fidel's Fine Finishes in Miami, Jacques Car Care in Quebec, Bernies Beverly Hills Detailing, or even Paquito's Truck Wash in El Paso. Hey stop laughing, they do not have brand name we do. We win again. The more cars and trucks they wash and detail the more famous we get, because we own the most recognitzed name and the name which has become figures of speech. Gotta love brand name recognition. Lord knows I do and you know what? That is right you can say whatever you want, but we are winning that brand war. Even the FTC attempted to increase our brand name by having us interviewed by Forbes, Business Week, WSJ, USA Today, Business Journals all over the country, when competitors could not beat us in the market place and complained to the government. Every time your brand is written about, spoken about, promoted, publicized, advertised, you win. We certainly know what we are doing. Yet the rest of the industry lacks any brand identity at all, as a matter of fact the attempts are even poorly engineered from a academic standpoint. Simonize Car Wash, uses an old brand name not popular with most of its clientele, Mace changed its name and was unable to capitalize significantly on its efforts. WOW-Wash-on-wheels did not do it. Spaklewash? No, Ziebart? Not really, what is Ziebart? A Zebra on the wall in a painting? Imagine the cost of promoting nothingness into a brand name?

Imagine being a franchisee of a system and being forced to use a name that is nothing. I think that Yahoo, had a better chance. Yahoo is a yell of euphoria. Like in the beginning, Yahoo, I am cruising the Internet. So how did the Car Wash Guys come to be? Well this is interesting. One day washing cars in Westlake Ca, I went to an office as I had gone into every week for a year. The lady at the front desk said. The car wash guys are here. Our name was at the time Aero-Auto Wash. Signifying that we washed cars and aircraft. That was our two specialty niches back then, yet we washed other things, we were known for these. What she was meaning to say to the rest of the 500-employee office on the intercom that day was that the guys who wash cars, me and three workers were there again at the prescribed time. Each week same announcement. Eventually people would say Hey it is the car wash guy. And Hey I said "why fight it?" It was a few months later that I had heard the same announcement several times at other offices some small, some large, some over the Public Address System and some just yelled it over the counter to the small staff of my potential or weekly wash customers. Even more interesting was that eventually the checks made out to my company said things like Wash Guy, The Car Wash Guys, Wash man. So that is when I decided that before someone looked at the name the check was made out to at the bank, I better get that DBA. I did, but before that I had to hide those checks that were not made out to Aero Auto Wash in the middle of the stack so the teller would not see them. Eventually the checks started to say all different things.

One said the Car Wash Gays, which we were not. Car Wash, all kinds of stuff. So we said hey the most common thing people say is; "The Car Wash Guys are here." So we started to put that saying on the trucks and then we officially changed the name to the customer's perception of who we were. We are the Car Wash Guys or Car Wash Gals and we own both Federal Trademarks. They are undisputed and we do enforce our brand rights. Sometime later another company was formed called the Good Guys, electronic retailer. Then people occasionally made the mistake and made the check out to the Good Guys. Wow, I knew we had won the brand name war in that area. The Good Guys, sub consciously that is what people thought of our clean-cut crews and uniformed service. We had made it. They thought of our fundraising efforts as Good, our team as Good Guys and we washed cars. That is miraculous. We know take what we have learned to any market and immediately establish brand identity. And we are growing in size and numbers. We always win the brand war. Perhaps it is because no one else has as many units in as many states as us or that the cost to create that recognition is the reason. Perhaps no one in this industry knows what we know about the customer or that they do not care.

Maybe they are just lazy, stupid, incompetent or bullheaded to think that a name like Bubbles, Sunshine, Dicks Car Wash, Car Spa, Dr. Car Wash is where it is at. The car washes, which just say "car wash" may actually have an advantage in that they have no identity at all. Yet that is easily arguable, if you looked at our rise to power in various regions in the 1990s.

Our company has been called by our critics and competition the McDonalds of The Car Wash Industry, The Wal-Mart of Car Washing, low price leader, usually in a derogatory since, yet it is by far a compliment to the Brand name we are building, it will increase its value to us and decrease their market share. The customer is calling us the good guys, the convenient choice, a better mousetrap, a time saver, a good deal, a cool business, a lifesaver. WOW, sometimes it gets heavy, when a customer tells you, Oh thank you, how can I ever repay you, you are a gods sent. Sometimes you want to say Hey Chill Out Lady, All I Did Was Wash Your Car, but that is inappropriate, so you just smile and graciously accept the large tips. Ever wonder why Starbucks puts out a tip jar? With every car you build brand name and goodwill, one car at a time, yet that critical mass theory is also real, in that once you become a household topic, the exponential exposure is intense. Who can we thank?

We can thank careful planning, strategy, customer service, community goodwill, belief in what we do and ever motion we make. It is not luck building brand name. Far from what many believe. Ben and jerry drove around the country in a damn beat up motor home delivering free ice cream to every group they could find. Luck. Yah right, tell them that. Hopefully as you go about your business this week you will begin to understand some of these observations in the Real World and perhaps you already have? Are you on a Dell, HP, IBM, Apple Computer right now? Are you wearing New Balance, Addidas or Nike Shoes? Think about it?

Why is that so hard to see from the perspective of a college student who wears name brand clothes, wears a name brand watch, eats at name brand establishments and drinks a lot of name brand beer, when they can afford it? It appears that until you live brand name from the business side you cannot fully understand it. Likewise I feel and have personally witnessed former Professors who run large companies fail to capitalize on their brands. People like Service Master's President, straight out of what I consider a top business school and a company doing billions a year in sales, but in my humble opinion should be doing 150-200 Billion per FY. I cannot tell you how many companies make obvious mistakes with their brand name, based on advise from experts, advertising agencies and academia, which in my opinion is always looking back, and has not a clue how to change the market direction midstream and take advantage of brand name value in opportunities right before their eyes. We will not allow ourselves at The Car Wash Guys to miss opportunities within our reach when they meet the criteria needed to win against the competition in the market sector or deliver the desired results to the consumer.

I suggest you watch such trends in your company and offer suggestions or use this knowledge to make strategic decisions which will propel you company from good to great or help consumers believe you are a company that was built to last.

"Lance Winslow" - If you have innovative thoughts and unique perspectives, come think with Lance; www.WorldThinkTank.net/wttbbs

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