Strong brands and strong branding are particularly important in the franchise industry, where franchise systems must be able to differentiate themselves from competitors in order to build and grow their brand. The branding should be able to tell you the system’s unique aspects and offerings. It could be the same for both franchisees and consumers – for example, a proprietary blend of coffee that can’t be found anywhere else. Or, in the case of a cleaning service that uses environmentally-friendly products, the unique benefit to the consumer is fewer chemicals used in their home, while a franchisee might see the benefit of a proprietary operating system and products.

When evaluating a franchise’s brand strength, consider first the look and feel of the brand and branding instead of more quantitative aspects such as how many units it currently has or how long it has been in business. Zero in on its unique features – what makes it different – and how well they are imparted to others.

Strong brands are built from the inside out, so one of the easiest ways to spot a strong brand is to speak with those who are charged with nurturing, growing, and maintaining it. These people should consider themselves ‘brand ambassadors’ and be able to easily convey the brand’s message.

A prospective franchisee should also reflect on how the brand and branding are being managed. Consistency is vital to both branding and franchising; it is important that this is monitored so everyone’s investment is protected.

Rather than policing, franchisors should ensure brand buy-in among employees and franchisees and that everyone is aware of the consequences of inconsistencies. A good place to look for this is in the system’s training, as this is what will impart consistent operations and branding to each new location.

Before signing on, a prospective franchisee should be comfortable and confident in the franchise system’s established brand and branding, as well as the support provided to help franchisees stay within brand guidelines, such as marketing materials created by the franchisor.