At BIA/Kelsey NATIONAL: Franchises Go Loco

Today at BIA/Kelsey NATIONAL, real life national brands stressed the importance of social media and local reviews in any location-based ad strategy. This is an always-welcome perspective, given that the BIA/Kelsey stage is usually filled with media companies (sellers) rather than buyers.

Mark Hardison, VP Marketing, El Pollo Loco
Elnora Cunningham, Director, Local Search, Uhaul International

As always in the multi-location franchise world, an important distinction is how much campaign fulfillment happens at the centralized corporate level versus the de-centralized franchisee level. Both Uhaul and El Pollo Loco lean towards the former.

“We encourage franchisees to take a role in community through clubs or sponsoring baseball teams,” said Hardison, “but we supplement that through posting activity on Facebook to communities near the restaurant. We localized that but from the central base.”

Uhaul is similar in providing direction to franchisees, while handling the heavy lifting and quality control from the corporate level: “Everything is centralized in the dealer network,” said Cunningham. ” We don’t give them the tools, we take that burden off them.”

Where Uhaul has spent the most energy is developing social marketing around the experience of moving. Cunningham reminded us that moving can be an emotionally fueled time that is tied to certain life moments — a ripe opportunity for brand association.

“Something in your life is changing when you get a Uhaul,” she said. “It could be a mother aging, someone changing jobs, or having a baby. Whatever their life situation is, we’re trying to give them a way to have a customer experience. It’s successful because it focuses on the journey.”

Specifically, this includes developing blogs to chronicle the experience, and sometimes posting on customers’ behalf. It also includes collecting and curating pictures that then populate social channels, as well as more analog media (i.e. the side of Uhaul vans).

Lastly, user reviews have a huge impact on both moving/storage and quick serve restaurants. Uhaul has five million cumulative reviews, and they’re very impactful says Cunningham. Meanwhile, El Pollo Loco’s business is swayed heavily by Facebook and Yelp, especially when negative.

“The first goal is to respond quickly,” said Hardison. “We want to move the conversation offline as quickly as possible. We need better ways to manage those reviews and search out bad reviews.”

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