The Root Beer Float
When I was in my early 20s, I travelled to Saskatchewan, Canada with a group of friends. One day as we were looking for something to eat, we spotted an A&W Restaurant and decided that root beer floats sounded like a great idea. We all piled in to the store and I got in line, Canadian money in hand. When it became my turn to order, I confidently pronounced, “I’ll have a root beer float please”.
To my surprise, the clerk replied, “I’m sorry, we don’t serve Root Beer floats.” The words hung in the air for a moment as I processed what he had just told me. I looked around to make sure I was actually in A&W, and that they had root beer on tap and served ice cream. Yes, on all counts, I was in the right place.
“Excuse me?” I replied. “You don’t have root beer floats?”. I was trying to wrap my head around how it might be possible for A&W Root Beer not to serve A&W Root Beer Floats. Surely he must have been messing with me, right?
“No, we don’t have root beer floats.” the clerk confirmed once again. I still was having a hard time making sense of any of this. Then, he gave me the most absurd reply yet, “We have Root Beer Milkshakes, though…” I’m pretty sure I smiled at this point, eyebrows raised in disbelief, then I pointed to the root beer tap, and I said, “You have root beer, correct?”. The clerk nodded. Then, I pointed to the soft-serve ice cream machine on the other side and said, “And you have ice cream?”. Again, he nodded.
“Can you make me a root beer and put some ice cream in it?” I asked, hopefully. But, the clerk just shook his head and said, “I’m sorry, I can’t do that.”
Utterly disappointed, I pocketed my Canadian Dollars and walked out without buying anything.
To me, A&W Root Beer has always been synonymous with Root Beer Floats. And the best place to get one of those floats is at an A&W Restaurant. I mean, go to their website and take one look at their menu. What’s the first item under the “Sweets and Treats” section? You called it: A Root Beer Float described as A frosty cold mug of world-renowned A&W® Root Beer topped with our signature creamy vanilla soft serve. A classic treat. Grab a spoon and a straw and enjoy.
I mean, look at it and then tell me that guy couldn’t have easily just made me one of these:
Breaking Brand Rules
In my opinion, this story serves as a perfect example of what can happen when a brand breaks brand conformity across multiple locations. It confuses your customers and can cause them to do the exact thing that I did in that Canadian A&W franchise so many years ago: Leave, disappointed without buying anything.
We have several Asian restaurants here in Los Angeles that all have the same name and to this day, I’m not sure if they’re part of a chain or not. I’m pretty sure they’re not, but since they’re all named essentially the exact same thing, I can’t be sure. All I know is that it’s very confusing and disappointing when you go to one that isn’t as good as the one you thought you were going to. However, if they’re not actually part of the same chain, then this is a classic case of classic brand confusion and deserves to be addressed in another post.
Why Is Brand Conformity So Important?
When it comes to any business that is being run as a franchise, the importance of brand conformity is magnified greatly. Not doing this will cause inconsistency amongst your locations and will ultimately result in confused patrons who end up taking their business elsewhere. Imagine you’re on a road trip and hear great things about a small boutique motel called “Cottage Inn”. You look it up on Yelp, the pictures look great, the reviews are amazing and so you decide to book a room for the night. You open up your browser and search, “Cottage Inn” in the area where you’re traveling and find a site that appears to be the same location you were looking at on Yelp, but they’re calling it Cottage Hotel in this one. The pictures are lower quality and the site design doesn’t quite seem to be what you were expecting, but you’re in a hurry and you need a room for the night, so you book it. Late that night as you’re tired and ready to collapse in your nice clean room for the night, you arrive at your motel to find that it doesn’t look like this:
But rather like this:
Upon further inspection, you realize that both locations are owned by the same group, but being run by different franchisees. Confusing isn’t it? They are essentially part of the same motel chain, but one is being run at a very high standard and the other is the exact opposite.
A Brand That Unifies Is A Brand That Succeeds
If you are a business owner with multiple locations and/or franchises, it’s your job to make sure that each one of your locations follows a set of brand rules to prevent confusion and disappointment among your customer base. When a customer walks into one of your stores expecting to have one experience but instead finds another waiting for them, they are bound to be disappointed. There’s an old Proverb that speaks very clearly to this: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.” By creating brand conformity among franchisees, you ensure that your customers have a uniform experience location to location. Thereby strengthening your customers’ experience and ultimately their loyalty.
What are some brands that you can think of that need to improve their Brand Conformity practice?
What are some brands that you can think of that do this well?
Let us know in the comments.
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