Company: Cartridge World
Contact: Sharon Kinkade, Cartridge World's Director of Marketing
Location: Emeryville, CA
Industry: Office Supplies
Annual revenue: $185,000,000
Number of employees: 45
Since entering the US market in 2005, global ink and toner supplier Cartridge World has expanded its presence to 650 franchisee-owned stores nationally. The company's US-based corporate support systems, however, did not keep pace with that growth, and many franchisees were left to their own devices to develop marketing materials for their stores.
Along with the resulting hardship for franchisees—largely small-business owners—the company's overall brand consistency was degraded.
So, together with Kansas City-based Saepio Technologies, the company created a centralized marketing resource center that provided franchisees easy access to customizable templates, logos, and marketing collateral that complied with the company's branding standards, creating a win-win situation for the corporation and its franchisee base.
Cartridge World is a global supplier of printer cartridge and inkjet refills with over 1,600 stores in 61 countries. Founded in Australia, the company entered the US market in 2005 and has since grown to 650 franchisee-owned stores nationally.
A lean team of four makes up the company's US-based corporate marketing team, which in 2007 carried the heavy burden of fielding ad hoc requests from all 650 franchisees in addition to its regular corporate responsibilities.
Since this team did not have the time or resources to efficiently and effectively manage incoming requests, the company's franchisees were often forced either to hire the help of outside agencies and incur the related expenses or to simply do the work themselves—a highly time consuming endeavor for the mostly small, independent business owners.
Consequently, the company's brand consistency began to wane as branding guidelines were neglected and attempts to duplicate collateral fell short.
Sharon Kinkade, director of marketing for Cartridge World, looked into asset management solutions for better brand consistency and staff efficiency; in 2007, she began working with Kansas City-based Saepio Technologies.
Together, the companies created Catridge World's Marketing Resource Center (MRC), an online resource portal that includes every piece of collateral available to the company's North American franchisees, including templates for business cards, posters, banners, and brochures; core branding elements such as logos and stock photos; and approved copy and video footage for use in ads.
Franchisees can now access the MRC as needed, 24 hours a day, and search or browse for cataloged items using the system's metadata-based indexing and search capabilities.
The system also allows franchisees to customize their collateral with resizing and cropping features and the ability to easily populate templates with, for example, specific store information, commensurate with Cartridge World's corporate branding guidelines.
The creation of the MRC as a self-service system has freed up the company's corporate marketing team to focus on broader initiatives while allowing the franchisees to get the collateral they require in a much more timely and cost-efficient manner.
Franchisees consistently comment about how happy they are with the new solution.
Moreover, Cartridge World has found that the MRC is a value-added sales tool for expanding its franchisee base.
In addition, Cartridge World's brand consistency has improved considerably since the implementation of the MRC. And more of the company's franchisees are realizing the value of the brand now that the platform is in place, Kinkade reports.
She notes that it still takes a fair amount of time and effort to maintain the MRC, since the company is constantly adding new collateral, removing the old, and ensuring its franchisees remain adequately informed. Nonetheless, she says, it is "more than worth it," given the advantages on both the corporate and the franchisee levels.
"This type of solution is not new, but it was revolutionary for us," said Kinkade. "It really helped to knit the various elements of our marketing together for our franchisee network, who felt they were left to own devices before. Now we feel like more of a unit."
For companies aspiring to launch a similar effort, Kinkade offers the following learnings:
- Keep it simple. Franchisees are business owners and typically not marketing specialists; so, for optimal uptake, ongoing usage, and consistent adherence to corporate standards, it is important that the solution be both convenient and easy to use.
- Take the time to map out the entire process of grouping related collateral and determining how various materials will be accessed. You can always optimize later, but initial user training and buy-in will come more easily if the navigation makes sense and users can easily figure out how to find what they need on their own.
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