IFA 2019 Recap: Cocktails & Camaraderie

Wheat Creative team posing for picture at our cocktail party

Another IFA conference has come to a close… and we’re all exhausted. It wasn’t all cocktails and camaraderie… those were just some of the highlights. As a franchise marketing supplier, the International Franchise Association’s annual conference is our time to shine. Franchisors from around the globe congregate for four days to discuss and to celebrate all things franchising.

It helps that this annual event is held in our backyard every other year (our 20-minute drive to Mandalay Bay sure beat the cross-country flights and snow delays most attendees faced). This year we opted out of a booth in the exhibit hall, and instead treated our clients to a solid cocktail party at Aureole. A good time was had by all – our clients, our team, and those we hope to do business with in the future!

Below are a few other highlights and takeaways from IFA 2019:

Gary Vee Killed It!

The Opening Session is always a highlight of the conference and this year was no different. It’s pretty safe to say that the keynote speaker, Gary Vaynerchuk (or, Gary Vee) blew everyone away.

In essence, Gary Vee (in his signature explicit style) pulled no punches in telling the crowd of nearly 4,000 franchisors, franchisees, and franchise suppliers that 90 cents on the dollar in most everyone’s marketing budget is going directly in the garbage. Why? Because most franchise systems are still investing heavily in traditional mediums like television and direct mail vs. social advertising, where attention actually lies for a vast majority of end-consumers. His take is that “the consumer wins in the end.”

By far, our favorite bit of Gary Vee’s speech was when he asked those who now watch mainly Netflix to stand up… and the majority of the room did.

“Eighty percent of this room has just told me that most of what they watch is now Netflix and not regular television, and the amount of money being spent on television commercials in this room makes me want to vomit all over my face.”


He went on to say, “I have never believed in brand more. Brand has, and always will be, such a powerful leverage point. How brand is interpreted, and marketed, and contextualized, and consumed, is the delta that everybody needs to think about.”

We couldn’t agree more. Brand is the most powerful card franchisors have to play – both from a consumer perspective and from a recruitment perspective. Figure out exactly where the attention of your target audience is, and deploy all of your resources there. He warned franchisors: “If you miss the mark on branding over the next decade, the next platform is really going to make you pay. If you’ve lost on social, voice is going to put you out. Please don’t rest on the laurels that got you here, or the current strength of what’s happening now.” Powerful stuff.

Justin and Susan at the IFA convention opening session

Riveting Roundtables

In other news, our own Justin Baloun was asked to moderate a Roundtable discussion on Trends That Should Shape Your Marketing Budget. The other moderator assigned to the Roundtable was Larisa Walega, Director of Marketing for Ziebart Vehicle Protections & Services. Fun fact: Ziebart is the oldest franchise in the IFA, starting in 1959.

Now, given the subject matter on marketing trends, you can imagine that the Gary Vee messaging from two days prior had an impact on the conversations. Justin shared a few of the other highlights which included:

  • A renewed focus on brand awareness
  • To consider customer experience before you even worry about “marketing”
  • Make sure you’re measuring everything so you can adjust
  • There is no one complete strategy – you have to find the pieces that work best for your system, whether B2B or B2C

Together, We Are Franchising

This was the theme of the IFA 2019 convention, and really, that was the sentiment we all left with. No matter how crazy or seemingly difficult our day-to-day roles within franchising might seem, it’s an amazing feeling to connect with the entire franchise community and be reminded that no one is in this alone. The complete franchise ecosystem is alive and well, and Wheat Creative is happy to be playing its part.

Alas, the fun comes to a stop there. Until next year in Orlando. Watch out Mickey, team Wheat is coming for ya at IFA 2020!

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