As our world becomes more technologically advanced towards digital solutions, teaching kids coding and programming has become a necessary part of their education to keep pace with digital transformation.
Founded in 2016, Code Ninjas is the world's largest and fastest-growing coding franchise, with 330 locations across the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Code Ninjas brings an engaging game-based approach to coding where kids gain problem-solving and critical thinking skills while having fun.
Achieving and maintaining brand alignment for a global franchise network is no small task. Like many other franchise networks, creating materials for hundreds of individually owned and operated locations is just one of the many things Code Ninjas’ head office needed to deliver to their franchisees.
To help support all new and existing franchisees, Code Ninjas’ marketing and creative teams provide designs and communication covering graphics, flyers, coding curriculums, certificates, scorecards, sales kits, social media graphics, and custom postcards. Harrison Self, a graphic designer at Code Ninjas, says, “We want to make sure our visual brand is cohesive throughout our global franchise system and that there is a steady stream of new creative assets.” Once franchisees get their materials, they are free to use them in their centers and local communities.
However, within this lies the next challenge — ensuring all franchisees maintain and achieve brand consistency when localizing marketing materials to suit their needs. While the Code Ninjas team strives to review, track, and help franchisees manage any brand-related marketing collateral or designs, there is very little time for the home office team to collaborate on designs, oversee inconsistencies and provide quick feedback throughout the global franchise. “Our franchisees would constantly reach out to our creative team for new and individualized graphics for their locations. It was a challenge to deliver on the numerous requests while maintaining a high level of brand consistency,” explained Justin Nihiser, CEO of Code Ninjas.
With all these jobs stacked up, turnaround times were slow, which meant a longer wait for franchisees to get the needed materials. As a result, franchisees would take design into their own hands to create their versions of the collateral that were not always compliant with brand guidelines and standards.
In many cases, incorrect fonts, logos, or outdated branded graphics were used in these creations. Harrison says, “The resulting designs were often off-brand and looked unprofessional.” Moreover, many Code Ninjas franchise owners are non-designers without the creative design capabilities or tools to achieve a compliant result.
Additionally, Harrison also had the task of customizing and localizing all assets for hundreds of locations. This major pain point spurred the search for a smarter, faster, and more scalable solution. Harrison reflects, “It was a very intense process. For example, we would have to manually design a custom PDF with editable fields and locked areas before it went to the franchisees. We were looking for a solution to solve this arduous but necessary process.”
Code Ninjas faced a crucial question. One that all franchisors ask themselves: How can we empower franchisees to present the best possible version of our brand across all audience touch points?
In no time, Jim Davidson, VP of Marketing, Creative Director Jim Ou, and graphic designer Harrison Self swiftly decided to adopt Canva for Teams across the global Code Ninjas franchise network.
The Code Ninjas creative team began by working closely with the Canva team to organize and upload branded materials, including templates, assets, and imagery. In May 2021, Canva for Teams was introduced to the entire home office team during a company event. Jim Oh and Harrison Self planned a mock project where Code Ninjas’ tech, sales, and curriculum departments were encouraged to explore Canva and create designs using the pre-loaded branded templates, assets, and materials. The activity enabled everyone at Code Ninjas headquarters to test out Canva’s ease of use and incredible designs before introducing it to franchisees.
Following the event's success for the home office team, Code Ninjas unleashed a “sneak peek” video on how to use Canva for Teams to all their franchisees. Samantha Berno, Code Ninjas Director of Communication, says, “The video helped to build anticipation and excitement before being officially rolled out to our franchisees.”
A workshop followed to help train and familiarize franchisees with all of Canva for Teams' tools, folder locations, brand assets, and file structures. It was a huge hit. CEO Justin Nihiser says, “The change in franchisee sentiment and the excitement towards being able to stay on brand while creating their own materials was immediate.” Within 60 days, the 300+ operational franchise locations had already accessed their Canva for Teams accounts.
Canva for Teams is also introduced to new franchisees during a three-day New Franchisee Training program. Part of the program includes learning how to leverage Canva for their marketing material and design needs.
Making all brand identity assets and branded templates accessible to every franchisee was a top priority for Code Ninjas' creative team. Harrison ensured that popular templates such as flyers, social media, banner ads, postcards, and videos were created and made available in Canva for Teams. Everything is housed in Canva's Brand Kit and organized within shareable folders. This gave franchisees from all locations the ability to easily find and customize the design materials needed within Canva. Samantha says, “We wanted to make sure our franchisees could quickly and easily access all the designs put together by Code Ninjas creative team.”
Once franchisees could self-serve and localize their materials, Code Ninjas’ workflow immediately improved. Due to fewer design requests, design bottlenecks were reduced, freeing up the creative team's time for high-impact jobs. Harrison reveals, “Canva has cut our request response time in half. It is a great platform to create a requested asset, share and review, and then approve and return to the franchisee.”
Code Ninjas franchisee
A massive win for Harrison was Canva's ability to let franchisees effortlessly customize their content to suit their individual needs. Whether it's Code Ninjas’ coding programs, camps, specific activities or events to inform parents, franchisees can easily pick and choose assets to assemble the required collaterals.
Eunike Jonathan, a Code Ninjas franchisee based in California, shares her experience: "We have always admired the designs the Code Ninjas creative team created for our programs and general needs. Having direct access to these designs to easily edit and schedule posts on our social media accounts all in Canva is amazing. We still get to benefit from the impressive branding of Code Ninjas and have control over individualized needs."
With Code Ninjas’ assets accessible to franchisees, brand consistency automatically came into play because all customer-facing assets look entirely on-brand. Harrison says, "We find that it's a great way for franchisees to help build the brand because all these pieces that come together make a great final product. And with Canva, we also have control over which assets our franchisees can use, which keeps the Code Ninjas visual identity much more consistent."
These days, real-time collaboration is the cornerstone of successful business operations. A wonderful discovery Code Ninjas marketing and creative teams recently uncovered was that franchisees are also using Canva's platform to collaborate in real-time to share ideas and designs with each other — bringing the global network of franchisees closer together. Harrison says, "It has been fantastic to see our franchisees collaborate. Because they are empowered to create their designs, they can show something they are proud of to help another franchisee."
Canva’s real-time collaboration function has also enabled the Code Ninjas’ creative team to streamline and accelerate their internal and external approval processes. Internally, Canva made it effortless for Harrison to share files and collaborate with Jim Ou. Reviews and feedback are done via live comments without uploading large working files, an incredibly time-consuming process.
Working in real-time has also opened communication between Code Ninjas home office and franchisees. The review processes between the creative team and franchisees are now more productive and accessible.
Taking extra steps to empower franchisees to help manage a brand can bring win-win advantages to the franchise network and individual business owners — whether it is attracting new franchisees and investors or building a strong franchisee community.
A robust, all-in-one platform such as Canva for Teams that enables franchisors to collaborate with franchisees helps drive brand alignment, business growth, and performance. For Code Ninjas, Canva has also enabled them to gain confidence and trust with franchise owners, and vice versa. More importantly, Canva has helped encourage a shared commitment for its franchise network, company vision, and values.
Harrison says, “Canva has gained our confidence in putting our graphics and brand in the hands of our franchisees. We can show franchisees we trust them to put their spin on things and have a little more creativity with what they design for their franchise.”