Since I plan to franchise my Christmas Light and landscape light system some time in the future, I'll wade in- The argument that a brand is valuable only if it has name recognition is not true. I own a Brite Ideas Christmas light ditributorship, and 99% of folks have not heard of them or Christmas Decor, yet the catalogs and selling materials make it obvious that the potential customer is not only dealing with a local company, but also with a larger company that backs and makes those products. Studies show consistantly that when given a choice between a local only company or a franchise, whatever the brand, people overwhelmingly will pay more money to a franchised company EVEN if the customer has never heard of that franchise before. there is just a more comfortable feeling going with an "established" company. I've spoke with the guys who own and operate Light House and Nite Time Decor, and the training and marketing pieces are FAR better than I have seen from anyone. They know what marketing works and how much to spend on it, they know what your response rate should be and what to expect for sales based on your population. they know what your labor and materials should cost and what you should charge for your product. They understand uniforms, forms, in house paper trail and employee and sales training. You can reinvent the wheel all you want, but once these franchise systems hit 15-20 units, trust me, they have learned alot from thier mistakes and they correct most of them before you get there. many of us are still trying to solve at least a half dozen of these problems even after 10 years plus of doing this. we could argue about artistic and style verses cookie cutter all day long, but at the end of the day the better systems make money and allow you to stay in business to allow you some artistic style. most want 20 grand or so and 5-10% of your sales. most of us don't want to pay it, so, we bash them.