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Brand Promise

Brand Promise

How Brands Can Make A Great Brand Promise


Starbucks Brand Promise

As marketers we take brand promises for granted. We just accept that every brand in its right mind has one and that it is committed to keeping it. As consumers, we have no such awareness. We don’t wander around with the strategies of our favorite brands on our devices checking that, wherever we see them, they are doing what they said they would do in the strategy.

In fact, ask any consumer to articulate the promise of even their favorite brand and all will struggle. What does Google promise? I don’t know exactly. What is the exact wording of the Moleskine promise? I have no idea. I think Starbucks promises me great coffee, but again I haven’t seen the playbook.

And I never will as a consumer. And neither will you.

What we do have are impressions – perceptions accumulated from all our encounters with a brand that tell us what we think we can expect. In all likelihood we subconsciously interpret those as a promise. Even then, expectation is not one thing. It’s extrapolated from a series of signals that are summed up neatly by Scott Smith as seven expectation types:

  1. Explicit expectations – the things brands say that consumers will get. The expectation from consumers is that the brand will do what it says on the box.
  2. Implicit expectations – the expectations around comparison and therefore what consumers infer they can expect from one brand or another.
  3. Static performance expectations – the defined expectations around performance and quality in a specific situation or for a specific application.
  4. Dynamic performance expectations – the changing expectations for a product or service over time. These are consumers’ adaption expectations. We expect the things we buy to keep up.
  5. Technological expectations – how consumers expect the technology that powers what they buy to evolve, introducing new features and enabling new capabilities. These expectations are closely linked to how prepared consumers feel for the world around them.
  6. Interpersonal expectations – the level and nature of relationship that consumers have with a brand. Interpersonal of course now includes high elements of automation and self service that add new complications in terms of lifting transactions beyond functionary.
  7. Situational expectations – what consumers expect to happen in a specific situation and whether the experience lived up to, exceeded or failed that expectation.

Let me break these down into four categories of expectations and relate them to brand promise:

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Brand Promise

Articulating The Brand Promise


Brand Strategy Brand Promise

I was talking with a business associate of mine today. She is working with an organization that has grown from a start-up to a company with more than 1,000 employees.  The organization produces high quality products and is growing rapidly however to the CEO’s credit, he is noticing chinks in the company’s armor, chinks that are due to organization growth and size. In the past, he managed the organization by selecting the right people and modeling the right set of values, attitudes and behaviors. Business growth was the result of intuition, trial and error and agility. But now the company is starting to experience unacceptable employee turnover in its manufacturing plants (among other issues). The company has not formally articulated its mission, vision or values. It has not crafted a brand promise and it does not have an elevator speech. Employees on the plant floor are not quite sure what the organization’s broader mission is. They don’t know how what they do contributes to some larger vision. For them, it is a job.

But aren’t missions, visions and values and brand promises and elevator speeches just collections of words? Yes they are. But they are a strategic collection of words that create a shared vision, motivate people to a higher calling, and rally them around what they need to do for the organization to succeed. Words can be very powerful. Leaders have inspired revolutions with their speeches and they have gotten their followers to take on seemingly impossible tasks successfully.

When we conduct mission, vision and values workshops or brand positioning workshops, they not only lead to a set of inspiring words, but they also achieve leadership team consensus on advantageous business models and strategies. It is a way to rally the troops starting at the very top of the organization. The larger the organization is, the more important this becomes. Many entrepreneurs do not realize how important it is to put these sorts of things in place when their organizations reach a certain size in which they can no longer personally interact with every employee on a regular basis. If you lead a rapidly growing organization that has not yet established its mission, vision, values or brand promise, know that at some point in the future it will be important to do so to enable further growth and success.

Sponsored ByThe Brand Positioning Workshop, the Brand Storytelling Workshop Series and Brand Strategy and Customer Co-Creation Workshops

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

FREE Publications And Resources For Marketers

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Brand Promise

Keeping Brand Promises


Brand Promise TOMS

In The Blake Project’s line of work (brand consulting) we spend most of our time helping organizations identify and develop the most advantageous brand strategies and brand promises. But of equal, and perhaps greater, importance is consistently delivering on those strategies and promises over time. Communicating the brand promise is one thing. Delivering on it is yet another. Communication of the promise is relatively easy. Develop a creative brief, create a marketing plan, retain a marketing agency, develop the creative and the campaign and the media plan and begin to communicate the message to the marketplace. This can all be accomplished within the marketing or communications function itself.

The difficult part is aligning the organization in support of the brand promise. Consider what might be a part of this. The brand promise might have implications for employee recruitment and training, performance metrics, organization design, internal systems, processes and procedures, customer feedback loops, investment and budgeting decisions, recognition and reward systems, product and service features, quality standards, customer service design…and the list could go on and on.

This implies that internal communication and training regarding the brand strategy and promise is critical to the organization’s success. Everyone must understand what the brand is promising. Further, it would be advantageous for everyone to understand why that particular brand strategy and promise was chosen. Next, each person, from the CEO and members of the leadership team to salespeople and receptionists must understand what he or she can personally do to deliver against the promise. This certainly implies the need for communication and training but also for discussion, dialog, personal commitments and tough decisions.

So when you develop a new brand strategy and promise, understand to what you are committing your organization. Developing plans to align the organization in support of that new strategy and promise is essential.

The only thing worse than not making a unique and compelling brand promise is making one but then failing in delivering against it.

Sponsored ByThe Brand Positioning Workshop

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

FREE Publications And Resources For Marketers

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Brand Promise

Getting The Brand Promise Right


A brand promise is the commitment to deliver made between that brand and its audience. It’s made, of course, in order to encourage that audience to buy. Ultimately of course a promise lives or dies on whether it is believed and delivered on – no surprises there – but the promise itself is shaped by a range of factors: the nature of the offering; the capabilities and capacity of the brand; the rival promises of competitors.

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Brad VanAuken Brand Promise

Making And Keeping Brand Promises


Brands make promises and then they must keep those promises. Making the promise is easy. Keeping it is the hard part. One can make a promise with words. But it can only be kept through actions. Consider BP repositioning itself as an environmentally friendly brand with the “Beyond Petroleum” slogan and the bright yellow and green sunburst icon. BP supported this with a $200 million public relations advertising campaign designed by Ogilvy & Mather.  It worked well until the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010. Then other actions came to light, like the environmentally controversial oil sands project in Alberta, Canada.

A brand’s marketing department, often assisted by marketing agencies, can help a brand craft its promise, but who is going to make sure the promise is believable and sustainable with real proof points? Who is going to make sure that the organization can authentically deliver against the promise?

This is why the brand’s promise must be crafted at the most senior level of its organization. Delivering on the promise requires alignment with the organization’s mission, vision and business plans. It will affect the allocation of resources including capital expenditures. To deliver on the “Beyond Petroleum” promise, BP needed to invest significantly in alternative energy sources including R&D spending in that area and it needed to implement tighter environmental standards and controls not only for its own operations but also for all of its sub-contractors. These are not marketing manager decisions. These are CEO decisions.

When we conduct brand positioning workshops for organization brands, we include the organization’s CEO (or equivalent) and his or her staff, including his or her CMO. Why, because this is a strategic exercise that will require total organizational alignment and support. A marketing manager cannot guarantee this. And an external marketing agency certainly cannot guarantee this.

Remember, the most important part of a brand’s promise is not the making of the promise, but rather the keeping of the promise. Make sure your brand is able to do that.

Sponsored byThe Brand Positioning Workshop

Join us at The Un-Conference: 360° of Brand Strategy for a Changing World
Featuring John Sculley May 16-17, 2013 in San Diego, California
A unique, competitive-learning workshop limited to 100 participants
As in the marketplace — some will win, some will lose, All will learn

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