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Category: Brand Promise

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.

What’s often overlooked is that the character of the promise itself changes depending on the sector. Let me give an extreme example: a retail-style promise made by a professional services firm would fail. Imagine if a patent attorney promised her customers that they would “love how our intellectual property advice makes you feel”. Sure, it’s hardly a distinctive promise anyway, but clients would be laughing all the way to the door. (Equally, a professional services firm’s approach applied to selling domestic vacuum cleaners would be awkward to say the least.)

That’s because the style and nature of the promise and the commitment itself needs to align directly with the priorities of, and influences on, the decision maker. And that to my mind is where too many brand promises go wrong. They overlook how different the decision making processes are. Each process, and the factors that drive it, should decide the premise of the promise.

Business to consumer promises are most effective when they focus on excitement. Though the excitement factor itself may differ, retail brands and luxury marques generally make promises intended to make the pulses of buyers quicken – be that because buyers believe they’re getting a bargain, or they love the way something sounds or looks. The promises of retail brands, for the most part, need a high level of “feel-good” to be effective. Brands from Coke to Rolex understand this only too well. Very, very different promises – but the goal sentiment is to raise interest.

A brand making a business-to-business promise must focus on the key priority for that audience which is maximized value. Often the promise that best addresses that need is one focused on minimizing risk. Again, the promise aligns with the decision process. While for consumers, the decision driver is often one of spontaneity and thrill, for a business audience, the key drivers in evaluating a promise are around fulfilling business needs and representing an acceptable risk to the business model. Reputations, personal and corporate, are at stake along with dollars. For that reason, the B2B promise needs to revolve around reassurance – the work will be delivered and the results will have both a positive bottom line impact and also help boost reputation.

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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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Brand Promise

Do You Deliver On Your Brand Promise?


McDonalds Advertising
To the degree your brand meets the expectation of your customers, will define the true value by which your brand is measured.

I absolutely love these fast food images from a blog called Alphaila. (There are more if you have the time to visit.) They are perfect for illustrating the false promises brands can make to their audience/customers.  Now I am not picking on these fast food brands, I want to know how anyone continues to believe they will receive the product as promised, when the reality is so starkly different. Especially when people are in the store consuming the sorry reality right in front of a large poster beautifully illustrating the fantasy. Don’t these fast food companies realize that what they promise is a big fat lie?

Promises matter to people. If you don’t deliver what you promise to people, in time, you won’t matter to them. This is true in every product category. This is true in all walks of life.  More importantly, in our social media crazed world, vetting out broken promises made to consumers has instant ramifications to the credibility and trajectory of your brand’s perceived value.

Advertising images make implicit promises. When the product doesn’t match up to the advertised promise, isn’t that like cheating, or on some level, stealing from people’s hopes? Perhaps most advertising (in any form) is useless crap. Maybe brands can get away with this sort of thing because nobody is really paying attention anyway. But it’s worth thinking about… sh*t or shinola.

Like these brutally honest images, ask yourself if there is some part of your marketing and visual messaging that over-promises and under-delivers. In what ways could your marketing imagery be breeding mistrust and degrading your brand’s value?

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Brad VanAuken Brand Promise

10 Keys to Aligning Organizations and Brand Promises


I have helped many organizations build their brands from the inside out for over ten years. In the process, I have learned what is critical to the success of those endeavors.

1) RIGHT RESEARCH-INFORMED PROMISE: Your brand’s promise must be based upon customer, competitor and internal insight. This can be achieved through qualitative and quantitative research and an honest assessment of internal strengths, weaknesses, core competencies and strategic intent. The promise must be unique, compelling and believable.

2) CONSENSUS BUILDING PROCESS: Your brand’s promise must be developed through a consensus-building process that includes (at a minimum) your organization’s chief executive officer (CEO) and his or her staff and its top marketing executives. Don’t leave this step to an internal marketing department or an external marketing agency (unless they accomplish this through a consensus building process). Brand strategy and positioning is closely tied to organizational strategy, especially for organization level brands.

3) BRAND PROMISE TRANSLATED TO BRAND IDENTITY: The brand promise should be translated into a supporting brand identity, including logo, tagline and elevator speech among other key components. This should be integrated into a system that includes brand architecture and naming conventions. These should then take the form of guidelines that are available to all employees and business partners through an online platform. Digital asset management systems provide for even greater consistency control.

4) CUSTOMER TOUCHPOINT DESIGN: Involve your employees in brainstorming how you can bring your brand’s promise to life at each point of customer contact and how you can create new points of customer contact prior to the purchase, at the point of purchase, immediately after the purchase and on an ongoing basis during product/service usage and beyond. The brand’s promise must come to life in more than just its identity and in its marketing communications.

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Brad VanAuken Brand Positioning Brand Promise

Creating a Winning Brand Promise


The goal of any brand positioning exercise is to develop a brand promise that is unique, compelling and believable. Any successful brand positioning project must evaluate all potential brand promises against these three criteria – unique, compelling and believable. The winning promise must deliver against all three criteria or it won’t work. The only way to assess this is to measure each of these for each brand promise option with each key target audience.

As an example, we explored the following potential brand promises for Rochester, New York. This is how one target audience, current residents, evaluated them:

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