According to a Gallup study of nearly 18 million people, most customers say brands don’t live up to what they promise.  Many are also disengaged with their respective brands, and consequently not loyal to them either. Here we take a look at how to create, develop, share and authentically live out and deliver on your brand promise to help you thrive in the marketplace and increase your profitability.
Image via www.gallup.com
What is a Brand Promise?
Your brand promise is an extension of your brand’s positioning, and can be explicitly spelled out, or manifested in more subtle ways. A compelling brand promise contains tangible emotional benefits, which in turn stimulates desire amongst its target audience.
Furthermore, a strong brand promise establishes expectations by informing customers on what the brand stands for and what it represents.  Sometimes the brand name in itself conveys the promise. Consider that most people hear the word “Cadillac” and instantly think of an upscale car.
Brand promises can also be communicated through symbolism such as the signature aqua blue associated with Tiffany’s jewelry. Before even opening the box, recipients anticipate that the item inside will be luxurious. The colour has been given meaning by what the brand stands for and the promise it consistently delivers.
Image via www.tiffany.com
Familiarity is also a major aspect of the brand promise. When people see the golden arches of a McDonald’s restaurant sign, they expect the brand to deliver on its promise of uncomplicated fun. This is underpinned by good service and convenient food — all of which is a consistent experience of simple, easy enjoyment regardless of McDonald’s location.
Making Your Brand Promise
Your brand promise should be easy for customers to understand, and very relatable. Most importantly it should be livable on a daily basis within your organization. As customers’ tastes and expectations change, your brand promise may need to evolve over time too. Your brand promise can transform as your brand adapts to the changing market but should remain true to your core brand DNA.  Ideally, customer expectations should be mirrored to whatever your brand promise consistently delivers.
Brand promises should be emotionally compelling, and exciting. Consider the brand promise conveyed when families book trips to Disney World, often referred to as “The Happiest Place on Earth.” Travelers who are Disney World-bound expect a promise of stress-free, fun-filled happy adventures where memories are created and shared.
You must be able to succinctly describe the emotional benefit your brand fulfills when developing a brand promise. What can your brand deliver that’s perceived to be totally different to your competitors. Consider this in terms of your brand experience, personality, mission, values, brand story and so forth. This process, known as brand profiling, will help you evaluate which human needs or desires are most relevant to your purchaser personas or customer avatars so you can develop your product or service to really meet their needs. Some examples include:
- Need to belong
- Desire to do feel; good, healthier, beautiful, intelligent, worthy, smarter etc.
- Desire to have; fun, adventure, excitement, relaxation, challenge
- Need to get necessities without hassles
- Need to get items at best price available
- Desire to be admired by peers; status symbol, trend-setter etc.
- Need to have a solution which solves a particular problem
- Want to have something that intuitively works
The emotional rewards combined with rational benefits, all perceived to be delivered in a way which is incomparable to your competitors, are what contribute to a compelling brand promise. However, you also need to ponder factors such as your commitment to customers, your customer service and the customer journey and which elements contribute most to customer loyalty and ultimately the creation of brand advocates.
Articulating Your Brand Promise
Your brand promise may be communicated through a snappy tagline that emphasizes what people can expect. In the 1980s, Federal Express set expectations about delivery speed with the tagline, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” That’s an example of a very bold brand promise. However, you also may find it advantageous to utilize a more ambiguous approach. Apple did that with their “Think Different” tagline that was open to various interpretations.
A brand promise and a tagline are not the same thing. However, a tagline can be useful for communicating what your brand promise says in a distilled way that’s easy for customers to understand, remember and refer.
Although it is important for a brand promise to be communicated to customers, it must first be internalize amongst your team because staff members are your best brand advocates. Most importantly if your staff and stakeholders don’t fully understand and live your brand promise, your external market — your customers won’t either, which leaves you at risk of being just another generic commodity and failing to meet expectations. 
Conduct a brand audit health check to evaluate how well aligned (or not) your internal team are with the external market. If you uncover weak points in your brand culture and misconceptions about your brand promise, you’ll be empowered to implement internal changes with brand induction and training.
In addition to educating employees about your brand promise, you also need to make them feel invested in it as an important part of the whole entity where their contributions are key to the greater good and brand success, so they care about the emotional needs your brand promise fulfills.
It’s essential to create an emotional brand attachment with your customers, as well as with your employees otherwise they won’t be effective brand ambassadors or properly represent your brand. They are in effect the living embodiment of your brand so their understanding, internalization and commitment to living what it stands for and delivering on your promise is critical to your brand success and long term business growth.
Remember, fundamentally people buy products or services with emotion first and justify with rationale afterwards, regardless of gender or cultural background, so you must touch the heart to move the mind.
When being communicated to customers, the brand promise should have a genre that can be expressed through audible and visual cues. For example, the grocery store Trader Joe’s has the unusual genre of a trading post, and promises it has a team of people who search the globe for high-quality products backed by an impressive guarantee.
Your brand promise should also have a unique voice that defines and expresses the brand’s character or personality. When the brand promise is associated with a strong voice, it becomes more relatable and memorable.
Communicating your brand’s promise effectively means being consistent when attracting customers’ attention, educating them, stimulating desire and converting them into paying individuals. If your ideal audience are effectively engaged at each stage, it’s easier to communicate your brand promise in a worthwhile and profitable way.
Finally, your brand promise should be communicated consistently and congruently across all brand touch-points. You may choose to share it through social media, direct mail brand collateral or your website amongst others. Most importantly it should be a ‘tangible experience’ throughout your whole customer journey, particularly where physical connecting occurs such as over the phone or face-to-face. It should be an emphatic part of your brand experience, be that in the office, on the show room floor or in your physical outlet or store.
Living Your Brand Promise
When evolving or discussing your brand promise with your team, always aim to do so face-to-face and provide opportunities for engagement and feedback. Also, provide direction and suggestions on how staff can personify your brand promise at work amongst themselves and when interacting with customers, through your training and brand induction programmes. Explain and demonstrate that living your brand promise is not a one-off activity, but an integral part of how you do things. When the brand promise is lived out internally, it naturally gets far more effectively expressed to and experienced by external customers simultaneously. 
Be intentional about showcasing your brand promise to customers through your company brand culture. Rather than leaving things to chance, keep channels of communication open, and accept that your brand promise may evolve over time. If you discover your brand is not living up to its promise, considering engaging external professional assistance to help you re-evaluate your whole brand offering using tools and systems like a brand audit health check and brand profile development with a system like the Personality Profile Performer™ to improve matters.
Now that you’re aware of what a brand promise is, and how to create and authentically live it, let’s look at brands that have succeeded in developing compelling brand promises and delivering on them consistently and successfully.
CASE STUDY: Saba Restaurant, Dublin
Saba is widely regarded as being the best authentic Thai and Vietnamese Restaurant in Ireland with an impressive and very extensive array of national and international awards — which are constantly being added to.
Saba means, ‘happy meeting place’, so the brand’s primary aim and promise is to provide really happy experiences for its customers, the kind that mellow into happy memories. This is at the heart of the Saba brand promise and an integral part of the brand culture, which can be tangibly experienced at every stage of the customer journey from initial booking to front line staff interactions at their multiple locations. And the Saba staff are very congruent in the experience they provide to their customers.
Image via www.sabadublin.com
With a very strong commitment to developing his team, Paul Cadden, founder and owner, ensures his team are really well trained throughout the business. The fact that Saba has some of the highest retention rates in the industry is a testament not only to Paul’s remarkable vision but to the genuine commitment of all his team.
Image via www.sabadublin.com
Every team member knows what the brand stands for, their brand promise and genuinely live it internally amongst themselves and proudly ensure its central to all their customers interactions and experiences with them — all of which is evidenced not only in the countless awards received but in the hundreds of customer reviews and testimonials given.
CASE STUDY: Big Blue Whale Toys and Curiosities
This Houston, Texas-based small business delivers the brand promise through the descriptor, “A Magical Place to Find Classic, Hard-To-Find, and Handmade Toys in Houston, TX”. Although its website is basic, it offers a photo gallery that clearly depicts the inviting shop.
Bursting with items for the young and young-at-heart, the photos demonstrate shoppers do indeed have a very good chance of locating toys they couldn’t find elsewhere. The ocean-themed windows also help entice people to come and indulge their curiosities by wandering around this “magical place” that lives up to expectations. The shop has even been recognized by Business Insider as one of Houston’s coolest businesses. 
Image via www.houstoniamag.com
CASE STUDY: Ace Hardware
Ace Hardware’s brand promise is as follows: Deliver helpful, neighbourly service to every customer—every time. Although the brand has always prided itself on excellent service, it has more recently begun expanding on the “neighbourly” aspect.
The brand now offers same-day service to homes that are within 15 miles of local stores when orders are placed by 13:00p.m. That perk is very attractive and compelling for customers embroiled in home improvement projects, or can’t fit bulky items into their vehicles.
Image via www.mesquitelocalnews.com
CASE STUDY: Tourism Vancouver
The brand promise of this tourism board is “The Vancouver experience will exceed visitors’ expectations. We will deliver superior value in a spectacular destination that is safe, exciting and welcoming to everyone.”
This organization has created a “brand toolkit” to help other businesses live the brand promise, and thereby promote Vancouver as a great place to visit. The company also holds an award ceremony to recognize outside parties that are delivering on the brand promise with excellence. The brand promise is emphasized through an extensive collection of media clips, including some that show how Vancouver can be exciting even if people are visiting for business reasons and not only pleasure.
Image via www.discovervancouver.ca
Now that you have a better understanding of what a brand promise is, how to create one, and why it’s essential to your brand success, hopefully you’re on track to not only make promises, but keep them and indeed deliver them in an unforgettably way. If you can do that, customers will thank you not only with their loyalty but also through referring and sharing your brand too.
- Your brand promise can be explicit or subtle, and may change as customers’ needs evolve.
- Brand promises most effectively relate to emotional needs customers want fulfilling.
- Your brand promise, customer experiences and expectations should be fully integrated and congruent.
- Consistency is essential throughout every touch-point and communication when fulfilling your brand promise.
- Employee commitment, brand induction and training are critical for effectively communicating and upholding your brand promise successfully.
Questions to Consider:
• What’s at least one emotional need your brand meets better than you’re your competitors? Have you developed your brand promise fully using the brand profiling process?
• How are you ensuring your employees’ perceptions of your brand promise are fully understood, congruent, authentically lived and effectively delivered throughout your organisation?
• Which channels are the most effective to communicate your brand promise to your customers and enhance their experience with your brand?
• Consider an occasion when a brand you love did not live up to its promise, how are you going to ensure your brand never falls foul with the same kind of disappointment?
• How are you connecting your brand promise to your existing company brand values, as Ace Hardware did? Have you considered or recently conducted a brand audit health check to evaluate how well your brand is performing, where it could do better and where new opportunities lie?
You may also like:
 Ed O’Boyle and Amy Adkins, http://www.gallup.com/ “Companies Only Deliver on Their Brand Promises Half the Time,” May 2015.
 Susan Gunelius, http://www.aytm.com, “Brand Promise – How to Make It and Keep It”
 Lee Frederiksen, “http://www.hingemarketing.com, “Elements of a Successful Brand 4: Brand Promise”
 Sree Hameed, http://www.forbes.com, “Your Brand Promise Can Create or Destroy Customer Loyalty,” June 2013.
 Sue Kirchner, http://www.theworkathomewoman.com, “How to Write a Killer Brand Promise That Helps You Stand Out from the Crowd”
 http://www.creativemporium.co.uk, “Branding Series (Part 2): Creating a Brand Promise,” July 2014.
 Susan Guneilus, http://www.womenonbusiness.com, “The Importance of Integrating Your Brand Promise Into Your Company Culture,” August 2013.
 Laurence Vincent, http://www.inc.com, “How to Bind Customers to Your Brand”
 John Oechsle, http://www.business2community.com, “How & When: Using Communication to Deliver on Brand Promise,” August 2015.
 Ashley Freeman, http://www.allthingsic.com “Nine Golden Rules to Help Live Your Brand Internally” April 2015.
 Chris Cancialosi, http://www.forbes.com, “The Secret to Faithfully Delivering On Your Brand Promise,” March 2015.
 Emmie Martin, http://www.businessinsider.com, “The 18 Coolest New Businesses in Houston., ” April 2015.
 Natasha D. Smith, http://www.dmmnews.com, “Ace Hardware’s Brand Promise is Its Strongest Marketing Tool” March 2015.