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How to Write a Brand Promise You Can Keep

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Does your company have a brand promise?

The phrase might sound a little jargon-y, along the lines of general “mission statements” or other corporate slogans. But don’t be fooled. Your brand promise is one of the only reasons (if not the only reason) that your customers buy from you. And with that in mind, it can help to review the concept on your own terms and understand where your company falls in its ability to deliver on its promises. 

What is a brand promise?

A brand promise is the key driver of your company’s profitability. A brand promise describes the values underpinning the shared values and deeper connections between you and your buyers. A good brand promise is clear about the value your company offers. It also makes it clear how your service is different from your competitors’ service.

You must establish this promise early and be consistent with it across your marketing messages. Because, at its core, your brand promise is all about expectations. When you have a clear brand promise with clear value propositions lined out, customers know what to expect from your company and from your service.

But when customers don’t trust your brand promise, they’ll expect little from you—meaning that you’ll be low on their list of options when it comes time to buy.

Brand promises in action

Brand promises can look any way you want them to. Some brands prefer a literal promise—a direct statement of their key value propositions. Others prefer to keep things focused on broader company beliefs or values.

For example, Nike’s brand promise is to “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.”

This is pretty broad. Nike isn’t saying anything about its products or service. It’s talking about the core values that drive Nike’s customers. They aren’t promising that their shoes will make you run faster, but they are promising that they’ll help inspire you to achieve your athletic goals—not a bad idea to push for when speaking to an athletic market.

Then we have companies like the hotel chain Marriott that take a more direct approach: “Quiet luxury. Crafted experiences. Intuitive service.”

The benefits here are tangible. It’s quiet, it’s luxurious, and the service is easy. These are clear value propositions that anyone can understand, paired with more subtle marketing cues telegraphing the hotel’s consistency, quality, and commitment to the customer experience.

But they don’t need to be complicated! Take the brand promise of regional supermarket chain Wegmans: “Consistent low prices.”

It doesn’t get much simpler than that. It’s a promise that’s focused, direct, and leaves no room for doubt about what customers can expect from their shopping trip.

It’s good practice to establish these expectations clearly for your customers. In one consumer survey, 94% of buyers agreed that they’re loyal to brands that offer complete transparency. And while there’s more to total transparency than sharing your core values, it all starts with the promises you make to your customers.

It’s more than a single promise

Brand promises can take many forms, but it’s important to note that your brand promise is more than just a single promise, per se. Every service element you describe to your customers becomes part of your brand promise. Think of it more as a series of smaller promises and commitments you’ve made to your customers.

You’ve likely made promises about product quality, service efficiency, and customer service (as most businesses do). And to meet your overall “brand promise,” you’ll need to excel in each of these areas.

The risks of failing to deliver

Have you heard the expression “There’s no such thing as a half-rotten apple”? The idea here is that if one part of the product fails, the entire product fails. If an apple has rot, it’s a rotten apple. Period. And unfortunately, the same applies to your brand promise.

If you fail to deliver on every aspect of the expectations you’ve built, then you’ve failed to live up to your promise.

For example, let’s consider Wegmans again. With messages promising consistently low prices, you’d better believe that customers expect to save a buck going in. But given that customers are visiting primarily for the cost savings, they may have fewer expectations about receiving, say, first-rate customer service (compared to visitors who choose higher-end brands like Marriott).

What’s important here is that you understand which values are most important to your desired market and to follow through on those values. In one study published in the Harvard Business Review, 64% of consumers agreed that shared values were the primary reason they built relationships with a company.

Brand promises are all about consistency

Now, we’re not saying that your service goals should be based entirely on your brand promise. Obviously, even budget-centric brands like Wegmans need to make the customer experience a priority.

But keep in mind what kind of experiences you’ve titillated your customers with and what kind of expectations they’ll have going in. You don’t need to be a perfect business that meets every possible demand (no such thing exists!) but you do need to make sure your marketing messages and your real-world service are aligned. There’s no other way to turn your marketing promises into actual revenue.