What Is a Brand Promise? Definition, Examples, and Success
In this brand promise guide you will discover,
- What is a brand promise?
- Why is a brand promise important?
- How to create a brand promise
- Brand promise definition
- The 5 building blocks of a successful brand promise
- The brand promise formula
- Examples of powerful brand promises
- Frequently asked questions
What is a brand promise?
As the name ‘brand’ suggests, it’s about making your mark and standing out from the crowd. A brand promise is living up to your customers’ expectations…time and time again.
Think of the brands that need no introduction – sometimes we don’t even need to see any words at all to get that flash of recognition. A logo, a symbol or a color scheme is all that is needed to instantly recognize the likes of Apple, Nike, Coca-Cola, or Volkswagen.
But a cool logo or smart branding techniques mean nothing without the brand promise supporting them. These firms have successfully established powerful emotional connections with those they serve. They have made bold, meaningful brand promises on quality, consistency, or creativity.
Apple’s brand promise ‘Think different’ guarantees creative thinking and builds an emotional connection with customers who want to ‘think different’ themselves.
A brand promise tells your company’s story, its values, and its future. A brand promise probably doesn’t even mention products at all. It sells an emotional connection, something intangible – which is probably why it is so hard to get right.
Why is a brand promise important?
- Makes your company stand out. A brand promise advertises your unique offering and the meaningful outcomes of doing business with you.
- Sets expectations. It’s not a unique selling proposition, a tagline or a list of features and benefits. It tells customers what they can expect every time they interact with your brand. Breaking that promise will lead to dissatisfied customers and an exodus of business and revenue.
- Forging emotional connections. Delivering on your promise leads to repeat business and requires less time and energy than acquiring new customers. A brand promise can motivate employees too to follow your mission, values and vision and encourage top talent to join your team.
To discover the story behind your brand, and come up with a top-notch brand promise, you must delve deep into why you do what you do.
How to create a brand promise.
- Know yourself: your brand promise requires a clear understanding of who you are and what you stand for. What is your vision?
- Know your customers: what do they want from you? What can they gain from doing business with you? Which of your values are in tune with theirs?
- Know your competitors: What sets you apart in a crowded marketplace? Why are you unique?
A strong, effective brand evokes emotion, inspiring people to feel connected to your business. A brand promise will help you solidify your brand and the relationship you have with your customers.
You should ask yourself: ‘Would a customer or prospect recognize my brand without the visual aid of a tangible product, logo or slogan?’ When was the last time you asked, ‘What’s in my brand?’ If you can’t answer that question, how do you expect your customers to?
See The 3 Most Important Brand Attributes You Need to Cultivate for a list of things you should focus your efforts on as you build your brand.
What’s the definition of a brand promise?
The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as ‘a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.
‘The legal term for brand is trademark. A brand may identify one item, a family of items, or all items of that seller. If used for the firm as a whole, the preferred term is trade name.’
While the AMA definition focuses on the tangible aspects of a brand (a product, a logo, a name, etc.), things get hazy when you ask marketers for their definition. The overwhelming consensus is that a brand goes beyond the tangible. Ann Handley sums it up:
‘Brand is the image people have of your company or product. It’s who people think you are. Or, quoting Ze Frank, it’s the “emotional aftertaste” that comes after an experience (even a second-hand one) with a product, service, or company.’
As marketers, we get the idea of branding, which, essentially, is differentiating ourselves in the market, often through advertising. But to create a brand that stands for something, we need to go beyond the tangible.
A brand is not what you say it is, it’s what people think or say it is. And no amount of advertising, marketing, or public relations can change that.
5 building blocks of an effective brand promise.
If you’re ready to take the time to clarify your company’s brand promise and to use the examples listed above as your guide, here are the five building blocks you’ll need to consider:
A brand promise is simple.
It should be no longer than a simple sentence or two. A brand promise is not the same thing as a mission statement, which can often get convoluted with rambling sentences.
An effective brand promise combines the catchiness of a tagline and reinforces it with the essence of the company’s mission.
A brand promise is credible.
If the customer experience doesn’t match the brand promise, the value of your brand is weakened. An example of a broken brand promise comes from Ford Motor Company.
During the 1980s, Ford’s brand promise was ‘Quality is Job 1.’ However, owners of Ford’s vehicles were not impressed as they routinely spent money on repairs. It got so bad that consumers gave Ford their own version of a brand promise: ‘Ford—Found On Roadside Broken.’
Today, Ford’s brand promise is ‘Go further.’
See our post, How to Protect Brand Identity with Marketing Compliance, and find out why marketing compliance is crucial.
A brand promise is different.
If your brand promise sounds similar your competitors’, how can you stand out from the pack?
Discover what makes your company unique and different from your competitors. This goes beyond the features and benefits of your product and straight to the heart and soul of your company and employees.
A brand promise is memorable.
A brand promise should impact every decision your company makes. While a promise may not be as catchy as a tagline or slogan, it must be memorable enough for employees to embrace it and use it during customer interactions.
A brand promise is inspiring.
People, in general, will act when they feel an emotional connection to a person, product, or company.
An effective brand promise helps establish that connection by being inspiring. At the same time, don’t promise what you can’t deliver. A brand promise is meant to inspire, but you also need to be realistic.
The brand promise formula.
At the end of the day, a brand promise can be distilled to this simple formula: What You Do for Whom. But the process of creating a brand promise is not a simple one. It’s actually quite difficult.
But if you consider what makes your company special and use the building blocks listed above, you can create an effective brand promise that connects you—your brand—with your customers and your employees.
And just like your brand is more than a slogan or a logo, your brand promise is more than a line of copy on a web page. To form a deep attachment between your brand and your customer is to make and keep your brand promise… over, and over, and over again.
Download our free guide, Anatomy of a Rebrand, for advice as you make decisions that come with rebranding.
Examples of powerful brand promises.
To create a brand that stands for something, an organization needs a clearly distilled statement of purpose to relate to its community, both internally and externally.
“In other words, a brand is a promise,” says author and branding expert Nick Westergaard. ‘At its core, your brand promise should define your entire business and should touch every aspect of your company.’
Let’s look at a few examples of powerful brand promises:
- Nike – The Nike brand promise goes way beyond its famous tagline, ‘Just do it.’ It promises: ‘To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world.’ The asterisk in the brand promise says that if you have a body, you’re an athlete. The brand promise includes everyone from elite athletes to weekend joggers and people who don’t even exercise at all.
- Starbucks – Starbucks positions itself as a company that brings more to the world than a great cup of coffee. It sees itself as a lifestyle brand and the promise it makes to consumers backs that up: ‘To inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.’ A good example of how modern brand promises recognize that customers and employees have stronger relationships with businesses that add to the sum of goodness in the world.
- Coca-Cola – ‘To refresh the world… To inspire moments of optimism and uplift… To create value and make a difference.’ While the Nike and Starbucks brand promises imply the product they create, Coca-Cola’s doesn’t mention a product or service at all. It aims for a mindset.
A brand promise is a value or experience a company’s customers can expect to receive every single time they interact with that company. The more a company can deliver on that promise, the stronger the brand value in the mind of customers and employees.
Watch our on-demand webinar, "4 Tips to Make Your Brand More Consistent," for some effective ways to ensure brand consistency.
Frequently asked questions about brand promises.
Where do I start with writing a brand promise statement?
Brainstorm your company’s values, mission, vision, and audience. Which is the most important? From there you can work out which element you should emphasize. There is no template for working out a brand promise – but lots of discussion is needed with all stakeholders.
How do I know if my brand promise is working?
What gets measured gets improved—so listen to your customers and employees to learn how well you are delivering and if your offering needs to be tweaked. Social media can spread a well-formed brand promise like wildfire… but if you’re getting it wrong that will be communicated rapidly too.
How long will it take to build my brand?
As long as it takes your customers to accept your values, to see that you are authentic, and that you are delivering on your promise time and time again. There is no quick fix—this will take time, effort, and resources.