WHAT IS A BRAND PROMISE?

[The Key Principals You NEED To Know]

Before we dive into specifics I want to first relieve you of some fog that may be hanging around this topic.

Your brand promise is not your tagline.

It’s not a slogan, a value proposition, a USP or a vision, mission or values statement.

You don’t have to look hard on Google to find an article suggesting that Nike’s promise is to “Just Do It” or that McDonald’s promise is “I’m Lovin It”.

Let’s cut to the chase here.

If I were to say to you, “I’m gonna promise you something” and you said, “Ok, what?”… then I replied with “Just do it”, you’d say to me “Eh… that’s not a promise”.

And you’d be right… it’s not.

So, what is a brand promise then?

brand promise trust
brand promise trust

Before we dive into specifics I want to first relieve you of some fog that may be hanging around this topic.

Your brand promise is not your tagline.

It’s not a slogan, a value proposition, a USP or a vision, mission or values statement.

You don’t have to look hard on Google to find an article suggesting that Nike’s promise is to “Just Do It” or that McDonald’s promise is “I’m Lovin It”.

Let’s cut to the chase here.

If I were to say to you, “I’m gonna promise you something” and you said, “Ok, what?”… then I replied with “Just do it”, you’d say to me “Eh… that’s not a promise”.

And you’d be right… it’s not.

So, what is a brand promise then?

The Video Breakdown

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Brand Promise Is An Extension Of Your Brand Position

When building a brand, one of the most important exercises you’ll undertake is developing your positioning strategy.

Here you’ll define who your audience is on a detailed level.

You’ll analyse your competitors to look for gaps in the market.

And then you’ll define the difference you’ll make in their lives.

This exercise will identify a position in the mind of your audience you’ll want to occupy which will represent a certain experience your audience can expect to receive.

The “Father of Modern Marketing” Philip Kotler, defined positioning as

“the act of designing the company’s offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of the target market”.

The difference your brand makes in the lives of your audience is what the audience places in their mind, while the promise (literal or not) is the experience the audience will receive in delivering that difference.

That means that whether the brand makes a specific promise or not, stating the difference they will make in the lives of their customers is a promise to deliver on that experience.

Brand Promise vs Positioning Statement

The brand position represents the difference you want your audience to remember your brand for which is initially articulated in the brand positioning statement.

The statement outlines the critical elements you want your audience to understand (not remember) about your brand which include.

The Audience

The challenge / pain-point

The Key Benefit

Competitive Alternative

Point of Difference

Though you define what you want your audience to understand through this statement, the statement itself is not written as a customer-facing piece of marketing.

It’s not a promise and it’s not a tagline.

Instead, this simple and clear statement guides the brand development and external communication and its detail is weaved throughout customer-facing material from taglines to websites to brochures.

The brand promise on the other hand (whether it’s a literal promise or not), is customer-facing.

It either states or suggests that, rather than just receiving a point of difference, the customer will receive an overall experience in the delivery of that difference (which goes beyond just the position taken in the market by the brand).

The fact is, most brands never articulate a customer-facing promise.

They’ll develop a brand positioning statement to define their difference, then a tagline to plant the seed of that difference in their audiences mind.

But doesn’t that mean that the brand promise is the tagline??? No.

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Brand Promise vs Tagline

The tagline is the most distilled piece of communication developed by a brand (aside from the name), which aims to plant a seed in the mind of their audience as to why they should be remembered (The differentiator).

The tagline has one goal and one goal only.

To get the audience to remember (then easily recall) why they are different.

Is doesn’t attempt to elaborate on value or experience.

It simply attempts to encapsulate the value of the difference in the most efficient and memorable collection of words possible.

A brand promise is more than a tagline.

It represents the experience the customer receives and therefore, is broader than the difference (or the value of that difference).

The Literal Promise vs The Implied Promise

Most brands don’t ever articulate their promise and instead communicate the experience they are committed to delivering, through their messaging.

This means that even though many brands never actually make a promise, their audience believes a promise has been made through their communication, whether through a piece of content, a social post or an advertisement.

This is one of the main causes for confusion around the brand promise.

Though some have a promise front-and-centre and attempt to plant that as the seed in their audiences mind, others simply don’t have a promise other than through suggestion of their message.

Just to be clear…

Not every brand has a literal promise and not every brand necessarily needs one.

On the otther hand…

Every brand has an implied promise to deliver on the experience of the difference they propose to offer.

A Broken Promise Can Break A Brand

Regardless of whether your promise is literal or not, if your audience believes you have made a commitment to them to deliver on a certain experience, then you had better deliver on that promise.

Building brands is about building trust and only brands that consistently deliver, stay around long enough to build any kind of trust and loyalty.

Fail to deliver on an implied promise and your reputation will be damaged.

Fail to deliver on a literal promise and your brand may never recover.

The Advantage Of A Bold Promise

All strategic brands attempt to differentiate themselves from the competition through their differentiation strategy and position.

In defining this difference, the brand makes an indirect promise to deliver on that difference, whether they articulate one or not.

Brands that make bold promises around the difference they make, ruffle feathers in the market and draw attention, especially if their difference takes an “against position” to one of their competitors (as Dollar Shave Club did with Gillette).

A bold promise puts the reputation of the brand on the line, which suggests an air of confidence for the brand to deliver on that promise.

When FedEx stated that they were the go-to brand…

“When it absolutely positively had to be the overnight”;

they solidified their position in the minds of their audience.

It didn’t just say:

“you’ll get your package tomorrow”.

The boldness and confidence of their promise offered the customer peace-of-mind because the bold promise reassured the audience that they wouldn’t let them down, earning them a double dosing of trust.

If a promise can be made to boldly and confidently to double down on a differentiation strategy, then it may solidify that position in the mind of the intended audience.

How To Write A Brand Promise

If you decide your brand can confidently deliver on the difference it brings to the market, then a bold brand promise may solidify that position.

The starting point should be the positioning statement, while any promise should also consider the wider brand (including the internal brand such as the purpose, mission, vision and values).

Remember, the promise is about delivering an experience around your difference and shouldn’t just look at the difference in a silo.

Once you’re clear on your difference and the experience you want your audience to receive, then quite simply, write as many bold promises around that difference as you possibly can

Here are the characteristics of a compelling promise;

Experience, benefit & difference focussed

Authentic and believable

Deliverable and committed

Try to keep it short enough so it can be remembered but don’t get caught up thinking this is a tagline. It’s not.

Once you have your promise, make it often, but more importantly; keep it 100% of the time.

If you do these two things, you might stake a permanent claim for the position you want to occupy in the mind of your audience.

Conclusion

Are you building a brand now or in the future?

Are you clear on the difference that you offer?

Will your promise be literal or Implied?

Let me know in the comments Right Now!