Brands are more than just the logo, name or slogan — it’s the entire experience others have with your product or service. From our experience in working with entrepreneurs, CEOs, and leaders on their marketing strategies, the most important element is the brand promise.
While there are many ways to build a great brand and a great experience, the brand promise is one you must develop and master. If you don’t heed this advice, then you might as well as save your money and close shop. We’re not talking about cool slogans and slick ad campaigns. It’s a much deeper and integral part of your business strategy.
With social media, brands are more accessible than ever, so how well you understand and manage your brand promise will determine the longevity of your brand. To begin, we need to take a closer look at what is promised and what is delivered to your customers.
First, jot down all the promises you can make to your customers, then ask yourself these three questions:
- What can be our single brand promise?
- Are we clear about our single brand promise?
- How well do we deliver on our single brand promise?
The Brand Promise Defined
Your brand promise must communicate one single promise that matters most to your customer or target demo. However, there is one catch — albeit a simple one: it must be a promise you can deliver consistently. For all great brands to be a successful in the long term, the gap most close between what the brand promises and what it delivers. The closer the gap, the greater the success.
If you have a list of multiple promises, then pick one that stands above the rest — preferably the promise that drives the highest profit margins. Stay out of the trap of “but, we also do this too.” If you have a promise that is different from your competitors then consider choosing it for your single brand promise.
One example of a brand promise is “we serve gourmet grilled-cheese sandwiches”. It’s clear, unique, and has a built in measure for success. Its clarity is serving grilled cheese, and its measure is gourmet. This particular sandwich shop serves a variety of cheeses from around the world, but it also serves unique side items, meats, soups, and beverages. But they chose to focus their brand promise on gourmet grilled-cheese sandwiches.
While defining (or refining) your brand promise, do not let your brand fall under the “jack of all trades, master of none” stigma. Mastering your brand promise, forces the refinement of your brand, its services, and offerings. Simplifying your brand into one single promise can be difficult, but in the end, it will make it easier for customers to choose you over a less focused competitor.
Use the following checklist to develop a great brand promise:
- Is it understandable?
- Is it believable?
- Is it unique or different from competitors?
- Is it important to the customer?
- Can you deliver on it 100% of the time?
- Is it measurable by you and the customer?
- Is it something you can control?
Delivering on Your Brand Promise
As you chisel away to a single promise, you may find yourself concerned that your business can’t deliver consistently, so ask yourself: do you believe you can get it to 100%? If the answer is yes, then it just means you’ve got an opportunity for improvement and growth. In the long run, consistency will determine the success of your brand, so never deviate from what you know you can deliver. Do not stop improving, enhancing, and building on your brand promise until you can say, “we deliver 100%!” Involve your team and your customers as their feedback will prove invaluable.
Some common pitfalls for not delivering 100% may stem from the fact your business is spread thin with too many different services and offerings. This is a big issue for many restaurants and their menus. Or perhaps your product carries too many options or features. As consumers, we want the power of having choices, but we buy convenience and simplicity.
Once you’ve defined and mastered your brand’s promise, the next step is to communicate it clearly for success.
Communicating Your Brand Promise
You’ve now refined your brand down to one single brand promise. One that can be delivered with a 100% consistency (or working rigorously towards it). It’s unique, clear, and has a built-in measure for success. Your next step is to ensure it’s communicated clearly and effectively.
Communication and marketing through TV, radio, direct mail, ads, social media, websites, and search engines can be a waste if your message does not line up with your customer’s point of view. This is where you need to understand your potential customer’s mindset and empathize with their situation.
The better you understand and utilize this, the greater your chance of winning your customer.
The $900 Million Caveman
To clearly communicate your brand promise, you need to clearly understand your customer. Geico is an excellent example of company that clearly understood their customer. In 2010, Geico spent nearly a billion dollars using a caveman to communicate their brand promise. You must be thinking, “If I could just come up with funny and creative marketing like that, I’d be rich!” Sorry, Charlie. There’s a science behind this.
Geico did extensive research on their customers. First, they discovered there was a huge market of people who viewed insurance as being convoluted, complicated, and expensive. They viewed insurance as a necessary evil and paying for it every month was downright irritating.
Geico also understood that the insurance industry was notorious for being complicated and inconvenient. So switching insurance companies was even worse than paying for it. So Geico implemented a process both internally and externally to ensure it was as simple as possible for the customer to sign up.
Only after understanding this gap between Geico’s brand promise and their customer did the creative result come – a caveman. Through this creative marketing, Geico communicated their brand promise of “easy and affordable” insurance. It was produced in a way that it was easily understood and well-remembered. After all, if a caveman can do it, why can’t I?
Then Geico took their brand promise a step further, with a bold statement: “A 15-minute call can save you 15 percent or more on your car insurance”. While the promise of easy and affordable still rings true, this refined promise creates a yardstick that both the customer and Geico can measure.
When looking to communicate your brand promise, try to understand your customer’s mindset, their worldview, and their values. Determine how it may affect their buying decision whether good or bad. Figure out if there are any negative perceptions that exist which may prevent customers from engaging. If you identify any hurdles, then they need to be communicated (or a process implemented to remove them).
Apply rigor to your brand promise and your process for delivering on it, as it will be foundational to building trust with your customers now and into the future.
Jason Faber is a brand strategist with his company, M is Good, a branding and marketing agency helping leaders transform visions into remarkable brands. Our advisory and production services include brand strategy, marketing, media buys, social media, video production, web development and graphic design.