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Take a moment to look around the vast ocean of brands that surrounds us today. It is easy to distinguish the established ones from those still struggling. Why is it that some of these brands are successful and the rest still only finding their footing? There are some brands that naturally generate a feeling of trust with their customers. Look at some of the most successful brands across the globe, be it Apple, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Shell, Toyota, BMW… one common denominator across all of them is that all these brands communicate a clear promise to their customers. And then they work really hard to deliver on it.

What is brand promise?

Brands, like each of us, need a reason to exist. This reason for existence is the purpose of the brand. While brand purpose answers ‘why’ a brand exists, brand promise emerges from ‘how’ a brand seeks to fulfil its purpose…

Brand Promise is the value that your brand is committed to consistently create and deliver to its customers. It clearly highlights all the tangible & intangible benefits one can derive over his/ her engagement with your brand across multiple touch points. It sets clear expectations of performance in the minds of the customers. As such, it illustrates how the Brand, given its Purpose, satisfies the perceived needs of its customers.

Promises are to be delivered…

Since promises build the foundation of trust if you cannot deliver what you promise you lose credibility instantly and move towards the path of irrelevance. So while you need to be courageous when defining your brand promise, you need to also assess if you can keep your promise – Every. Single. Time.

Ever wondered why McDonald’s manages to thrive, even at the posh Avenue des Champs Elysée in Paris, France? Because MacDonald’s manages to deliver on its brand promise of an inexpensive, consistent, and familiar meal that can be delivered fast in a clean environment. Subway, on the other hand, made a promise of providing healthy food to their customers. It positioned itself as the healthier alternative to unhealthy junk food. All was well until people realized that eating a load of carbs in the form of bread and ingesting a load of preservatives in the form of the cold cuts was not healthy. Subway was seen as unable to deliver to their brand promise and this hurt their ability to become a part of the ongoing healthy-eating revolution worldwide.

When a brand has an unclear brand promise, it also becomes difficult for it to resonate across the length and breadth of the organization. If the stakeholders are not committed to the promise or do not understand it then how can we expect the same from the consumer? In a Harvard Business Review article, ‘Why Strategy Execution Unravels’, the authors state “a breakdown in trust and the inability to coordinate across functions and units are the biggest drivers of failed execution.” Clearly, the brand promise has to be accepted wholeheartedly within the organization. It is only then that you’ll be able to consistently deliver on it.

Why a clear Brand Promise Matters…

For brands, a clear promise highlights the specific customer needs they fulfil and the specific customer pain points they resolve. In that it clarifies how a brand intends to add value to the lives of its customers. A well thought out promise also give brands a clear direction for product development, featuring, and marketing communication. This helps brands focus all marketing investments for better return on investment.

For customers, a clear Brand promise aids purchase decision-making as it gives a pointed answer to the question, ‘what’s in it for me?’. This also helps in creating a clear product differentiation in the minds of the customer which helps them evaluate one brand vis-à-vis the other.

In Conclusion

A brand promise should not be confused with a brand theme or a marketing slogan. It is something personal between a company and its customers, and the basis of this relationship is the capability of the brand to deliver on its promise. Fail here, and your customers will begin to wonder what you really stand for and if your credibility can be, or rather, should be trusted. It, therefore, becomes crucial to be intentional in what you promise to your customers and committed to delivering on this promise. Therein lies the ‘secret’ for developing a great, trusted brand.


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