WTF is a Brand Promise and How Do You Write One?

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Your brand is a lot of things. It’s a professional logo, a trademark, certain colors and a tagline. Another big part of your brand is intangible: an emotion, an impression, a personality.

Your brand promise tells the world your purpose, while providing a beacon for your marketing and guiding the direction of your customer experience. It’s what your brand is telling the world to expect from them, often a literal promise about their products or services. Or more realistically, your brand promise can affirm your commitment to a goal.

It’s Not Your Mission or Vision Statement

It can be tough to sell yet another brand “something” to the C-suite of your company, even if your brand promise, mission statement, vision, brand guide, brand identity and more, all serve very different purposes.

But a brand promise is still an important element when building your brand. Think of your brand promise as your distilled, external company vision or mission statement. Instead of inspiring your employees like a mission or vision statement does, a brand promise is meant to inspire your current and potential customers.

How to Create Your Brand Promise

Like every other founding principle of your brand strategy, your brand promise is a distilled understanding of every aspect of your company. It’s created by carefully planning the reaction and impact you’re hoping to achieve.

Rather than describing how you do what you do, your brand promise should describe the experience you deliver. A brand promise is a way for consumers to hold you accountable to the standard that sets you apart.

Even the world’s best brand promises vary wildly in structure, purpose and tone. But to the eye of the trained marketer, most brand promises have some common traits show us what works best.

Explore the key qualities of almost all stellar brand promises and use them to guide your own:

Indicative

Make your brand promise indicative of your brand experience, who you are, what you do or what makes you special. No marketing should exist without a purpose. This is your chance to communicate something vital about your experience, products, services or beliefs. Whatever that message is, it should say a lot about who you are.

These brand promises indicate specific experiences you can expect:

  • The Judgement Free Zone –Planet Fitness
  • Feel like a woman. –Revlon

Differentiating

We want to know why you matter. Since you probably sell or do the same thing as countless competitors, you should target an aspect of you are, what you do or who you do it for that makes you special. Use that differentiating factor to build your brand promise on authenticity.Stand out from your competition like a flamingo among seagulls, with a bold brand promise.

These companies make it easy to understand why they’re different:

  • Melts in your mouth, not in your hands –M&M’s
  • Be the world’s number one source of information. –Google

Measurable

You can’t prove or improve what you can’t measure. So strive to make your brand promise something that can be quantified, on a scale that’s easily understood, like:

  • Time
  • Emotion
  • Quality
  • Savings
  • Distance

Recognize these measurable brand promises?

  • 15 minutes or less can save you 15% or more on car insurance. –Geico
  • You’re going to like the way you look. –Men’s Wearhouse*

*OK so maybe it’s not the strongest emotion, but it’s easy to measure whether you like or don’t like the way you look. And since their target demographic often prides themselves on not exerting too much effort on their appearance, “like” is a strong enough claim to be effective.

Creates Value with Actionable Language

Focus on the “why” of your goods. What’s the end game? What feeling or accomplishment can people count on you for? What’s the life-enriching purpose of your products or services? Do you provide peace of mind? Happiness? A competitive business edge?

More than just being descriptive or aspirational, your brand promise should be something you do to provide more value to your consumers. Not every business provides value through cost savings. This is your opportunity to communicate the intangible worth of what you do.

Without providing value, your brand promise is just a slogan.

These brands provide very different types of value, neither of which is cheap:

  • Creating happiness through magical experiences. –Disney
  • The pursuit of perfection. –Lexus

Simple

Short, sweet and easy-to-understand is always the best strategy for crafting a universally-understood concept. This principle is extra important if your brand emphasizes simplicity, like Uber. This app-based taxi alternative uses simple language and very plain words to communicate just how simple their service is: Tap a button, get a ride.

You don’t need adjectives to overcomplicate your message if you’re selling simplicity. So leave them out. If you need more than one breath to say it, it’s way too long. Try to stick with 10 words or less, even if your message is a bit more complex.

  • The highest quality – the lowest prices. –Aldi
  • Save money. Live better. –Walmart

Consistent

Another key consideration is consistency. What’s the true message across your whole brand?

Yeti makes a wide range of premium outdoor products, from coolers to clothing. Their brand promise is to deliver exceptional performance and durability in any environment. No matter what they’re selling, that message works, because everything they make is high-quality and made for withstanding extreme elements.

Bold but Honest

Don’t spend money marketing a message that’s going to be ignored. Make a bold, unapologetic claim that gets the attention of both consumers and competition. (As long as it’s true.) False or exaggerated claims can be disastrous and costly in both legal settlements and reputation.Keep your branding bold or go home.

Two brands that did just that, and and generated very different outcomes, are Amazon and Redbull.

Although RedBull achieved extreme branding success with its promise to “give you wings”, they were sued by consumers who claimed the drink didn’t provide any more energy than coffee does. They settled for $13 million.

Amazon’s once crazy claims, to be the Earth’s biggest selection and most customer-centric company, are now simple fact, as the world orders almost anything with the click of button or voice command to their nearest Alexa.

Speaks to What Matters Most

Brand promises are not meant to prove you’re everything to everybody. That’s a dangerous pitfall of all marketing. Make some claims and take a stand that turns some people off. You’ll be glad you did when your core customers become loyal brand advocates.

Think about what matters to your consumers. Why do they want you around? What makes them tick? What do they care about? Use your brand promise to speak to the core of whatever that is.

How is that done well?

  • Designed for the creative pursuit of being you. –Vans
  • We provide for environmentally responsible adventure. –Patagonia
  • Producing pure, quality products you can trust. –Earth’s Best Organic

Aligned with Your Brand Experience

You don’t have to encompass every element of your brand experience, just what makes you stand out. As a build-your-own fresh Mexican fast food eatery, Moe’s Southwest Grill could have used any element of their brand to turn into a consumer promise. What they chose was their friendliness, with the promise to, “Welcome everyone with open arms and a smile.”

Yes, it’s impossible to walk into a Moe’s restaurant without being noticed with the sometimes fun, sometimes dreaded, staff-wide shout of “Welcome to Moe’s!” Maybe it’s not the reason anyone goes there, but it’s definitely a key part of their brand experience and makes them stand out in the industry.

Brands Need Plans

By having a clear, well-thought-out intention for every piece of your brand identity, you’ll be able to keep your marketing, mission and growth on course and headed in the right direction. Creating a brand promise is an important step in defining your customer experience. Use the qualities that define the best of the best to help write your own. Even then, don’t discount help from the brand pros, especially when your company’s reputation is on the line.

 Branding ebook

Topics: Branding, brand promise

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