Creating—and Keeping—Your Brand Promise

Brand Basics

Your brand promise is the pact you make with your customers. Here’s how to keep your word.

When you build a brand, you’re defining the promise you’re making to your customers. You’re telling them what they can consistently and reliably expect from your company and its products and services.

“A brand promise is the set of functional, emotional, and self-expressive benefits that a brand delivers to the customer or consumer,” says Erich Joachimsthaler, CEO and founder of Vivaldi Partners Group, a New York City global brand strategy consulting firm who has experience with major brands such as Coca-Cola, Jaguar, and Marriott.

When created strategically and thoughtfully, your brand can be a tremendous asset, building trust with your customers. Building a strong brand requires both understanding what promises you can make and how to keep them.

Defining the Promise

An effective way to begin analyzing the promise is the “magic triangle,” Joachimsthaler says. The magic triangle consists of three Cs: customer, competitor, and company. It includes asking yourself:

  • What do I deliver to the customer?
  • What do I deliver that the competitor does not deliver?
  • What can I deliver uniquely to the consumer?

Brand promises can be implicit or explicit, says branding expert Stephanie Peterson, founder of Sugarcane Global LLC in San Francisco, California. Explicit brand promises are made upfront, usually in their taglines, such as FedEx’s former tagline, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” Implicit brands don’t state their promise, but it comes through in your interactions with them, such as Nordstrom, which actually has urban legends about its surprisingly committed customer service, Peterson says.

Delivering on the Promise

You must deliver on your promise consistently, all the time, and with every interaction a customer has with you, your product, or your service. That includes in-person, online, via telephone, and any other way your customer might encounter your brand. Review each interaction as if you’re the customer. Is your brand being represented as it should be? Look at your product or service. Is it consistent from one customer to the next? Customers need to know what to expect when they buy from you, Joachimsthaler says.

“You cannot, in this day and age, create a veneer of something that does not exist. There needs to be product truth,” says Joachimsthaler. If your product’s quality varies or your service is hit-or-miss, customers are going to spread the word in-person or online, he says.

By analyzing your unique market position and strengths, then creating a promise based on those attributes, you have a strong understanding of the market you serve. However, creating such a promise requires vigilant care and consistent follow-through to be effective.

Explore simple, effective ways to build your brand and business with graphics.

If you do not already work with one, connect with a branding graphics professional by entering your zip code and searching for a professional near you.