A brand promise unites an organization in delivering on customer expectations. It guides marketing and messaging and, as a strategic document, informs the organization’s decision-making process. It infuses a brand with credibility and the ability to create connections that can build long-term customer trust. And in doing so, a brand promise sets a benchmark for customer experience.
What is a brand promise?
A brand promise is a pledge to deliver in terms of customer needs and expectations. It underlines an organization’s position within a marketplace and within a hierarchy of competitors. It also highlights why the brand’s combination of features and benefits creates a unique value proposition — an experience or emotional reward that sets it apart and, crucially, sets a perceived level of customer experience.
There is a direct correlation between brand loyalty and customer experience. In our research, 94% of consumers acknowledge the role a positive customer experience plays in their decision-making process when choosing one company over another. And, while a carefully crafted and executed marketing strategy will help in communicating how an organization delivers on its brand promise, a brand promise is not a marketing campaign, a clever tagline or a slogan.
Instead, a brand promise is an element of business strategy. It is an element that is rarely communicated outside of the organization. Its purpose is to guide everyone across the organization in terms of how and why they engage with customers.
In this respect, the goal of the brand promise is to unambiguously state why customers should choose the organization’s brand over another that operates in the same space. It should also highlight the elements directly associated with the brand — be it value, attention to detail, innovation or quality of service — that customers would be actively searching for, if the brand didn’t exist.
Creating a clear brand promise and living up to its pledge gives a brand credibility and builds trust with consumers. And it’s through fostering and nurturing trust that an organization can build stronger customer relationships. In fact, 56% of consumers agree that feeling a connection with a brand is key to becoming long-term customers.
Brand promise vs. value proposition
There can be confusion over whether a value proposition and a brand promise are the same thing. However, while one can influence the other, a brand promise and a value proposition are not the same. A value proposition leans on rationality. It’s a way of establishing how a brand meets a customer need — the type of need that motivates the person to seek out a solution.
The value proposition outlines the tangible benefits a customer can expect. A value proposition is focused on product or service features and what differentiates them from those offered by other brands in the same marketplace. For this reason, a value proposition should also consider how this differentiation can be maintained, especially if other companies attempt to evaluate the brand’s products and services.
A brand promise is not branding
Again, a brand promise goes further than a brand. A logo can be powerful, but it’s crucial not to confuse a brand’s visual identity with its brand promise. No matter how iconic a logo, there’s no guarantee consumers can recall it. To prove this point, researchers from UCLA ran a study asking participants — the majority of whom owned one of the brand’s products — to draw the Apple logo. The success rate was 1%. Even when asked to pick the logo out from a lineup of seven similar images, the success rate only rose to 7%.
Consumers don’t remember logos, they remember the brand promise — what those logos stand for. Therefore, it’s crucial to create a brand promise and use it as a roadmap for delivering on customer expectations.
4 steps to writing your brand promise
Every organization is different, but the brand promise definition and the route to arriving at a brand promise statement are universal. There are four steps to crafting a statement that embodies a brand, its purpose and the positive reasons why it’s different from its competition.
1. Know your audience
Before an organization can start making brand promises, it must be absolutely clear to whom the brand promise is being made. No brand, even mass market, can talk to and engage with all consumers all the time. The thinner a brand promise is spread, the less it will actually mean. Therefore, the first step towards writing a brand promise is to identify the target audience.
2. Know your products and services
The next step is to consider the business and its products and services objectively. Every brand can be tied back to a category and position in the marketplace, and it’s important to understand where the brand sits in relation to its wider business sector.
Do the products and services offered reflect the brand position? For instance, if an organization creates tangible products, where do they sit on a quality scale? Are they highly exclusive or is their most attractive aspect the fact that they are genuinely affordable? How do they stand out?
It’s also important to consider if brand offerings represent value for money. When asked the criteria for deciding whether a brand delivers a positive customer experience — that is, one that will keep the consumer loyal — the most common answer (cited by 42%) is the combination of product or service. This, in addition to the levels of support and help, should translate into a level of customer experience that clearly reflects value for money.
The final stage of the second step is to think about values. Does the brand stand for something or is striving to achieve something? If it supports good causes or stands for social inclusion or environmental protection, it should be reflected in the brand promise. For example, one-in-five millennials and Gen Z consumers say that support for good causes is a major driver of brand loyalty.
3. Know your customers’ opinions
These findings need validation. Therefore, the next step of writing a brand promise is to conduct focus groups and one-one-one interviews with customers to understand if the findings align with their opinion. Is there a gap between what the brand promise will be built on and how customers and the wider target audience perceive the brand to be? This exercise should start to bring clarity regarding customer expectations, what consumers believe makes the brand different and if they perceive it means something that goes beyond products or services.
4. Know your brand promise
With research concluded, use the findings to start formulating statements regarding the brand’s purpose, its wider goals, its values and vision of the business sector, and its differentiating features. The goal is to take each statement, in turn, and start to finesse it so that each can be combined into one succinct brand promise statement.
This first draft should then be shared with the wider business. Employees are the embodiment of the brand and their input and criticism is vital in creating a brand promise that resonates. As a strategic document, a brand promise should inspire an organization to deliver for its customers. The insights offered by employees will help in editing or refocusing the first draft into the finished brand promise.
Connect brand promise to customer experience
There is also a fifth step when it comes to crafting and delivering on a brand promise. A brand promise should be difficult to break. This is why the brand promise should be reflected in an organization’s customer experience delivery. In crowded marketplaces, customer experience is the most powerful tool at most organizations’ disposal for creating differentiation. Therefore, look at each aspect of your current customer experience to see if it can deliver on the promise. An organization needs to be prepared to stake its reputation on its brand promise.
Therefore, look for potential weaknesses in the current operation. Examine metrics such as customer effort score (CES), customer satisfaction (CSAT) and Net Promoter Scores (NPS) to see if different channels and touch points deliver a consistent service. If some customer journeys are causing problems or result in more open tickets, it could be necessary to develop an omnichannel approach to customer experience. This can help you ensure that all your customers experience the same levels of service, no matter how they choose to engage with the brand.
Likewise, when all contacts are flowing through a central, interconnected system, maintaining accurate data about each customer, their preferences and history with the brand becomes simple.
In addition to the brand promise, agents and frontline customer experience employees need to be empowered through tools and processes. Focus on training and systems that can leave people free to focus on the customer rather than on administration.
For instance, speech and text analytics can monitor and provide real-time insights from 100% of interactions flowing into a contact center. These insights can be applied to help agents navigate towards successful issue resolutions and understand and react to emotional sentiment.
A brand promise is a customer experience promise
A brand promise isn’t necessarily set in stone. As a brand grows and new opportunities present themselves, the customer base may change or the addressable audience could grow. But the brand promise can’t evolve unless the underlying customer experience can also flex.
Therefore, continue gathering data in the form of Voice of the Customer (VOC) programs and data analytics. This will help the brand to be proactive in closing expectation gaps and on refining service but will also enable the organization to continually improve customer experience in a way that should lower the cost to serve without breaking the brand promise.
And this is crucial. No matter what a brand stands for, and no matter who it serves, unless it can keep its brand promise, it will start falling short of customer expectations. This undermines its credibility and its most important point of differentiation.
To learn more, download the best practice guide Customer experience management: Creating a consistent brand experience.