I won’t name names, that always feels a bit unnecessary to me, but I would like to share a story with you about brand promises.
In December, I ordered a new sofa from a company that promised that I could shop with confidence, expect quick delivery and receive unrivalled customer care and attention to detail. A new sofa is not an insignificant investment, I have an expectation it will be around for many years, so these are important factors, especially when it’s easier to buy cheaper!
Delivery was promised in early March but actually came in late April. “Unfortunately it’s a combination of Brexit and Covid… backlogs at the ports… extra paperwork at customs… reduced capacity at the factory…” all understandable and forgivable, especially as the company kept me informed.
However, the sofa was completely the wrong colour, something the agent initially tried to put down to natural variations in the leather – “I don’t think so, Matey!”
After providing photos of what I ordered and what was actually delivered, it was accepted that there had been an error and the correct item would need to be re-ordered. It will now be delivered, allegedly, at the end of July.
Now, I paid in full at the start of December, so it will be 8 months from order before I actually receive my goods. Does that sound like quick delivery to you? The error was caused by the salesman writing the wrong code down for the colour… attention to detail? I had to make several phone calls, argue my point with a “computer says no” customer care (yes really) agent. Is that a service you would call unrivalled?
I could forgive it all for a reasonable discount or a free footstool, but “it’s not our company policy to offer compensation!” Oh well, that’s ok then!
This, we can safely say, is a broken brand promise and the outcome is that I won’t be dealing with that company again.
I could leave negative reviews, I could tell my friends, I could share my dissatisfaction on social media. That’s not in my nature, but it is for many and that is the potentially devastating impact of a broken brand promise.
Remember Gerald Ratner describing his own jewellery as crap? Customers felt they had been taken for a ride, the promise of great affordable jewellery was broken and they stopped buying the Ratners brand – boom, business devastated overnight!
Every brand has a promise, whether explicitly made or not. When you have built a strong brand identity and clear messaging, your brand promise if it isn’t stated, can be assumed by your target audience. That means it’s important that you know what it is, and make sure that everyone in your company is living up to it.
If you claim to be responsive, don’t leave people on hold for 20 minutes on an automated call system. If you promise to be supportive and collaborative, make sure you are when there is a problem and don’t play the blame game. If your brand claims to be innovative, make sure you are communicating something new and fresh on a regular basis.
Fail to keep your brand promise and your customers will become very wary, very quickly.
Creating your Brand Promise
How do you go about building your brand promise in a way that makes it meaningful for your customers and sustainable for you?
Put your customer first
Firstly, as your brand promise is one that is given to your customers, consider what it is that you believe they want from you, and think not in terms of products or services, but in terms of their emotional journey. Take business coaches as an example.
Most business people who have a coach do so not to have someone direct them in any way, but to address the challenge of having no one neutral and non-judgemental to bounce their thoughts and ideas off. Running a business can be lonely and the relationship becomes the most important element of retaining a coach, outstripping any product, service or methodology.
Your promise must resonate with this emotional need.
Think about the entire customer journey
Your promise needs to be supported in every interaction that you have with your customer, whether through sales, marketing, service or operations. It’s no good promising that you care if your delivery driver chucks the parcel over the gate or your credit control team sends a solicitor’s letter when payment is 2 days late! Put yourself in the position of your customer and think about every step in their journey. What can you do to prove you are living by your brand promise at each point?
Make it punchy
Whilst your brand promise is not the same as a marketing strapline, it is important to keep it simple, to the point and as inspirational as possible. The start point for your brand promise will be your purpose, as that is what you stand for. Consider that along with what your customers expect from you and your campaignable asset, the thing that makes your company unique or special. Now you need to come up with a sentence that inspires trust, confidence and a desire to work with your company.
Remember though, if you talk the talk, you have to also walk the walk, so be realistic.
HubSpot, whose brand promise is to help millions of companies grow better, has a formula that they recommend to help in the creation of your brand promise. It is:
Positioning + Vision + Value Proposition = Your Brand Promise
Why not have a go at creating your brand promise, and if you’d like some help with it, your purpose or any element of developing your business or personal brand, get in touch – we’d be delighted to help you.
David Langdown is co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Focus7, a purpose-driven, brand-led growth agency. David has been a Fellow of the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing since 2003. He has an Advanced Professional Diploma in Psychotherapeutic Counselling and is a practising counsellor.