How to identify a brand promise customers want

What can your customers expect from your company? How do you want them to feel about your brand? What value do you bring to your customers? Find out.

Let’s look at the concept of a brand promise and how you can craft a powerful one for your brand.

A brand promise is a statement that describes the value your brand brings to customers. This statement is not your tagline, slogan, vision statement, or mission statement, though sometimes they will overlap. Your brand promise is a customer-facing statement that either declares or suggests the type of overall experience a customer will have with your brand. It should be short, clear, meaningful, and memorable.

In branding, as in life, promises are important to us. Your brand promise lets your customers know what to expect from your brand, either explicitly or implicitly. It sets expectations for quality and value. It is a crucial component of your brand identity and image.

It’s critical that you keep your brand promise. Broken promises can damage reputations, lose customers, and ultimately reduce profits. So, when you’re creating your brand promise, make sure it’s a promise you can keep.

You should build your brand promise on the following principles:

  • It builds trust. Every time you deliver on your brand promise, you become more trustworthy in your customers’ minds.
  • It expresses clear values. Your promise reinforces the values you have stated for your brand. 
  • It is an extension of your positioning. Communicate what differentiates you from your competitors in your promise.
  • It states clear benefits. Your brand promise should include distinct benefits the customer will receive from your brand.
  • It is authentic and credible. You must be able to deliver on your promise every single time.
  • It comes with no provisions or “strings” attached. Your customer comes to you, and you deliver on your promise. Simple.
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An articulated brand promise is a literal promise to the customer from the brand. It’s an explicit statement—never vague or ambiguous. If you clearly understand what benefits a customer receives from working with your brand, you can create a very effective articulated brand promise. Only use this type of promise if you can be confident you can fulfill it with every customer interaction.

An assumed brand promise implies the value a customer receives from your brand. It’s a more emotional, feelings-based promise. This type of promise has less impact because each person’s relationship with the brand is based on their personal view of the perceived promise.

A brand promise requires careful planning and consideration of detail. There’s no set structure or tone, just clear attributes that you can deliver with every customer experience. 

Here are a few qualities to consider when crafting your brand promise:

Your brand promise should indicate a customer’s experience with your brand. Communicate something critical about your products, services, or beliefs.

The Planet Fitness health club franchise exemplifies this type of brand promise with “The world judges. We don’t. At Planet Fitness, be free.” They understand that their target audience wants to exercise without anyone judging them, so they promise this won’t happen in their clubs. They use the tagline, “The Judgement Free Zone,” to help tie the promise to the rest of the marketing plan.

What makes your brand unique? What makes you different from the competition? Use that difference to create a brand promise based on authenticity and superiority.

What makes M&M candy different from other chocolates? It promises to “Melt in your mouth, not in your hands.” The brand clearly delivers on its promise of chocolate candy without a mess, which is a relatable problem that M&Ms is uniquely able to solve.

If possible, make your promise measurable in time, quality, savings, distance, etc. Quantifying your promise makes it more tangible to customers. It’s also something you shouldn’t promise if you can’t deliver it.

Domino’s Pizza used to have a brand promise to “deliver pizza in under 30 minutes or it’s free.” When they did some market research, they found that people were less concerned about how fast the pizza was delivered than how fresh and tasty the ingredients were. Domino’s publicly owned the problem, and their brand promise evolved to “deliver a great product, service, and experience.”

Your brand promise should be something that provides value to your customers. Value can be tangible, like money savings, or intangible, like saving time or creating emotion.

Disney promises to “create happiness through magical experiences” at its theme parks. The fact that the average attendance at Disney World vacation resort is 58 million visitors per year (measurable) verifies that they are keeping their promise. 

A brand promise should be concise and straightforward. Don’t overcomplicate things with extra fancy adjectives. Try to stick to 10 words or less—you can even convey complex messages simply.

Walmart discount department and grocery store succinctly promises that customers will “Save money. Live better.” This promise encompasses so many ways the store will meet its customers’ needs for lower-cost products that will improve their quality of life.

You may have multiple product lines, but your brand promise must be consistent across your whole brand.

YETI offers a wide variety of outdoor products—from coolers to clothes. They promise to deliver exceptional performance and durability in any environment. The promise works with the huge range of products because they are all of high quality and designed to withstand the elements. Based on the YETI vs. Grizzly Bear video, the brand is delivering on its promise of superior, strong products.

Ready to develop your brand promise? Remember, it should convey a compelling benefit, be authentic and credible, and able to be delivered every time. 

These are the steps to create your brand promise:

Before you can make a promise to them, you need to know exactly who your customers are. What are their everyday needs and challenges? Thorough market research of your target customers will help you figure out their pain points, values, and what message will resonate with them. Create buyer personas if you need help visualizing your audience as real people.

Keep your market research on hand to determine your customers’ unique needs—note any that are repeated. Make a list of these customer concerns and honestly assess how well you can meet each need. 

Next, identify the most important needs you are uniquely qualified to meet. Narrow the list down to the one need you know you can consistently meet for your customers. That need is the one you will address in your brand promise.

Craft a simple statement that relates how your brand pledges to fulfill the important need you identified in the last step. Once you’ve written your promise, look for ways to make it even more concise. The simpler the statement, the more powerful it is. 

Regardless of whether your promise is articulated or assumed, you should weave your message throughout your brand narrative. It should be recognizable in your marketing messages and advertising efforts. Build it into every customer experience, from brand awareness to your products and services. 

The most critical part of all of this is to deliver on your promise. 

Return to market research to measure how effectively your brand promise is communicated and delivered. Is your promise understood and experienced by your customers? Are you fulfilling their most essential needs? 

If you detect any misalignments, you’ll need to create an action plan to ensure your products and services live up to your promise. This is not a step that is done only once. As time goes on, your customers’ needs change, and market research will help you measure if you are still meeting their priority needs.

These brand promise examples provide strong, clear messages to customers:

  • Geico has a very explicitly stated brand promise that it also uses as a slogan: “15 minutes or less can save you 15% or more on car insurance.” This is an excellent example of identifying a need and promising an attractive, measurable solution in your promise.
  • Coca-Cola has updated its brand promise from: “To inspire moments of optimism and uplift” to “Refresh the world. Make a difference.” The new brand promise conveys the company’s dedication to being the leading refreshment brand that makes a difference in our environment, communities, and lives. The phrasing and word choice imply the positivity of the previous brand promise.
  • “You’re in good hands” is the promise and tagline for Allstate insurance. This inspires confidence that Allstate is there to help when something unexpected happens. This direct, clear, effective statement speaks directly to the company’s target audience.
  • BMW confidently promises “the ultimate driving machine” to its customers. This aligns with their goal to produce only the most efficient and elegant vehicles. All of their marketing embodies this promise with images of sleek automobiles in beautiful settings.
  • Nike doesn’t mention any of their products in their brand promise: “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.” This promise clearly states what the brand promises beyond just sneakers.
  • FedEx also uses its promise as a slogan: “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” The statement highlights the FedEx commitment to exceptional, dependable service. Like Geico, FedEx has explicitly stated a time period in its promise—and they consistently deliver on it. Remember, if you aren’t certain you can deliver on your promise every single time, don’t make it.

Your brand promise is a statement of how your customers will feel when they interact with your brand. It addresses a critical need and commits to help meet that need. Remember to keep it simple and to deliver on your promise consistently.

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