By Brian Lischer, founder and CEO of Ignyte.
What do you expect from the brands in your life? Think about it. Do you expect your car to be speedy or safe? Do you expect your laptop to be sleek or robust? Do you expect your toothpaste to be whitening (or minty fresh)? The world's most successful brands are inextricably tied to the promises they make to their customers.
If I asked you which automotive brand promises safety, for example, Volvo would no doubt come to mind. If I asked you which retail outlet promises to enable you to "save money" and "live better" you're likely to answer, "Walmart." The brand promise is a profound pledge to deliver not just a product or service, but the tangible benefit that differentiates your brand from the competition.
It can be overt and plain-spoken, or it can be implied by more subtle messaging. The more explicit your brand promise is, however, the more pressure there is to deliver on it.
How to Make a Brand Promise
In my recent work with a national skincare brand, my team was tasked with the positioning of a new acne treatment product. The brand's value propositions centered on clear skin, but the brand promise went much deeper. After all, young adults with skin problems are ultimately after more than just clear skin. They want to alleviate the social anxieties that problem skin entails.
What the brand promised, then, wasn't simply an acne-free complexion. It was confidence -- the natural confidence that comes from clear skin. So, how do you develop a powerful brand promise that will foster deep and valuable brand loyalty?
Nearly every strong brand promise is marked by the same characteristics. First of all, your brand promise must persuasively convey a real-world benefit. It must be seen by your customers as practical to their lives, and you must promise it in a compelling and convincing way. Next, your brand promise should be authentic and believable.
Authenticity is central to branding, and becomes more important with every new generation of consumers. The modern consumer is exceedingly savvy. They can smell a phony brand from a mile off. They know they are being marketed to, but tacitly agree to comply with your messaging so long as it is genuine.
Just as important as authenticity is believability. Your customer must believe that you are capable of delivering on your brand promise and that you will do so reliably. It's no use promising the moon when you lack the ability to actually deliver it.
How to Keep a Brand Promise
A brand promise, marked by the above characteristics, can serve as the foundation for a long and meaningful relationship between your brand and its customers. The most important element to any brand promise is simply that it is kept -- every time. After all, what good is a promise if you don't make good on it?
It starts by ensuring that your brand strategy is centered on its fulfillment. The roadmap you lay out for the future of your brand should never compromise your ability to keep your brand promise. Internally, company culture should be informed by core values that reinforce your commitment to uphold your brand promise. Externally, customer relations should comprise a vigilant effort to ensure the promise is upheld.
One of my clients is a large, regional healthcare provider that, after 40 years of serving its community, realized a rebrand was long overdue. Central to the new brand was a new brand promise: It pledged to empower members of its community to take charge of their health. This required a shift in mindset, from leadership to frontline providers. Now, every day, the company works to give its patients everything they need to make informed, responsible decisions about their health.
The things we expect from the brands in our lives are what define them. Each expectation is the product of a brand promise: the foundation of a deep and abiding relationship with your customer. Delivering on that promise fosters your customers' trust. From trust comes loyalty, and with loyalty comes longstanding, mutually beneficial relationships.
Brian Lischer is founder & CEO of Ignyte, an author, speaker, brand strategist and healthcare branding specialist.