Few things in branding are quite as powerful as a strong brand promise. Want proof? What’s the first thing that comes to mind when think of a Volvo?
If you said “safety” you’re in good company. The reason most people immediately associate safety with Volvo is that it is the brand promise the company has made to customers—and delivered on—for decades.
As Volvo demonstrates, your brand promise is key to business success. It’s the foundation of the trust, brand loyalty, and long-term relationships your customers develop with your brand.
In what follows we’ll answer some of the most important questions around brand promises.
- What is a Brand Promise?
- Why You Need a Brand Promise
- The Qualities of a Strong Brand Promise
- How To Define Your Brand Promise
- Brand Promise Examples
- The Takeaway
Let’s take a closer look at what we mean by a brand promise, some examples in the world’s strongest brands, and how you can define a powerful brand promise for your own brand.
What is a Brand Promise?
A brand promise is the solemn pledge your brand makes to customers to deliver in a specific area. A brand promise is also sometimes known as a customer promise, company promise, or business promise.
Any brand promise definition should include the fact that your promise can be either implicit or explicit. Either way, however, the most important thing is that your brand promise is kept. Making good on your promise is the foundation of customer trust and brand loyalty.
Why You Need a Brand Promise
Safety has worked so well for Volvo because it’s more than just a tagline, it’s a solemn pledge. Safety is a promise that its customers know the brand will keep.
Specifically, Volvo’s pledge is that its cars give you a better chance of surviving an accident than any other model. And time and again this has proven true.
Its consistency in delivering on its promise has allowed Volvo to take ownership over the concept of safety—even beyond the automotive industry.
As multinational professional service firm Deloitte confirms, this is the power of an effective brand promise. It builds trust, reinforces core values, clarifies brand positioning, and differentiates you from the competition. And it has the power to directly affect your bottom line.
Defining a promise for your brand is critical because if you don’t, you’re leaving it up to your customers to define it for you. Like everything in branding, you’re in a much stronger position when you’re the one who’s dictating perceptions.
Beyond controlling perceptions, however, there’s simply no way to ensure a consistent brand experience if you haven’t defined your brand promise in advance.
Having a clearly articulated promise that all internal stakeholders are aligned around ensures you can deliver a reliable, meaningful customer experience whose value goes beyond transactional.
The reason safety is such a strong brand promise is that it connects Volvo to its target audience in a succinct and compelling way. A good promise is the visceral link between your brand and your customers.
This commitment is expressed in many forms: taglines, messaging, advertisements, social media, and beyond. It can be explicitly stated or subtly implied.
An explicit brand promise is more immediate than an implicit one, but it’s important to keep in mind: the more explicit your promise, the higher the expectations that you will deliver on it.
The Qualities of a Strong Brand Promise
Whether explicit or implicit, the strength of any promise can be measured by the same set of qualities. A strong brand promise is:
Customers know a genuine promise when they hear one. Your brand promise should be borne from your brand’s purpose, true to its values, and inspired by its brand compass.
Your promise must pledge something that matters to your customer. It should pledge to solve your customer’s most important problem in a unique and effective way.
For a promise to be effective, it must be distinct. It should reinforce your brand positioning by distinguishing you as the best provider of a uniquely effective solution.
A good brand promise is something that stays with your customer. Something they will be reminded of when they encounter the unique problem your brand proposes to solve.
Customers must believe that your brand is capable of following through on its promise. One thing that lends to believability is measurability. If your brand’s delivery on its promise can somehow be measured in tangible results, it makes the promise more believable.
Your brand promise must be plainly articulated and easily understood. Even implicit promises should be well-defined and mutually understood by the company and its customers.
Accounting for the six essential qualities above will ensure that the promise your brand makes is strong enough to serve as an agreement between your company and your customers.
But there’s one final metric that every promise must meet for it to be truly effective. As we’ve already mentioned, the most important measure of an effective promise is that it is kept—every time.
A promise, as we all know, is only good if it is consistently delivered on. Brands who keep their promises strengthen both the promise itself and the customer loyalty it engenders.
How to Define Your Brand Promise
Now that you have a solid understanding of what a brand promise is, you might be wondering how to write a brand promise of your own.
Defining your brand promise should be an intentional, strategic exercise. The following 5 steps will ensure you define a promise that meets all of the criteria listed above.
Step 1: Understand Your Customers
Defining a brand promise that is compelling, memorable, and believable starts with understanding the customers to whom you’re making the promise.
Who are your target customers? What their everyday needs, challenges, and pain points? Getting at these critical insights is as easy as asking them. Brand research including customer interviews and/or surveys is the best way to truly understand your customers.
A research initiative aimed at your unique target audience(s) allows you to get inside their heads to better understand what it is they value and what type of promise is going to resonate with them.
Step 2: Identify a List of Customer Needs
With the insights from your customer research in hand, the next step is to parse the findings and identify a list of unique needs mentioned by your customers.
Did they mention things like cost, speed, efficiency, or service? Maybe it’s something more specific like a luxury hotel experience or a more refreshing drink. Tally up concerns like these and make note of those mentioned more than once.
Once you have your list, it’s time to do an honest assessment of your brand’s ability to meet those needs. Which needs are you currently meeting? Which would require further investment to better fulfill?
The goal is to identify the needs that are most important to your customers and that your business is uniquely qualified to meet. Continue to narrow down the list with these criteria in mind until you hit upon an idea that meets all of the criteria in the previous section.
Step 3: Articulate Your Brand Promise
In the previous step, you identified the core need that your customers have identified as most important to them and that you are unique qualified to fulfill. The next step is to articulate your brand promise statement.
In articulating your brand promise statement, the goal is to craft a simple, straightforward sentence that communicates how your brand pledges to fulfill the most important need of your customer. Easier said than done, but the keyword here is simplicity.
The simpler the statement, the more powerful it is. This goes for most brand messaging and copywriting in general. Take whatever initial promise you write and remove any unnecessary language.
So, if you run a resort whose customers have told you their most important need is creating unforgettable memories with their families, your initial brand promise might be:
We pledge to create unforgettable memories for every family that comes to our resort.
But a stronger promise would be simply:
Step 4: Communicate Your Brand Promise—and Deliver on It
Even the most powerful brand promise is useless unless customers are aware of it, of course. That’s why it’s so important to communicate your promise through your brand narrative and experiences.
Whether implicitly or explicitly, your brand promise should be woven into all your marketing and advertising efforts. This includes digital marketing like social media and paid search campaigns, as well as traditional advertising like radio and TV.
Where the rubber hits the road is delivering on your promise. That means building it into customer experiences, from brand awareness to products and services themselves.
Whether it’s unique in-store experiences centered on personalized service, specialized client onboarding techniques, or exclusive events and unexpected perks, customers should always be reminded of how you deliver on your promise.
Step 5: Measure Your Customer’s Experience of Your Brand Promise
The final step of any powerful brand promise is to check to see that it’s being communicated and delivered on. You might think you have an amazing brand promise that your customers love, but the only way to know for sure is good old customer research (yes, again).
Key to effective brand management, ongoing research enables you to ensure your promise is well-articulated, understood by customers, and experienced in their engagement with your brand.
Checking in with customers also allows you to make sure your promise still resonates as fulfilling their most important needs. As we’ve all learned over the past few years, the world changes quickly—and with it the needs an priorities of customers.
If research reveals any misalignments around your brand promise and your customer’s experience, the next step is to formulate an action plan.
More than simply adjusting marketing messaging, it’s important to ensure the products or services you provide live up to your promise. And that the internal stakeholders responsible for them understand your brand promise—and why it’s so important to deliver on it.
Brand Promise Examples
As usual, the best way to understand the power of an effective brand promise is to take a look at some of the world’s top brands. Let’s take a look at how the brands you know and love have leveraged powerful promises to foster brand loyalty and build brand equity.
Walmart Brand Promise: “Save money. Live better.”
One of the world’s biggest consumer brands can’t afford not to have a powerful promise. As we’ve seen, a promise doesn’t have to live as a tagline or slogan, but it often does, as in the case of Walmart. This simple, two-part statement combines both practical and emotional benefits. Not only does Walmart promise you will pay less, but it also promises a better life.
BMW Brand Promise: “The Ultimate Driving Machine”
If Volvo is known for the promise of safety, BMW is known for the promise of being the ultimate driving machine. The brand has proudly made this bold claim for decades. In just four words, BMW taps into its target audience’s most important needs. BMW drivers aren’t looking for flashy cars, per se, they want performance. They’re about driving, and BMW promises an unparalleled driving experience.
Coors Light Brand Promise: “The World’s Most Refreshing Beer”
Coors Light takes a similar tack as BMW, promising, without hesitation, that their beer is the most refreshing in the world. You can easily envision the brand research that went into such a promise, with customers telling the company that what they wanted most in a light beer was refreshment. Why overcomplicate the promise when the need is so simple?
Southwest Airlines: “Low Fares”
From its inception, Southwest Airlines has set out to pledge one thing over any other airline: the lowest fares possible. In doing so, it upended an industry—and created a case study for business classes. Southwest’s pledge of low fares has shown up in its taglines and slogans over the years (the most direct being “Southwest Airlines. THE Low Fare Airline), but whether it was stated explicitly or implicitly customers have always known the airline as being defined by affordable prices. Now that’s an effective brand promise.
Allstate Brand Promise: “You’re in Good Hands”
If there’s one thing insurance customers want, it’s to know they’re covered, especially when the unexpected happens. Allstate’s longstanding promise speaks directly to this need, coopting a folksy idiom to reassure their customers that Allstate has got their back, no matter what. Few promises speak so directly and effectively to the needs of their target audience.
A powerful brand promise is one of the surest ways to foster brand loyalty and build brand equity. By identifying your target audience’s most important need and articulating a powerful statement pledging to meet that need, you will set your business up to start connecting with customers in a way only a brand promise can.
Just remember the final metric that every promise must meet for it to be truly effective: that it is kept, every time. A promise, as we all know, is only good if it is consistently delivered on. Brands who keep their promises strengthen both the promise itself and the customer loyalty it engenders.