A brand exists in its most basic form, to provide a solution to a problem that their audience has. In agreeing to provide that solution, they are promising to come good on that agreement. Whether it’s a local newsagency that has promised their customer the delivery of their newspaper, or an international construction company that guarantees the quality of their buildings, an offer of a solution is a promise to deliver, a brand promise.
A promise is more than a tagline
A brand promise goes beyond a catchy slogan or tagline. It is a commitment to the audience to deliver the solution offered. In making that promise a brand puts its integrity on the line and in breaking that promise the integrity is tarnished.
FedEx is known for their promise (which is also their slogan) “When it Absolutely, Positively has to be there overnight”. If you used FedEx consistently and one day, your parcel didn’t make it to its destination you might think “That’s not like them” and put it down to a one of. If the next month they did it again, and then again the following month, your trust in their promise would diminish considerably and chances are you would begin to consider alternative solutions.
Only by keeping the promise, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, does a brand earn long-standing trust from its audience that breeds brand loyalty.
Even if the brand has delivered on its promise consistently over time, one instance of a broken promise can have a major impact on trust.
It’s a commitment
A brand promise is not a one off. It is a long-term commitment to consistently deliver on that promise. The right promise with the right audience that is delivered consistently over time can lead to a deep connection between brand and audience (the more emotionally linked that promise is the deeper the connection)
Implied Promise vs Literal Promise
If the promise is implied it has less impact and connection with the audience, however, this kind of promise has more flexibility. If the promise is literal, it may have more impact and connection with the audience however it is more rigid and is less flexible. Often these promises are black and white and put tremendous pressure on the brand to deliver.
A carefully crafted message to the audience may articulate perfectly the value that your brand offers them, and although in offering the solution there is an implied promise that you will deliver on that offer. A message that highlights details that promise, however, has an impactful standing with the audience who will often extend further trust.
A Friends Promise
Consider this. You are moving house in two months time and a friend implies he will help you to move. You know that two months is quite a way away, which can mean that he may have overlooked another commitment or something may come up in the meantime. How convinced are you at that point that in two months time your friend will be there?
If that same conversation included a literal promise along the lines of “I promise, I’ll be there to help you move in two months time”, chances are you are a lot more likely to extend further trust in their word than you would have without the literal promise. You may feel grateful that you have a friend you can depend on which solidifies the relationship in your mind.
Of course, if after the literal promise was made your friend is a no-show on the day you need his help, the damage done to that trust may be irreparable. Even if he calls with a reason for why he cannot help, he broke a promise that was literal and that memory will be recalled if ever he offers another.
On the other hand, if something came up where your friend couldn’t make it on the back of the implied trust, you would likely be more understanding as there was no real commitment.
Quoting Einstein in a Branding article may be over the top but regardless; “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters”. We don’t need to reference a quote from a genius to tell us what we already feel in our gut. A broken promise is powerful however small.
Literal promises are a powerful double-edged sword
The point is this. Promises in branding are powerful. The more literal your brand promise is, the more trust will be extended, the deeper that connection will be with your audience. The flip side of that is the impact it would have in the scenario of the promise being broken. Because the promise is literal, further trust is extended, a deeper connection is made, but the level of responsibility is higher. In essence, it’s a double-edged sword.
If you are confident enough in delivering your brand promise time and time again over a longer period, consider extending a literal promise in your messaging. You might find more trust being offered and a deeper connection with your audience. Consider the pitfalls of this of course, especially when it comes to scaling your business.
Whether implied or literal, a brand promise is a promise first and foremost. In offering a product or service as a solution to a problem, you are implying a promise to deliver. Not delivering on that promise is a break of trust whether it was literal or not
A brand promise lends itself to a powerful connection between a brand and its audience. The real power of the promise, however, is in the keeping of it. Consistent delivery on the keeping of a promise instils trust in the customer, which builds over time. Only the truly committed reached the Promised Land where their promise defines their brand.
Stephen is a passionate Brand Creator and Founder of Iconic Fox Brand Agency. With a background in both financial markets and design, he is well positioned on brand strategy and creative and is passionate about both. Stephen has been featured on Marketo, Hubspot, Inside Small Business, Creative Bloq and more for his expertise on brand strategy and creative.
He’s also a friendly chap so if there’s something you want to know about brand, he’d be happy to get into it with you