Brand Promise: Secret Weapon to Building Your Brand

The Ultimate Guide —How to Build Your Brand Strategy Part 3: Brand Promise

Imagine this, you are on the second floor of a club, looking down at the dance floor below you.  The Sugarhill Gang is bumping and everyone is dancing wildly.  No, it isn’t the 1980’s, but let’s take this discussion old school for a minute.   You are scanning the dance floor. You see two people standing perfectly still in the dead center of the unrelenting motion.


Why do your eyes lock onto those two people? The people standing motionless break through the noise and disrupt the status quo.

In this era of noise and nonsense, we need to make things simple again.


Your business is like a dancer in a club, surrounded by deafening noise and constant movement.  With people being exposed to over 5000 marketing messages a day, your business is just noise in the crowd.


How does your brand stand apart?


The answer is actually really simple. Break through the noise with a simple Brand Promise.  A brand promise is an implied contract between the customer and the company. By repeatedly following through on this promise, you build trust and fulfill a brand contract, a series of brand promises.


This is how to turn potential customers into brand evangelists: people who will aggressively preach your gospel for you.


How to Create a Noise Canceling Brand Promise:

One of the most noticeable places a brand promise can be seen is in a brand’s tagline. A Tagline is a memorable statement reflecting your core promise.


But, a brand promise is more than just a promise, it must be felt in all areas of a company.

McDonalds: “I’m Lovin it”

Campbells: “It’s Mmm-mmm Good” “Act Different”


Before you go off and figure out your brand promise, Here are five questions to ask yourself:

#1 Who is the primary buying tribe?

#2 What is their world view & what are their core beliefs?

#3 How are you different in the brand landscape?

#4 What emotional investment are you asking your customers to make?

#5 Does your promise have an Industry affinity?


Who is the Primary Buying Tribe?

In the era of Mad Men and Don Draper a radical concept was born: a Unique Selling Point.  The idea was to create a new reason for people to buy—and advertise that benefit. As Don Draper said in season one of Mad Men “People want to be told what to do so badly that they’ll listen to anyone.”  This is the 1960’s era of Brand Promise.


But…2014 is not the 1960’s

Raise your hand if you HATE being sold to—I know I do!

But, who doesn’t like buying new things?

I pose to you this: stop “selling” to your customers.  Instead give them the opportunity to buy!


In the brand strategy guide Zag by Marty Neumeier, he presents a new concept– the Unique Buying Tribe.  People love purchasing, and different tribes have a natural affinity to buy certain products.  If you focus your efforts on that tribe, then your efforts will be more successful.


This will create brand, evangelists.  Yep, it sounds just like it is, a tribe of people spreading your word!

Can I get an AMEN?!

What is their World View & What are their Core Beliefs?

Seth Godin  talks about how we all want to be a part of a group in his book Tribes. As the world becomes ever more connected, it is becoming easier to find like-minded new friends.  We all want a group of people who act, feel, and view the world the same way we do.


Your primary buying tribe views the world through a particular unique lens.  Match their perspective. Craft your message to fit the lens they believe is true.


Case in point, ask any graphic designer or other creative which they prefer Mac or PC.  A betting man will always put money on Mac as the answer. This is because Apple’s brand values and the core beliefs of their customers are in sync.


How are you Different in the Brand Landscape?

What is your brand strategy’s radical differentiation?


Take a look at what your competition is promising.  Promise your customers something else, promise them something better.  Promise them a unique experience. Don’t go toe-to-toe with the competition. Just make it so different that there is no competition.


For example, HBO’s Game of Thrones (aff.) series promises their viewers a unique storyline about political intrigue, war, sex, and of course… dragons.  Every episode allows the viewer to experience that unique blend of emotions.


And, that’s a Promise!


What Emotional Investment are You Asking Your Customers to Make?

Let us be clear for a moment.  When someone selects your brand and utilizes your service, they are not just making a monetary investment.


They are investing emotions of trust, loyalty, hope, and fear.

Be clear about the emotions you are asking of your tribe. Help them invest in emotions they already feel, that are part of the lens through which they view the world.


Does Your Promise Have an Industry Affinity?

A creative agency that claims to have the most attractive employees won’t create more sales.  A modeling agency with the same claim has a much better chance of success.  Does your industry support your brand promise?  Does that promise also have an affinity with your target?  Do they care?


A brand promise is the means, trust is the end result.


A recent study by Watson Wyatt (aff.) showed that total return to shareholders in high-trust organizations is almost three times higher than the return in low-trust organizations.


So we agree on the importance of trust.  But, how can you measure it?

How to measure brand “trust”

There are four key factors in measuring brand trust:

#1 Are you listening?

#2 Are you consistent?

#3 What is perceived value vs actual price

#4 How much Social Capital do you own?


The number one reason consumers trust a brand is the brand’s ability to listen to the customers.  

The constant noise of our society is a two-way street.  Equally as much as business and brands are looking to be heard over the competition, consumers are aching not to go unnoticed.


Humans desire to be a part of a community, any community that helps express our unique identity.  Psychologist David McClelland has identified this as the n-affiliation.

This is why people will dress up as storm troopers and dance around! It is the community of fans… or maybe because it is just fun!


Consistency Builds Trust

Warren Buffet once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

Build consistency into an organization through a series of touch points.  A touchpoint is any area your customers and brand interact with each other.


Everything from how you answer the phone, to how well the grass is mowed all determines how people perceive your brand. Your goal is to provide consistent touch points from first to last, and from one consumer to the next!


Is the Price too Good to Be True?

What is the perceived value of a service, product, or offer?  Image you’re purchasing your first home.  You find a nice suburban listing with a white picket fence and a freshly manicured lawn. You know the other homes in the surrounding community are around $250k in value.  The one you are looking at is physically indistinguishable from the rest.  When you ask how much it is selling for they state $150,000.


Your next question most likely is, what is wrong with the home?  The same goes for your business.  If you are charging significantly more than your competition, what are you offering they are not?  If you’re offering significantly less, what are you skimping on that your customers might need?


How Much Social Capital Does the Brand Own?

In today’s digital world, the brands with the most social capital are winning the race.  Social capital is “purchased” via other customers discussing a brand on social networks.  This concept has inundated itself in all levels of business.  Just look at Gary Vaynerchuk’s video on how to get better service at a restaurant.


There is an old saying “10% of conflict is due to a difference in opinion, 90% due to the wrong tone of voice.”  How you speak to your customers is more important than what you actually have to say.


The Video-Game Walkthrough Exercise

This exercise will help infuse your Brand Essence and Brand Promise throughout your organization from the first touch point to your development of brand evangelists.


Travel to your local video game store and look at the front counter. I guarantee you will see the latest walkthrough of the top selling game.


These manuscripts are usually the size of a Charles Dickens novel.  The walkthrough has everything you need to know about the game.  And It will take you step by step through your entire journey, including all the cool bonuses.



Imagine you are a first-time customer interacting with your brand.  Design a video game walkthrough for that customer.  Make a list of every touch-point the customer would experience and in what order.  Then find a way to take that touch-point from ordinary to extraordinary.  Show them exactly what your vision of the future will be with their help.  Then, inspire them to share that vision.


Your vision is your tool to create a culture of innovation and growth in an organization.  This will be the focus of next week’s article… stay tuned!


Did you read the first two parts of our Brand Strategy series? Part 1: Brand Essence  Part 2: Radical Differentiation


What is the number one promise you make to your customers?  at, ours is to Act Different.