What is a brand promise?

June 10th, 2011

A brand promise is an expectation you create for employees. It’s what your brand promises to do every day for every customer. Sometimes that brand is a product brand, sometimes it’s the organization’s overall corporate brand.

I like how my fellow brand consulting friend Judy Leidy puts it, “A brand promise is communicated internally but experienced externally.”

It’s important to note that a brand promise is an internal statement and usually the tagline is based on the brand promise.

A key challenge when writing a brand promise is making it lofty yet believable and achievable. How much “stretch” do we put in here? Can we really be all that? Can this apply to ALL of our customers? These are common concerns.

Some of my favorite brand promises are from Coke, Google, Patagonia and the Ritz Carlton and they’re only 6-9 words each.

Coke, “To inspire moments of optimism and uplift.”
Google, “Provide access to the world’s information in one click.”
Patagonia, “We provide for environmentally responsible adventure.”
Ritz Carlton, “Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.”

Those 6-9 little words are some of the hardest words you’ll ever write in marketing. Why? One word: commitment.

Some clients have a real fear of committing to something higher and more permanent than advertising or a blog post. But when they do, a lot of things suddenly come into much sharper focus. And marketing the brand becomes easier.

Four things a brand promise must be:

Compelling to your buyers. The brand promise has to be something that paying customers actually care about.

Clear with no room for misinterpretation. It has to be so crystal clear that anyone hearing or reading it will “get” it without explanation. This includes the newbie employee who may know little about the brand, to the organization’s most seasoned veteran.

Concise in language. In order for employees to remember a brand promise, brevity is critical. I worked for a cruise company almost 20 years ago and I STILL can recall their brand promise, “A spirit cruise is a different way to have a good time.” This brand promise was translated into their marketing tagline, “Something Different. Something Fun.”

Credible coming from you. If your brand promise is so “out there” that no one will take you seriously, there’s no point in making the promise. Vet your brand promise candidates by determining if there are at least 3 key reasons (based in facts) to believe that promise.

My challenge to you is to consider, what is YOUR brand promise? Look at your mission and vision statements as starting points; these often have the essence of the promise already in them.


About Pecanne Eby, MBA

Pecanne (yes, that’s her real name!) founded Brand Mentoring so she could teach clients how to build buzzworthy brands and STOP looking and sounding like everyone else. Her motto is, “Great marketing always begins with a great brand.” Her favorite subjects include brand positioning, brand promise, brand essence, value propositions, brand archetypes, brand families and graphic brand identity! Pecanne is always open to conversations with potential new clients and speaking to groups about brand building. Her latest talk is, “How to escape the marketing commodity trap” Call 303-482-2753 or email Pecanne@brandmentoring.com for more information.

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