Make a Brand Promise Or They’ll Make It For You

I’ve read more “Brand Promise Examples” articles than most and while some offer valuable branding insights, most fail to capture what a “brand promise” actually is for the reader.

First, let’s clear up what a brand promise is not:

Just Do It
Because You’re Worth It
I’m Lovin It
The Ultimate Driving Machine
Think Different

These are all great examples of taglines, though taglines are not brand promises (unless of course they make an actual promise, but we’ll get into that later).

Taglines are designed to either solidify a position or own an idea (or both) in the mind of the intended audience.

A brand promise, on the other hand, is a promise (either literal or implied) made by the brand to deliver on a brand experience for the audience.

See the difference?

The tagline wants to own a position or idea.

The promise commits to delivering on an experience.

The main reason so many people confuse the “brand promise” and the “tagline” is that the brands that take the time to articulate their promise, often use it as their tagline.

If the audience remembers the promise, they remember the value associated with the promise and ultimately the position or idea the brand wants to own.

That said, this doesn’t mean that all taglines are therefore promises.

“Just Do It” is an Idea that Nike owns.

It’s a call to action for their customers to stop making excuses and to go out and achieve whatever goals they have.

This is not a promise but an association with an idea that we can all “Just Do It”.

Very few brands are crystal clear on a promise they want to make to their audience and fewer still are confident enough to verbalize that promise for fear of falling short.

So what does this mean?

It means that the brands that are both clear about a promise they want to make and more importantly are confident in keeping it; are a at a distinct advantage to own the value associated with the experience that promise will deliver.

Although all strategic brands define a position they want to own in the mind of their audience, few ever verbalise a promise of the experience they want to provide.

Through the position they take, the values they portray and the communication they deliver, the overall experience they promise is implied.

In other words, anything a brand says or suggests it is, is a promise to deliver on that communication.

It also means that the promise is open to the interpretation of the audience who may assume different expectations.

If you don’t articulate the promise of your brand experience for your audience, your audience decides what it is you promise.

This thought process is aligned with Marty Neumeier’s idea that:

“A brand is not what you say it is, It’s what they say it is”.

Most brand promise examples offered up on the web, don’t address the fact that most brand promises are unspoken.

If you are crystal clear about a promise of a certain experience your audience can expect from your brand, then verbalizing that promise has distinct advantages.

When your audience hears your brand promise and the subsequent commitment to the promise through communicating it, they are left in no doubt as to the experience they can expect from your brand.

Brand Promise As A Tagline

Although most taglines aren’t promises, some of the most Iconic taglines are.

If your promise is concise and memorable enough it can be adopted as your tagline to help your brand to corner that commitment in the mind of your audience.

No matter how you define and distribute your brand promise, how it's perceived and the expectations that are applied is a critical key in cementing your position and reputation. Don't sleep on your promise, be clear both internally and externally.

Brand Promise As A Statement

A brand promise can also be articulated in a brand promise statement, which is separate from the tagline.

This statement can be used both internally and externally to clarify the brand’s commitment to the experience being provided.

Whether or not you articulate your promise, you can rest assured your audience will assume your commitment to one.

Whether your brand articulates it or your audience assumes it, you had better be keeping it.

Love them or loath them, McDonald’s has evolved to become a modern and defined brand with clear distinctions in the elements of their brand outlined here:

Brand Mission:
“To be our customer’s favourite place and way to eat”.

Brand Tagline:
“I’m Lovin’ It”

Brand Promise:
“To provide Simple Easy Enjoyment to every customer visit”

McDonalds have clearly defined their promise around what their customers can expect from an experience with McDonald’s.

They’ve kept it simple without overcommitting to ensure that promise is protected and delivered on time and again.

Not only do they have a clearly defined promise, they match it with consistent commitment to that promise which is unparalleled.

Every brand makes a promise. Whether you take the time to articulate your promise or not, your audience will make an assumption of a promise made.

Not every brand needs to articulate their promise. For some brands, an articulated promise might work against it if the ability to deliver consistently is not there.

For those who have unwavering confidence in their ability to deliver however, a well-articulated promise helps to shape the expected experience in the mind of their audience.

Such promises don’t just help the brand to solidify it’s position. They align the brand to a specific experience and subsequent emotions.

What experience and emotions would your brand benefit from being associated with?

If you haven’t made one, what assumptions will your audience make and can you deliver on those assumptions?

Do you believe an articulated promise or an assumed promise is more powerful?

Let me know  email me a comment!