Bryan Taylor

3 Ingredients of a Great Promise

A brand, when reduced to its most elementary definition, is simply a collection of perceptions. We probably all have fairly similar perceptions that come to mind when someone says Patagonia, Puma, or Panama Jack. And we likely have conflicting perceptions when we say the words Republican and Democrat. But all together, these collected perceptions make up how we define these respective brands.

It once was expected that companies could tell people how they should think of their brand — think of most advertising from the dawn of TV through the end of the 20th century. “Buy this and be cool.” “Buy this and feel magical.” “Buy this and save your marriage.”

But with the internet has come an inversion. Now “the people” have the microphone and get to decide who you are, what you really value, what they think of your values, and announce to others whether they should consider your brand.

This inversion leaves brands with nothing more than a promise to offer. Brand A can offer Promise X, but then consumers will decide whether you truly deliver on that promise or not. So carefully consider the promises you make.

There are three ingredients to a great promise:

1) Be Authentic

We at Drawn are big on authenticity — you can read more on why here, here and here. If you aren’t promising something that others will find authentic and real, your promise will be experienced as fraudulent and you will have to continually shift your promise to find consumers.

At Drawn, we once worked with a company that made beautifully crafted home goods. They were all hand-crafted, one-by-one, except for one product that a particular vendor had requested from them. To lower the cost, this company was purchasing cheap imitations and adding their logo in order to make the sale. That small decision was making their entire company vulnerable. By selling cheap imitations, they were sending hundreds of messages out into the world that their brand was not fully committed to the hand-crafted excellence they had long claimed.

2) Be Relevant

Promising the moon when you actually offer the sun is a never a successful formula. Keep your promise relevant to you, and keep it relevant to your audience today. Your promise doesn’t have to change over time, but it does have to match and connect as you adapt and your audience evolves.

Today happens to be two days after Valentine’s Day, and the flower shop under our office has bouquets marked down 75%. That is relevant. They stocked up for a busy occasion, and now have perishable goods to move. But anyone giving belated flowers today will be sending a very different message than the one that would have been communicated a couple of days ago.

For more of brand relevance, read consultancy KLM’s insightful article on the subject here.

3) Over Deliver

Dan Formosa wrote an excellent article in Fast Company where he argued that a company’s product has now returned front and center to the message. “Lots of brands are okay. Fewer are good. Relatively few are great. The hallmark of a great brand is that it makes great promises, then over-delivers.” We couldn’t agree more.

Dusty Smith is a local mortgage broker who offers something different, “All of the same mortgage opportunities without the city-slick pitch.” The differentiation is clear, and the experience doesn’t disappoint. Even after closing a loan through Mr. Smith, clients are sent a box of pastries from a local baker (also a former client) as a welcome home gift and appreciation for the business. It is these kinds of small, unexpected, over-delivering actions that earn loyalty for life.

In order to make a great brand promise, you need an authentic message, one that is real and relevant to both you and to your audience, and then you need to over deliver on the promised experience. That final experience will provide these people, the ones now holding the microphone, with the words to share to all of the other people wondering whether they should trust you and your brand promise.