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Definition of "Brand Promise"

Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker with over 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, advertising, and public relations.

What's brand promise?

What's brand promise?

Branding Is Everything

Why is a brand even necessary? Can't a business gain customers solely from the utility of its product or service?

That may have worked decades ago (when there was just one provider of a product or service). Today, there are sometimes dozens, hundreds, or thousands of providers, giving customers a lot of choices. Customers want to know if a business can deliver in a way that aligns with their expectations and attitudes. A company's branding helps answer that question, conveyed through the combination of logos, colors, customer service, advertising, and more... creating a brand promise to customers.

... a brand promise is more than just a tagline."

— Heidi Thorne

What Is a Brand Promise?

"Everyday Low Prices."

"Think different."

What company comes to mind with the first tagline? Probably Walmart (or a similar discount retailer). How about the second one? Of course, that's one of Apple's taglines. Both convey volumes about the companies that use them. Walmart is all about low prices. Over the years, Apple has thought differently to come up with some of the most innovative, even game-changing, computer and mobile devices.

Through these simple taglines which are part of their branding and advertising, each has made a brand promise to their customers, employees, and other stakeholders. It tells everyone what the companies think they are. And in both of these examples, what the companies think they are and what most everyone perceives them as are true. They have both made good on their brand promises.

But a brand promise is more than just a tagline. Everything about a business either fulfills or breaks its promise to customers and other stakeholders in the organization.

Example: Apple's clean, minimalist product and packaging design is in line with their brand promise and commitment to innovation, suggesting starting fresh with a clean slate.

Developing a Brand Promise

It all starts with a business' mission and values. Why does the company exist? What do they want to accomplish? These are fundamental questions and the answers to them do not change dramatically over time unless there is a desire to rebuild or refocus the company.

Look at the Apple example above. Innovation is at the heart and soul of their business. But innovation is expensive. So being a low-price leader (like Walmart) is not compatible with their mission and values. Don't expect cheap Apple products any time soon.

Once the business' mission and values are known, every other element of the business and branding program can be built upon it. Condensing these into a brand promise that is easily understood and accepted both inside and outside the business is a crucial first step. While it can be done in-house, many companies hire outside marketing or advertising consultant to assist.

Putting the Pieces Together

How can elements of a business' branding program confirm and convey a brand promise?

  • Tagline. The brand promise statement can easily become a company's advertising tagline, but it is not necessary. However, any additional taglines that may be developed for various ad campaigns should be compatible with the promise. Example: Walmart's main focus is "Everyday Low Prices." Their "Low Price Guarantee Backed by Ad Match" and "More Summer for Your Money" are additional taglines and campaigns that align with their core message.
  • Logo. Lines, shapes, and colors need to be carefully designed and combined to convey the business' promise quickly and effectively. Getting a logo professionally designed can be a significant investment, but one that can help a company spread its message for years to come. Example: Target's simple bullseye logo demonstrates how they can help their customers stay on target with their competitive pricing on everyday purchases.
  • Colors. When a logo is prepared by a graphic designer, usually suggestions will be made about colors that will be effective and compatible with the company's branding. Example: Apple's white minimalist look suggests a blank slate, in sync with their innovative brand that goes back to the drawing board to create something new.
  • Trade Dress. For products and physical locations, elements such as packaging, décor, and atmosphere (often referred to as trade dress) can confirm the message a company wants to make and deliver on its promise. Example: The dark woods and living room type furnishings in Starbucks convey good taste, comfort, and class in keeping with their leadership role as a gourmet coffee drink retailer and community meeting place.
  • Customer Service. A business' customer service policies and procedures must make good on the promises they make in their advertising. To do otherwise will break a brand. Example: Land's End's "Guaranteed. Period." no time limit return policy backs up their commitment to "unparalleled quality and value."
  • Advertising. Whether or not people buy the product, a business' advertising conveys its promises and passions to the public. Example: Pedigree Dog Food's brand promise is "everything we do is for the love of dogs," and their advertising and website feature all their programs to help dogs, including helping shelter dogs find homes.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2013 Heidi Thorne


Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on July 08, 2015:

Hello tranthanhlam! Thank you for the kind comments. Have a wonderful day!

Tran Thanh Lam from Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam on July 06, 2015:

that's great post you make about brand promise!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on June 15, 2013:

Aw, thanks, Kasman, for the nice comments and sharing! I'm guessing Apple's grammatical slip was intentional since it does break with convention... just like their products. Good observation! Have a great weekend!

Kas from Bartlett, Tennessee on June 15, 2013:

So this hooked me in at the title. I'm not sure why but I think it was because you tied apple to the message. You're absolutely right on in everything you said because even in the message that apple put out in their think different campaign, they didn't even use correct grammar. (Think differently). They got their point across even in that. I'm voting this up and sharing.