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Brand Promise Definition

Updated on September 27, 2015
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Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker with over 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, advertising and public relations.

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Why is a brand even necessary? Can't a business gain customers because of what they offer? That may have worked decades ago when there was just one provider of a product or service. Today, there can be 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?

"Every Day 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. For Walmart, they are 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 their promise to customers and other stake holders 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.

Read More About Branding and Corporate Social Responsibility

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 (as Walmart is) is not compatible with their mission and values. Don't expect cheap Apple products any time soon. (Sorry!)

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 an outside marketing or advertising consultant to assist.

The way a business presents and packages itself (often referred to as trade dress) is a reflection of the company's brand and brand promise.
The way a business presents and packages itself (often referred to as trade dress) is a reflection of the company's brand and brand promise. | Source

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 "Every Day 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 their 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. Click here for key elements of a great corporate logo.
  • 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. Click here for branding color tips to save money.
  • 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 their 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 actually 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 features all their programs to help dogs, including helping shelter dogs find homes.

Disclaimer: Any examples used are for illustrative purposes only and do not suggest affiliation or endorsement. The author/publisher has used best efforts in preparation of this article. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and all parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice, strategies and recommendations presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional adviser where and when appropriate. The author/publisher shall not be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. So by reading and using this information, you accept this risk.

© 2013 Heidi Thorne

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    • Kasman profile image

      Kas 3 years ago from Bartlett, Tennessee

      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.

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      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!

    • tranthanhlam profile image

      Tran Thanh Lam 23 months ago from Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam

      that's great post you make about brand promise!

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 22 months ago from Chicago Area

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

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