Soda? Gimme a Coke. Mobile phones? You should get an iPhone. That's the power of a strong brand promise. You become the defacto product in your category or industry. Think of it as another way to measure the impact of your marketing activities.
I spoke with seven branding experts in the B2B SaaS space to determine what constitutes a strong brand promise—including examples of those who’ve done it best—and how to create the right brand promise for your business.
What is a Brand Promise?
A brand promise helps customers and employees understand your brand perspective and what kind of brand experience to expect from your products or services.
As entrepreneur Seth Godin puts it, “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer's decision to choose one product or service over another."
So, an easy-to-understand brand promise is so important. It helps customers decide between buying from you or your competitors.
Unlike a tagline, an effective brand promise is not specifically sales-focused; instead, it’s a fundamental component of your brand identity and helps to determine your brand strategy.
According to HubSpot, there are three common types of brand promises:
- Emotional: A promise appealing to emotion
- Action-based: A promise tied to a specific action
- Social: A promise based on ethical or social responsibility
Brand Promise vs. Brand Identity
Your brand promise serves as the cornerstone of your brand identity. It’s a statement that communicates to your customers not so much about what you do but how you do it.
As Suraj Nair, Senior Digital Marketer SocialPilot, says, “Brand identity is the face; brand promise is the heart. It's not just about what you show but what you stand for. CMOs and marketing leaders can foster alignment by weaving the brand promise into the fabric of company culture.”
How a Winning Brand Promise Drives Brand Strategy
Crafting the right brand promise is key to executing your brand strategy. Here's why:
Prioritizes Your Market Positioning
Crafting an effective brand promise forces you to consider your positioning within the market. The best brand promises are unique and aim to solve problems or deliver specific outcomes.
By understanding what customers want—escapism, connection, or being as specific as wanting reliable car insurance—you can give them exactly that and beat your competitors.
The brand promise serves as a guiding principle for decision-making within your organization. It helps align all aspects of the business, from product development to marketing, with the intended customer experience.
A great example of this is Coca-Cola’s brand promise “to deliver moments of optimism and uplift.” Through this statement, Coca-Cola shifted from just another soft drink company to the channel to a better life for its consumers.
Defines the Customer Experience
Once you’ve determined your brand promise, your customer experience needs to deliver on it.
For example, FedEx’s brand promise is “delivered on time, every time.” Fedex’s service must be reliable for that statement to mean anything. Or it is empty rhetoric. Consistently acting in line with your brand promise will foster customer trust and build brand loyalty.
Encourages Employee Alignment
Your brand promise serves as a rallying point for employees, aligning them with the brand mission and values. It provides a shared understanding of the brand's purpose, fostering a sense of pride and commitment.
Helps Measure Performance
The brand promise serves as a benchmark for measuring the performance and success of the brand strategy. You’ll need to align key performance indicators (KPIs) with the brand promise to evaluate how well the brand meets customer expectations.
Acts as a Forcing Function for Your Branding Efforts
As “the world’s most refreshing beer,” Coors knows what its customers need.
While its claim may be slightly exaggerated, it helps the brand focus its efforts and work towards delivering on its promise. This act of focusing enables Coors to set itself apart from other beers on the market and provides a clear benchmark for the business.
How to Write a Winning Brand Promise
While coming up with your brand promise isn’t an exact science, there is a formula you can use to get you started.
Positioning + Vision + Value Proposition = Your Brand Promise
Creating a winning brand promise is a process, so don’t be afraid to try out a few different phrasings to see which feels most authentic to your brand.
To help you narrow it down, consider these questions:
- What do your customers expect from you?
- What are your company’s top values?
- What sets your business apart?
The following are examples of how some of the biggest brands in the world successfully applied this formula to develop their unique brand promise.
6 Brand Promise Examples Marketing Leaders Can Learn From
1. Disney – "The happiest place on earth."
Disney's brand promise is to provide visitors with a magical and joyful experience, whether at its theme parks, in movies, or through other entertainment ventures.
Through this mission statement, Disney makes a firm stand about the intentions behind their business practices and that customers’ needs are top of mind when making business decisions.
Part of Disney’s success is due to its omnichannel approach, striving for every customer interaction to be memorable. High-quality customer interactions at every touchpoint inspire moments of optimism and ensure the Disney name is synonymous with feelings of whimsy and childlike wonder.
By clearly defining its positioning as a family-friendly destination and offering a unique experience in suspended disbelief, Disney could conceive of its brand promise and provide a truly unique offering to its customers.
The takeaway: Consider how your customers interact with your business daily—whether through your website, their product experience, or when communicating with your customer service reps. Each of these moments is an opportunity to make an impact and demonstrate your ability to fulfill your brand promise.
2. Apple – “Think different.”
Back in 1997, when Apple devised this brand promise, it was certainly taking a risk.
Rob Siltanen, chairman and chief creative officer at Siltanen & Partners, recounts his experience of pitching the campaign concept to Apple’s executive team and the carefully construed brand promise. At the time, Apple had some bad press, with critics saying their products had no real computing power, comparing their computers to toys.
Siltanen recalls, “Apple’s situation was outright ugly. But through ugly situations come beautiful opportunities.”
At the time, IBM ran a campaign with the slogan “Think IBM.” Unlike more traditional computer companies, Apple positioned itself as a brand for creatives. Apple’s brand promise, “Think Different,” enabled them to further ingrain themselves with their primary target audience while remaining authentic.
The brand promise and campaign ended up being a resounding success, and Apple’s stock price tripled over the following year. Apple’s multi-colored iMacs became some of the best-selling computers in history.
According to Siltanen, “Without the “Think Different” campaign preceding and supporting them, it’s likely the jellybean-colored and gumdrop-shaped machines would have been viewed by the press and general public as just more “toys” from Apple.”
Apple embraced its identity as an oddball among the computer technology companies and, in doing so, was able to carve out a space for itself in the market.
The team at Apple had a clear understanding of their positioning in the market and a larger vision for the brand, and they knew what their product brought to the table. This allowed them to craft a winning brand promise that ultimately catapulted them to success.
The takeaway: Identify what makes your brand unique and use that as a launching point to determine your brand's promise and identity.
3. Nike – “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.”
When it comes to its brand promise, Nike puts its money where its mouth is. Nike does impactful work supporting its mission and as proof of its brand promise.
As Jorge Casimiro, NIKE, Inc.’s Chief Social and Community Impact Officer, says, “Nike’s [brand promise] is to bring innovation and inspiration to every athlete in the world. And if you have a body, you’re an athlete. The innovation is the work and partnerships that we’re doing. The inspiration is something we do when Nike shows up to talk about work.”
For example, Nike partnered with Mayor Garcetti and the city of Los Angeles on Women Coach LA to support the training of more female coaches, empowering girls by having them coached by someone who looks like them in the hopes that it might inspire them to extend their athletic career.
Through this example, Nike had a clear vision for its brand beyond that of the traditional apparel company. They intend to make a real impact in the community, and this approach guides their brand promise.
This way, Nike demonstrates that its brand promise is aspirational and achievable.
The takeaway: Alignment between business endeavors and community commitment has helped solidify Nike’s position as one of the world’s leading lifestyle brands. This alignment has fostered trust among their customers, resulting in unparalleled brand loyalty.
4. Slack – “Make work life simpler, more pleasant, and more productive.”
Jon Morgan, CEO of Venture Smarter, reminds marketers that your brand promise is flexible. He highlighted the importance of pivoting your brand promise to meet evolving market demands, as evidenced by Slack.
“Slack started as a gaming company called Tiny Speck, but realized that their internal communication tool was more valuable than their game. They rebranded themselves as Slack, a platform for team collaboration and productivity. They focused on their brand promise of making work simpler, more pleasant, and more productive.”
Slack’s determination to make work life easier for businesses worldwide and facilitate global collaboration has significantly contributed to the business’s rise to success over the last decade.
You can attribute this success to their strong brand promise. As remote work becomes the norm, their vision for a more pleasant work experience and their ability to deliver on this vision has enabled them to engrain themselves in the daily lives of workers worldwide.
They fulfill their brand promise by offering a straightforward user interface, helpful automated reminders, and integrations with third-party apps, enabling a seamless user experience.
The takeaway: Don’t be afraid to stray from your initial vision—agility and resilience are crucial to developing a successful brand promise.
5. Salesforce – “We make software to bring companies and customers together.”
Salesforce’s ascent to the pinnacle of the cloud software hierarchy is a testament to the potency of its brand promise.
While the product is valuable, their strategic brand positioning propelled them to unprecedented heights. Salesforce strategically positioned itself as the avant-garde software alternative, orchestrating "anti-software" rallies in the early 2000s, bringing awareness to challenges resulting from the dot-com bubble burst.
Salesforce won the respect of key stakeholders due to their willingness to take the initiative and assume a leadership role within the industry. Their actions also served to solidify their company values, demonstrating that they are, in fact, a business “for the people,” and that their vision for the company went beyond revenue.
By positioning themselves in opposition to traditional software companies, projecting their vision for a different type of relationship between software providers and customers, and offering a solid product, Salesforce has
Despite their modest size, they projected an aura of leadership, swiftly emerging as the preeminent company in the Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud domain.
The takeaway: Stake out a unique space within the market, and stay true to your vision and values as a company. You want your company to be the best it can be while still being your company. Operate in Integrity and alignment with your brand promise—customers will take notice.
6. Zoom – “We deliver happiness.”
Michael Wall, Founder of Codefixer, used a similar example, referencing Zoom’s change from a business-focused video conferencing service to a global communication platform. This example highlights the importance of staying on top of marketing trends and offering tailored brand messaging.
Michael explains, “Adaptability is essential in the ever-changing SaaS world. Examining successful pivots, such as Zoom's rebranding from enterprise-focused video conferencing to a worldwide communication platform catering to individual users, highlights the necessity of matching a brand promise with changing market demands. This adaptability enables SaaS companies to stay relevant while meeting the different needs of their user base.”
The brand’s vision of a more connected world attracted an unexpected demographic, leading Zoom to shift its business model. Offering individuals the ability to connect worldwide and for reasons other than work acted as a powerful accelerator for the business and has helped make Zoom a household name.
The takeaway: Adaptability is key for any SaaS business, and your brand messaging should evolve alongside your business.
Expert Tips to Maximize Your Brand Promise
How do you maximize the impact of your brand promise on your brand strategy efforts? The experts weighed in.
Use AI to Deliver Personalized Brand Experiences
The advancement of technology can help SaaS businesses strengthen their brand promise strategies, provided they’re using it correctly. According to Will Yang, Head of Growth and Customer Success at Instrumentl, the biggest challenge CMOs currently face is implementing AI technology to deliver a more personalized customer experience.
“The growth of SaaS has been a boon for marketers, who now have access to a whole new set of tools that allow them to collect data and track consumer behavior. But it's also put pressure on marketers to up their game in terms of delivering personalized, relevant experiences.”
Using artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate and optimize marketing processes and decisions can free up more time for creative thinking and implementing customer experiences that will move the needle on your marketing goals.
Measure the Impact of Your Brand Promise through Social Listening
Determining whether your brand promise has the desired effect and how your customers respond is important. “You can measure the impact of your brand promise on customer lifetime value and churn rates by monitoring how customers are talking about you on social media,” Yang suggests.
He continues, “If they're talking about how you've helped them in a way that aligns with your brand promise, then you're doing well! You can also see if there are any gaps in how your brand promise resonates with customers, or if your organization doesn’t meet their expectations.”
Ensure Your Brand Promise Disseminates through Your Organization
According to Sudhir Khatwani, Director of The Money Mongers, a great brand promise is embraced by everyone in your organization.
“To get everyone on board with our brand promise, I emphasize clear and consistent internal communication. We use customer stories and feedback in our meetings and workshops to make our brand promise relatable and real for all team members, not just those in marketing.”
Use Customer Data to Refine Your Brand Promise
Jon Morgan, CEO of Venture Smarter, says, “SaaS brands can leverage customer data to refine their brand promise for better market penetration by: segmenting their customers based on their needs, preferences, and behaviors; creating personalized and relevant messages and offers for each segment; testing and optimizing their value propositions and marketing channels; and measuring and analyzing the results of their campaigns.”
With this method, you can iterate your brand promise until it is attuned to your audience.
Align Your Business Activities with Your Brand Promise
After crafting a brand promise that resonates with your target audience, ensure your marketing, product, and customer experience are aligned. This consistent thread builds trust with your customer base and fosters brand loyalty.
To learn more about building a powerful brand, check out our curated selection of books about overcoming branding challenges.
Time to Build a Powerful Brand Promise
Congrats! You’re now well-equipped to start crafting your brand promise.
While there’s no specific template for a brand promise, keep referring back to the wisdom shared by our branding experts as you work through the process to fine-tune your brand promise and make it your own.
Once you’ve sorted your brand promise, you’re ready to build a solid brand marketing strategy.
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