Brands can act human-like in that they make implicit promises about what they can deliver. As former LoyaltyOne CEO Bryan Pearson wrote in the Journal of Consumer Marketing: “Frankly, a brand is a promise. And promises are meant to be kept.”
Advertisements usually make a promise, whether or not it’s stated outright. Think about the last beer commercial you watched. It probably showed people having a good time, implying that you’ll have a good time if you drink the advertised beer.
If you feel like a brand has broken its promise to you, chances are you thought twice about buying their product again. That’s why it can be helpful for businesses to think about what it means to have a truthful and effective brand promise.
What is a brand promise?
A brand promise tells your potential customers what they can expect to gain when they use your company’s goods or services. Most often, your brand promise will be implicit—that is, it will be subtly embedded in your brand identity rather than explicitly stated.
For example, your brand might promise to deliver emotional benefits like happiness or excitement. Consider an advertisement that shows contended customers sipping a bottle of beer on a beach. In addition to promising a refreshing beer, this image implicitly promises a relaxing emotional experience.
Why is a brand promise important?
A great brand promise will help motivate customers to buy your product. However, if the customer experience doesn’t meet the expectations of your brand promise, that could damage your company’s reputation and reduce your market share.
Your brand promise can help you clarify what makes your company stand apart from competitors. In doing so, you can draw your target audience to your product.
A written brand promise can also help you unify your team toward a common goal and help you focus your precious resources on what is most important for your brand strategy. In writing out a brand promise, you can clarify what your company believes and what your brand achieves. That’s why most successful companies put effort into developing compelling brand promises.
How is a brand promise distinct from a mission statement or tagline?
Mission statements and taglines share some features with brand promises but differ in essential ways:
Brand promise vs. mission statement
- How they’re similar: Brand promises and mission statements both communicate something about what a company intends to achieve.
- How they’re different: A brand promise emphasizes what the individual customer gains from consuming your product, while a mission statement makes general claims about the company’s impact on the world. Mission statements are more likely to be written down and available to the public, whereas a brand promise will often be implicit or team-facing. Written brand promises also tend to be shorter than mission statements.
Brand promise vs. tagline
- How they’re similar: Both brand promises and taglines tell customers something about what they can expect to gain from your product.
- How they’re different: Unlike a brand promise, a tagline is alwaysexplicit and audience-facing. Because a tagline is designed to capture the attention of potential customers—typically within an advertisement—it is especially important for taglines to be short and catchy.
Brand promise examples
Before you start thinking about what your own brand promise will look like, consider a few examples from the real world. Here are some great brand promise examples to inspire your own:
Geico’s entire marketing strategy is about helping its target customersave money. You may be familiar with Geico’s famous slogan: “Fifteen minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance.” This tagline suggests a deeper brand promise, and the obvious promise is that Geico will be less expensive than its competitors. With this clear and compelling benefit, Geico has quickly become one of the most recognizable brands in the auto insurance industry.
You might know that Apple has given us one of the most famous slogans of all time: “Think different.” This slogan has surely contributed to Apple's wild success in the computer industry. While this slogan takes the form of a command, it also subtly communicates a promise: If you use Apple products as intended, you will be inspired to be creative and make brave decisions.
Starbucks’ mission is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.” While this mission statement clearly defines the global impact that Starbucks hopes to achieve, it also shows you what you can expect to gain from Starbucks products as a consumer. In short, Starbucks implicitly promises that its coffee will help you feel inspired and nurtured.
Brooklinen is a popular brand that initially focused on bedsheets but has since expanded to sell towels, rugs, and loungewear. Brooklinen’s mission is to “deliver simple, beautiful, high-quality home essentials at a fair price.” In its social media posts and advertisements, the brand promises that, with Brooklinen products, you can live a luxurious lifestyle affordably.
UNTUCKit is a clothing brand with a founding mission of selling shirts designed to look good untucked. While the brand’s goal has always been simple and explicit—design shirts that don’t need to be tucked-in—the promise is somewhat subtle: you can feel casual and comfortable while still looking buttoned-up.
Features of a great brand promise
These are the building blocks of a successfulbrand promise:
The best brand promises are short and to-the-point. For example, when you think about BMW’s brand, you may recall that it promises an “ultimate driving machine.” This is a bold statement that communicates what BMW has to offer in a pithy and straightforward brand promise.
A strong brand promise identifies the needs of the company’s customers. Consider the new food company Huel, which promises to be a no-frills, efficient way to eat healthy food. As Huel’s CEO James McMaster puts it: “Huel is about tackling your most inconvenient meal of the day.”
Many great brand promises make tangible propositions the customer can measure. Consider the shoe company Allbirds. Its tagline is “The world’s most comfortable shoes.” A customer can easily see for themselves if the product lives up to the promise simply by trying on competitors’ shoes and comparing them to Allbirds’ products.
How to write a brand promise
- Imagine your target audience
- Brainstorm ideas
- Select the best ideas
- Finalize your brand promise
- Try it out
A well-articulated brand promisestates clearly and succinctly what a brand is all about. Your brand promise should unify all the various elements of your brand messaging. While there is no brand promise template, there are some steps you can take to write a compelling brand promise statement:
1. Imagine your target audience
Try to take the position of potential customers and consider their unfulfilled needs. This doesn’t have to be a thought experiment. Market research tools like Google Trends and Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) can help you determine your target market. Once you have a sense of your market’s demographics, consider conducting interviews to determine the psychographics or unmet needs of your likely customers.
2. Brainstorm ideas
Make a list of reasons why customers might be attracted to your brand and what makes your brand unique. If you have a mission statement or tagline, you can start by thinking about what promises you already communicate to your customers.
If you have a marketing team, include them in the brainstorming process. If your company is relatively small, consider asking for feedback from each employee. Great ideas can come from anywhere.
3. Select the best ideas
Revisit your list of ideas and highlight the items that still resonate with you or your team. Keep the two or three ideas you feel most excited about, and cut the ideas you aren’t so sure about. Repeat this process until you have landed on your favorite idea.
4. Finalize your brand promise
Try to capture the resonating theme in one short sentence or phrase. A great way to do this is to read it out loud and remove any words or phrases that sound odd to your ear. Edit your brand promise until it’s 10 words or fewer.
5. Try it out
If you intend for your brand promise to be audience-facing, consider testing it with a focus group. If you want your brand promise to unify your team or help streamline your operations, ask your employees for feedback. If they find it uninspiring or confusing, you might consider going back to the drawing board.
Brand promise FAQ
What is a brand promise?
A brand promise is an assurance about what customers can expect to gain from a product. Brand promises can be explicitly written out or implied in advertisements and marketing materials.
Do I have to write out my brand promise?
Plenty of companies don’t make their written brand promises available to a general audience. However, it can still be a good idea to write yours out, if only to clarify your brand purpose for yourself and your team.
How long should my written brand promise be?
Shoot for a brand promise that is 10 words or fewer. If you have a hard time making it this short, think more about what makes your brand distinct.