Promise me anything, but keep that promise

The first step in building a strong brand for your business is deciding on your brand promise: what is it, exactly, that you are promising your customers?

Two restaurants might be equally successful in the same market with two very different brand promises: Micky’s Place promises fast and affordable family meals; Chez Pierre promises authentic French cuisine in an intimate setting. The food at Micky’s is kid-friendly, the decor is bright and lively, the service is quick, and the prices are low. There is no duck a l’orange at Micky’s Place. At Chez Pierre, the food is exquisite, the service is leisurely, the decor is elegant, and the prices are high. There are no crayons and paper placemats at Chez Pierre. The brand promise in each case is communicated through the choice of the name, the look of the premises, the attitude of the staff, the nature of the menu, and the look and feel of the advertising. And because the promise is consistently fulfilled in the dining experience, customers go away happy.

Generally, your brand promise should focus on what sets you apart from your competitors: a competitive advantage (for example, faster service, cheaper prices, or better quality products) or a specialization (for example, French cuisine, pizza, or sushi). If there are a dozen French restaurants in your market, that’s not specialized enough; now you must position yourself as the French restaurant that welcomes children, or the French restaurant with the lowest prices, or the French vegan restaurant (perish the thought).

To be effective, your brand promise must meet three criteria. 1. First, it must be relevant to your target audience. Market research – even an informal survey of your own customers – can give you priceless infor- mation about what people want, and what needs you can meet. If your product or service meets a real need, then your promise becomes relevant and meaningful. 2. Second, the brand promise must be believable. If you claim to have the lowest prices and also the highest quality product, no one will believe you. If you claim to do all things well, you’ll be perceived as a jack of all trades, master of none. Identify your strengths, and focus on what you do best. 3. Finally, the brand promise must be deliverable. In every customer experience, in every encounter with the brand that is your business, you must keep the promise you have made to your customers. A kept promise makes for happy customers, good word of mouth, repeat business, and high staff morale.