Strategy drives an organization. This has become business gospel. It has also led to pigeonholing management of ‘brand promise’ as a communication issue, rather than a key strategic lever that can drive process refinement throughout a company.
Imagine getting a promise from someone you don’t know. How valuable is the promise, what does it mean? You evaluate it based on factors such as the giver’s integrity, politics, past experience, corporate culture, and even the conditions under which it was made. A promise made anonymously, lightly or from someone unreliable doesn’t carry weight.
Similarly, your brand is the summation of promises made to a consumer through previous use, contact, communication, word-of-mouth and possibly a bit of fantasy on their part. So ‘Brand Promise’ will not affect consumer opinion of your brand if your corporate culture, product attributes and service delivery don’t align with the promise.
In other words: Brand-is-Promise and Promise-is-Brand.
Communication professionals love spelling out your Brand Promise. I’ve used it (fair disclosure!) It is powerful shorthand for what a communicator wants to focus the market’s attention on – in other words; it is a focused communication strategy. Used this way, it fits what your brand can and does mean in the marketplace. Through internal coordination and adoptions it helps drive innovation throughout your organization to more successfully deliver to the promise. It adds depth to brand reputation building on past promises implied and fulfilled.
Implemented poorly, it panders to what we believe consumers want to hear. It is not part of the delivery and development process for your entire organization. It is an empty promise, which can cause immediate harm to your Brand. Another trap of poorly implemented Brand Promise is that it can focuses corporate attention on a single attribute of your brand while leaving supporting factors to wither. For example, a brand promise of highest quality workmanship encouraging a company to miss opportunities to reduce costs.
Why do companies fall into the Brand Departmentalization Trap?
First – belief that Brand Promise (or Image) is the complete responsibility of any specific internal or external organization. Second – belief that customer understanding of Brand Promise (or Image) is driven primarily by media or other customer communication.
How do you avoid departmentalizing your Brand?
- Understand that Brand is a company wide strategy that is affected by every process, employee, supplier and interaction within your company.
- Every organization in your company must know they affect your Brand and be actively engaged to discover new ways to improve all attributes of the brand.
- Another way to think about the above points: All companies develop a communication plan for building and enhancing brand. You must also build an operations plan for building and enhancing brand. (You wouldn’t create a financial plan without having each department create a budget would you?)
- While your marketing organization is probably in the best position to understand and communicate what your brand image is, they are often in a poor position to drive operational improvements that can change the image. This is important to know although solutions differ by company.
It is natural for companies to develop structures that efficiently relegate operational responsibility for tasks to specific people. When talking about Brand it is important to avoid this impulse and spread responsibility far and wide. By motivating and encouraging your workforce to become a Creative Organization, your entire operation will understand and improve their contribution to Brand and Promise.