More than empty words

Brand promises must be kept

  • Markenversprechen müssen gehalten werden

Mi­cha­el Ruet­ti | 5. Sep­tem­ber 2022 | 4 min read­ing time


Throw out all the com­plic­ated brand mod­els. It takes ac­tu­ally very little to get people to like you and talk about you. But, it has to be done right.

When was the last time a brand vis­ion or mis­sion state­ment in­spired your life? For me: nev­er. And my ob­ser­va­tions in my per­son­al en­vir­on­ment sup­port this an­swer: most people don't even know why these brand strategy con­structs, sys­tem­at­ics, etc. ex­ist, let alone un­der­stand them.


For­get com­plic­ated brand mod­els

I've been in brand con­sult­ing for 20 years and have en­countered many dif­fer­ent brand mod­els and plat­forms - most of them com­plex and/or in­flex­ible. Some even dog­mat­ic. I have the im­pres­sion that many of the mod­els are very of­ten a way for con­sult­ants (or uni­versity pro­fess­ors with side jobs) to present them­selves as in­dis­pens­able. The idea be­hind this ap­proach is simple: any­one can do it if it looks too easy. But if no one un­der­stands it, then it must be sci­en­tif­ic. This is bizarre, but it still works as a busi­ness mod­el for many agen­cies and con­sult­ants. 


A look back

Where did it all come from? In the early days, which las­ted un­til the late 1970s, mar­ket­ing was all about the product. Hardly any­one talked about brand­ing, and if they did, it was al­ways in con­nec­tion with a phys­ic­al product, its be­ne­fits and its fea­tures. In the 1980s, the fo­cus shif­ted to the im­age. The mar­ket­ing in­dustry real­ized that if the im­age and product fea­tures don't match, then you won't be liked. And this even be­fore the era of Face­book!. A simple mis­match between prom­ise and ex­per­i­en­ce led to frus­tra­tion. People turned away and kept their wal­lets closed from brands that prom­ised too much. Then, in the 1990s, the con­ver­sa­tion shif­ted to brand iden­tity, as defined by brand val­ues. Fi­nally, every oth­er brand had qual­ity and flex­ib­il­ity at its core. We should be thank­ful that this story has not re­peated it­self in the cur­rent mil­len­ni­um. In­stead, a paradigm shift took place in the 2000s that is still on­go­ing: the dis­cov­ery of the user.

What does it really take to build a brand? An­swer: A clear prom­ise. Noth­ing more, noth­ing less. In do­ing so, you need to com­bine two per­spect­ives: 

  1. What your brand wants to con­vey 
  2. What im­pact you will have on your users. 

It's all about in­ter­ac­tion. So­cial in­ter­ac­tion.


A brand is a prom­ise

A brand is not defined by a phrase on a piece of pa­per, but by what people ex­per­i­en­ce in their hearts and minds. Don't worry too much about hav­ing the right tool. Con­sider the role your brand can play in the lives of the people you are tar­get­ing. If you're not rel­ev­ant to their lives, why should they care about you? Con­sider what im­pact your brand can have. Then for­mu­late a con­cise and rel­ev­ant prom­ise aimed at the users per­spect­ive. This prom­ise is the guide and found­a­tion for everything you build, be it com­mu­nic­a­tions, product fea­tures, brand design or any­thing else. You must de­liv­er on this prom­ise to cre­ate a com­pel­ling user ex­per­i­en­ce. If you suc­ceed, people will like you and talk about you, and you will reap the re­wards.


The more con­crete, the more ef­fect­ive 

When you define your prom­ise, be hon­est with your­self and in­volve your em­ploy­ees. Be­cause it is them who will carry the prom­ise in­to the mar­ket. A prom­ise must be clear and un­der­stand­able to every­one, re­gard­less of wheth­er it comes from a star­tup or a large cor­por­a­tion. Noth­ing is worse than a com­pany with mul­tiple prom­ises. In the end, a prom­ise must be spe­cif­ic and clearly meas­ur­able. 

So a Swiss brew­er should not say: "We want to be­come the best brew­er in Switzer­land". It would be bet­ter to say, "We want to be the largest pro­du­cer of premi­um beer in Switzer­land by 2023." If the whole com­pany shares this prom­ise, it will be easi­er for all em­ploy­ees to make in­de­pend­ent de­cisions to check wheth­er the goals are be­ing achieved.