The Startup
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The Startup

Why keeping your Brand Promise matters to your business.

Broken promises never lead to anything good. A father who promises his son that he’ll be at his next game and never shows. A friend who promises to meet you at the movies but calls to cancel at the last minute. A daughter who promises her ailing mother that she’ll visit after work, but decides to stay late. It never leads to anything worthwhile — to anything cherished.

We could say the same about business. Breaking brand promises lead to feelings of disappointment, of dashed hopes and wilting expectations. Think about the last time you went to refill your bottomless happy hour special, only for them to tell you it’s sold out. Now multiply that feeling by 100. Yep, it leaves customers sad and second-guessing — which is the last thing you want from anyone deciding between you or that other guy.

Photo by Levi Alvarez on Unsplash

Every successful brand today comes with a promise — a commitment. If you’re guessing what a brand promise is — simply put — it’s a declaration and an assurance to your customers that you will hold yourself to a set standard. It’s an unspoken oath to provide that which they hold dear. It’s a public statement upheld in ink (or digital ink). It’s telling your customer that you value them. It’s a public statement shared on websites, billboards, corporate booklets, social media platforms, event banners, pens, flyers… you get the point.

In a world where competition is fierce and the majority of startups fail following launch, how can you as a new or young business make a brand promise that stands the test of time?


Now, I’m not going to tell you to make an outrageous guarantee that blows away your competition. I’m not going to tell you that — once you make your promise, there’s no turning back. Or tell you that this promise is final.

What I will tell you is that your promise needs to be workable, repeatable, and flexible. You must be able to execute on your brand promise, repeat it with a level of consistency, yet keep it flexible to change and adapt with your market and your product. Your brand promise should be the guiding light that informs how you operate.

Why would you commit to something you can’t do. Or worse, make false commitments that have nothing to do with your business.

So what’s your business about? Who do you serve? Why is it important to provide your customer with this particular service?

These questions (questions I often ask myself) help to open your eyes to the depth of your service, to your product and to your clients’ problems. Aligning your brand’s importance to the ones you serve help to steer your mind toward making the guarantees that really matter.

Understand what you value and how you enrich the lives of others. Understand that it’s more than a written promise. It’s a way of life. It’s the how that comes from the why.

The why enables you to create that pact with yourself and with your customer. The how is the way to provide that daily.

Once you’re able to figure out your promise, it’s time to actually get to work. Now comes the hard part — keeping that promise. Every. Single. Day.



There’s a reason why Forbes reported Apple as the most valuable brand in the world today (aside from their revenue figures of course)!

After the early years of reinventing their brand promise, they spent the past 3 decades working tirelessly to keep it. Apple worked to find out what their customers loved about them and their business, culture and operation. Apple even implemented their values and those which their cult-like following prizes in their 7 key-values write up. And I can bet you the house that it isn’t purely about their technology or design features.

Keeping brand promises is not about putting pen to paper and spreading the word. It’s not about providing the technology or the product itself. It’s the underlying value you provide through it. It’s the feeling or sentiment that drives customer action.

Photo by Alexander Redl on Unsplash

Apple’s mantra — “Think different” — embodies the values they prize and what they believe. It also emphasizes their culture to innovate or think outside the box (although things have slipped slightly since Mr. Jobs departed).

Nike’s mantra “Authentic Athletic Performance” inspires everyone to be an athlete, no matter their walk of life. It’s a promise that their products and service help make you feel and do as an athlete does.

So how can you make sure that your brand promise evokes emotion, embodies your business and drives your customer to act?

Focus your brand strategy on fulfilling your promise.

If you can align your brand strategy to your overall promise, you’ll find it easier to keep your promise at the forefront of your mind. You’ll be able to constantly reassess whether you’re on the right path while making subtle changes to your overall strategy when needed.

Create your company culture around the values that helped create your promise.

As a small or large company, it’s important to make sure that the values you believe in have an influence on your culture. This will enable you to be better equipped to focus on that brand promise as your business grows while empowering your team to act on those same values. Your team represents your company, and their interaction with customers should portray what you value and what your customers have come to expect.

Keep your hand, ears and eyes on the pulse.

One often-overlooked element many owners miss when talking about the emotional drivers and values within a company is data.

Find a way to capture feedback and data about your promise. Whether it’s adopting new policies or building systems that allow you to converse with customers, have a way to gather what’s important. Allow your team to go out, get customer reactions, start conversations and go deeper into your market.

Photo by Dmitry Schemelev on Unsplash


Keeping your brand promise often has 3 undervalued benefits. If you can keep your promise, these customer rewards will help you ride the wave during tough times and reach god-like status (at least among your devout customers).

The Benefit Of Trust.

The most important part of keeping any promise is trust. If you can keep your promises, you’ll be a trusted resource for your customers — with what they need, when they need it. Trust is one of the most difficult characteristics to earn. For a society that is frequently let-down or has numerous options, gaining trust can be the difference between profit and growth and breakeven or buried within your first year.

The Benefit of Reliability.

From trust comes reliability. Much like the person who continually lives up to their word, your brand will live up to the values they’ve proposed and live up to what your customer expects — every time.

A customer sensing or second-guessing would never turn to you in times of need. Need to make an on-demand purchase? Amazon. Need to get a quality pair of running shoes? Nike. Need to find the best plumber in your neighborhood? Uh, that one’s a bit hard to say — I’ll get back to you.

If you’re a reliable source over time, you’ll solidify your place as a top of mind resource and go-to authority for your product and service.

The Benefit of Customer Loyalty

With trust and reliability (and with either customer love for your product or the massive value you provide), you’ll build an army of loyal fans who trust and believe in you. Consistently living up to your word and keeping your promises enables even the harshest of critics to write good things about you. Your customers will continue to be delighted to the point where you become evangelized. They’ll roll out the red carpet for your product and make lines for blocks at your next product launch.

So let’s keep this in mind. Making a brand promise is not about putting pen to paper and spreading the word. It’s about the everyday micro-moments. There’s nothing worse for a brand than breaking promises to customers. Broken promises hit at your core, and can turn even your most loyal fan into the dreaded 1-start review.

This is not to say that one broken promise sinks your ship… but if you continue to neglect your end of the bargain, you can quickly end up like Theranos — no bueno!

Making and keeping promises in any business carries rewards of lifetime loyalty from those who care and need you most. So before you decide to make a brand promise, make sure it’s one you can keep and continue to keep for years to come.



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