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The importance of keeping a brand promise

In today's competitive landscape, companies need to keep their promises to ensure they retain the trust of their customers.

As a business grows, it becomes harder to maintain meaningful customer relationships. At the same time, customer...

expectations are higher than ever, so the quality of these relationships will determine whether customers remain customers over the long term.

As a result, organizations are trying to find ways to build trust with customers. Building trust enables companies to charge higher prices or sell longer term services. But as hard as it is to win customer trust, it can be easily lost. A single bad customer experience can ruin a relationship. A key element of building customer trust is crafting a brand promise that encompasses the company mission as a whole. According to a recent report by Gallup, a brand promise represents everything a company stands for.

Yet Gallup found that "only half of customers believe that the companies they do business with always deliver on what they promise." When asked, only 27% of employees strongly agree that they always deliver on the promises they make to their customers.

Brand promises matter to customers

Some of the most recognizable brands in the world have crafted a brand promise that has won them lifelong customers through decades of building customer trust, making brand promises a major differentiating factor for customers. A Harris Poll EquiTrend study on the top 10 most trusted packaged goods brands reported that the brands that men and women trust are those with a long history of consistently delivering on a brand promise.

People don't just buy products anymore. They buy the companies that make products, the values they represent and what they stand for.
Ron Guirguisformer Edelman executive

Brand promise is especially important to luxury brand customers, as a MediaPost study that analyzed 10,000-plus consumer conversations on social media found that brand promise is the most important benefit category for those companies, with 42% of conversations on this topic.

So, why are consumers still avid believers in brand promise? Trust. Consumers keep buying from a company when they think that it has delivered on its brand promise. But customer trust must be earned, not bought, and because of this, there is authenticity in what the brand promise represents.

Delivering on a brand promise

Trust is one of the key factors cited again and again when it comes to consumers buying into a brand promise. VoC Relationship Research determined that companies must earn customer trust but must realize some facts and strategies first:

  • Trust is the foundation and prerequisite for obtaining deeper engagement with customers.
  • Consumers want brands to deliver on the fundamental brand promise consistently over time.
  • Customers want improved experiences. They want companies to recognize and use their stated preferences and dislikes to improve the quality of service interactions.
  • Data security is a top priority to customers. Companies must explain the reasons for opt-in information requests and assure customers of the privacy and safety of their data.

Even when customers are choosing between products in a seemingly equal environment, the emotional connection they get from a brand promise is the differentiator. The Reader's Digest U.S. Trusted Brands survey reported that 79% of participants said they opt for a "trusted" brand when choosing between items of equal quality and price. Conversely, a report by Credit Suisse regarding falling trust in large food companies cited that the largest 25 food companies saw their control slip from a combined 49.4% share in 2009 to 45.1% share in 2014.

"We are well aware of the mounting distrust of Big Food," said Denise Morrison, CEO of Campbell Soup Co. "We understand that increasing numbers of consumers are seeking authentic, genuine food experiences, and we know that they are skeptical of the ability of large, long-established food companies to deliver them."

The way consumers form an opinion about companies has shifted from a product-centric viewpoint to that of the quality of the service and overall experience. "People don't just buy products anymore," said Ron Guirguis, former managing director of corporate and public affairs at advertising agency Edelman. "They buy the companies that make products, the values they represent and what they stand for."

Key takeaways

Consumers' trust in a brand promise is their top priority when deciding whether to do business with a company. But trust cannot be assumed or bought. It needs to be earned through actions that display transparency and make the customer feel valued. Offering products or services for free, through a promotion or loyalty program, wins customer trust. But when the word free comes with caveats and small print, the brand promise can be undermined and trust can be eroded.

Companies must be consistent with what they promise to customers. It is not about fulfilling the promise once and moving on to the next campaign. Crafting a brand promise means following through on a sustained building of trust that nurtures customer loyalty.

Marketers need to rethink brand strategies to ensure that they deliver on promises. Kept promises are strengthened. Broken promises diminish a company's reputation in and set the stage for a long and potentially impossible win back.

Next Steps

Are your omnichannel marketing practices up to snuff?

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How to align marketing and sales

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This was last published in November 2015

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Essential Guide

Guide to customer experience management best practices, technologies

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