Keeping Your Promises in The Tale of Two Brands

The brand you define through your marketing is a promise.

It represents who you aspire to be as an organisation, why you do what you do and how you are going to it for the potential customers in your market.

However, in this connected consumer world, there is another powerful brand of “you.” This is the brand that your customers define and that represents their experience of who you really are, what you really did and how you really did it. This version of your brand tells you how well you honoured that marketing promise.

This is the tale of two brands.

Brand 1: The Brand You Influence, But Don’t Own

The definition of you, your service or product – your brand – was long considered something controlled by the all-powerful marketer. Today it is controlled by the consumer. Or, at the very least the communication of how you would like your brand to be defined is now in their hands.

That definition of you, your company and its services for that always online, connected consumer is not just formed by that cool TV actor that with a wink, brings trust to a tagline as he makes it sound like something he would say, but by the experience their neighbour had when they called support, that viral YouTube video that shows an employee asleep on the job or how they couldn’t figure out how to connect to their TV from the manual.

This means that the contemporary marketer can no longer simply buy the best ad space, a commercial during the super bowl or every bill board between here and Tallahassee to build a brand.

So are these dark days for marketing? A dinosaur as relevant as the cigarette on Don Draper’s lip or maybe even references to Don Draper in marketing blog posts?

Brand 2: The Brand You Own, The Promise You Make

There is a part of that brand conversation that the marketer owns that has not changed – that is the promise.

The promise that the super bowl ad makes of what kind of company you are, the quality of your products or the company you keep.

However, as Seth Godin warns:

Some organizations work very hard to weasel in the promises they make. They imply great customer service or amazing results or spectacular quality, but don’t deliver. No, they didn’t actually lie, but they came awfully close. The result: angry customers and negative word of mouth.

In short, the customer experience that follows the promise your marketing team made is how you keep the brand promise.

Acknowledge The Dual-Brand View

In the world of two brands and the connected consumer, the world will know if you don’t keep your promises, and the next time marketing makes a promise it will fall on cynical ears.

The media – and social media in particular – loves when brands fall short of their promise and they are able to juxtapose the marketing promise against some customer service faux par.

The TSA agent asleep at an airport security desk is juxtaposed against the promise of vigilance from Homeland Security is an obvious example, or when UK smoothie maker Innocent, with its wholesome quirky, real fruit image made reference to crack cocaine in response to a tweet about its pricing and a journalist from the Daily Mail (a UK tabloid with over 356,000 Facebook likes) writes:

The company’s suggestion that it sells the illegal drug crack cocaine on the black market goes against everything Innocent stands for. It’s strapline on the website reads: ‘We’re here to make it easy for people to do themselves some good.’

A marketing tagline like this that says one thing, combined with a joke gone wrong on Twitter, is a gift for a journalist. The “sensational” story writes itself!

This gap between the brand promise and the experience isn’t just exploited by the established media, as in the examples above, nor does it need to be a big public misstep – it’s how we all act on social media.

A budget hotel that doesn’t quite clean the room as you would like – meh, well what do you expect? A Marriott does it, then we reach for Twitter.

Do it right – from the usual suspects of Apple to Zappos – and you recruit an army of fans and customers that want to believe in the promise and will help you protect the brand that you don’t control.

Fail to keep that promise and you’ll spend more time trying to keep up and reconcile your two brands in the market.

Turn your customers into protectors of your brand: Keep your promises.


Twins image by ThatMakesThree shared under creative commons licence.

This article originally appeared in InsideCXM.

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