Joshua Conran is the Managing Partner at Deksia.View all articles written by this author
A brand promise matters drastically. The sharper point you can put on your promise, the more in tune you’re going to keep your messaging. If you have a ridiculous promise (or if you’re not quite sure what your promise is), when you need to do something like design a website, you don’t really know why you’re making the choices you are. Most likely, you’ll end up making something that looks great, functions well and, more often than not, won’t communicate to your target audience. You can design something with all the bells and whistles, but if it doesn’t communicate to the people you’re trying to reach, who cares?
It’s equally important to keep in mind that you can’t have a generic brand promise like “good customer service.” It has to be something you can build on a little bit, and it depends on the industry that you’re in. Let’s consider Seinfeld’s mythical Soup Nazi. He doesn’t promise great customer service; he promises the best soup. That’s a viable platform. You can be the best at something, and people will come and get it in spite of factors like long lines and rude service.
But if you were also in the soup business, and somebody else is already the best and somebody else in already the cheapest, you wouldn’t necessarily want to be either of those things, unless you truly knew you could be the best or the cheapest. You should try instead to distinguish yourself with something different, like good food and great customer service.
If you have place in your town that has the best soup, but customers have to stand in line 20 minutes to get it, maybe you’re focus should be on faster service. People still like soup; but do you have to have the best soup every time you eat? A customer in line at the Soup Nazi’s place will look across the street at your place and think, “people are getting in and out in 15 minutes. That’s what I need right now and that’s what I want right now.”
When you have that kind of brand promise, it acts as the foundation for the messaging you send out. If you go into a place that looks like McDonald’s, but once inside you find there’s going to be a 45-minute wait, you’re going to think that’s unacceptable and leave. Likewise, if you dine at a restaurant with immaculate décor, great menus and amazing ambience, but they serve you the equivalent of a Big Mac and charge you $40, you’ll probably be irate and never go back.
Now that’s we’ve gone through the four steps of brand research and arrived at the big idea, what’s the next step? Now that you’ve established this brand promise, where do you go from here? Everything you do from now on should be viewed through the lens of the big idea. Does a certain initiative match up? Can we surmise that what we’re trying to do is actually in line with our brand promise? From here, you can revisit your current brand and all your current marketing; or if you’re a new company, then you can start developing an actual brand.
It’s like a first-day-of-the-rest-of-your-life kind of thing. The brand promise, or big idea, will be the guiding principle that will help you build a distinctive business that can carve out a place in the market.