By Katrina Olson

Quiz: Can you identify these brands?

Let's start with a simple quiz. Can you identify these companies based on their brand promises? (Warning: They start easy and get harder, so you get a few hints.)

  1. Better Ingredients, Better Pizza.
  2. 15 minutes could save you 15 or more on car insurance
  3. Save money. Live better.
  4. The ultimate driving machine
  5. Think different
  6. Low fares (airline)
  7. To inspire moments of optimism and uplift (beverage)
  8. Daily Inspiration (beverage)
  9. To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world (sportswear)
  10. To be the premier sports and entertainment brand that brings people together, connecting them socially and emotionally like no other. (sports league)

(See end of article for answers.) How did you do?

Everyone wants to be their customers' supplier of choice, only source, or one stop shop that "provides solutions or meets their needs." The problem is, if everybody says this, it's meaningless.

What do your customers want? And what will make you stand out from the competition? You must dig deep to find what you do better than anyone else—the reason your customers keep coming back. This is your "brand promise."

Your brand promise is the stripped down version of everything you claim to be or do. If you've ever created customer personas, you've answered questions like: What are their values? What are their challenges and pain points? What frustrates them or stresses them out? What keeps them up at night?

Your brand promise is the intersection of what your customers want and need, and what you offer that's different or better than everybody else.  

Finding a unique brand promise is especially hard for electrical distributors. Unless you specialize in green technology, a certain product type (e.g. wiring or conduit), or area of expertise (e.g. solar), you're competing with similar companies, offering similar products, with similar service capabilities.

A few distributors have approached this challenge by connecting with customers on a more intangible, emotional level:

  • "Everything you need to succeed."
  • "Here to help. Always."
  • "Giving you confidence: Reliable service and help in critical moments."

If they back these promises up with action and consistently deliver on their brand promise, they're onto something good.

Before committing to your brand promise, take a hard look in the mirror to make sure it satisfies the criteria below.

  • Relatable and relevant. It must be based on something perceived as important by your customers. If you don't know, ask them! Conduct a focus group, survey or personal interviews to find out why your best customers do business with you.

  • Grounded in reality. You must back up and prove your promise every day. If you promise to always be available or to help in critical moments, do you offer a 24-hour emergency customer service number? Or round-the-clock website chat, online ordering and account access? Actions really do speak louder than words.

  • Practical. It must be of practical use to customers. Can you help them work smarter or faster, save them time or money, or make their lives easier? This could be a combination of services like kitting and staging, online account management, customized billing by job or (their) customer. But it must be something they can really use.

  • Measurable. To effectively manage your brand promise, you must be able to measure it. That's easy to do with on-time delivery or fill rates; but what about those intangibles, like helpfulness or confidence? They're difficult but not impossible to measure. Consider an annual customer satisfaction survey or monitor your net promoter score to make sure you're maintaining your brand promise.

You can't be all things to all people. To rise above the noise and stand out in the marketplace, you need to identify that benefit that you and (ideally) no other company in your marketplace is claiming.

Once you've identified the brand promise, all of your marketing and everyone in your organization must reinforce it and prove it, every day. If you make a commitment to your customers and don't deliver, you'll lose them.

Allstate's "You're in good hands" slogan fails to ring true when they're ranked the worst insurance company in the country according to the American Association of Justice's (AAJ) report entitled, The Ten Worst Insurance Companies in America.

On the other hand, Virgin America airline delivers on its promise "to be genuine, fun, contemporary and different in everything we do at a reasonable price." Based on the spirit of founder Richard Branson, Virgin continues to be challenging, adventurous, witty and innovative, largely because of the people they hire and train.

What's your brand promise?

 

Quiz Answers:

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Olson is a marketing and public relations consultant, and principal of Katrina Olson Strategic Communications. She has written for tED magazine's print edition since 2005, judged tED magazine's Best of the Best Competition since 2006, and emceed the Best of the Best Awards ceremony for a total of seven years. She can be reached at Katrina@katrinaolson.com or via her website at katrinaolson.com.