branding strategy for your small business: the one biggest mistake marketers make

In previous posts, I’ve discussed what a brand is; it’s a set of emotions, images, values, feelings and memories in the consumers brain.

I’ve also elaborated around how your brand should be an essential promise that your small business makes to it’s current and potential customers.

However, in this post I want to point out the one biggest mistake frequently made by brands of all sizes. That is: they break their own brand promise.

Or rather, they communicate a brand promise that they cannot consistently uphold. Marketers, brand managers, ad agencies, and other communications professionals break or bend their fundamental brand promise in a variety of ways in a variety of advertising media every day.

The end result of this, no matter how it occurs, is diminished credibility for your brand.

So how does this happen? It happens by making an absolute promise in your communications. An absolute promise is one that sits out on the extreme end of the credibility scale: highest quality, fastest service, or, most frequently, best price.

Would you promise your spouse that you will never be late for dinner again? Probably not. And if you did, the credibility of your promise could easily be held up to scrutiny.  Doubly so if you have a history of tardiness around the dinner hour. Also true with brand promises.

How do you avoid this? Pick a brand promise that you can fulfill 100% of the time. If that sounds easy, it is. You just have to be honest with yourself.

ING Direct’s brand promise is “Save your Money.” When you become a customer of theirs, you have most likely opted to put your money in one of their investment vehicles, such as a savings account. Almost by default, their promise is fulfilled. You have saved your money.

If the ING Direct brand promise was “always the highest interest rate on your investment” would you believe them? Me neither.

As illustrated by the above example, brand promises don’t need to be flashy.  If you are  an accountant, you could make a promise like: “I’ll drop your tax papers off at your house, for free.” For the potential customer, that promise is a tangible, relevant benefit  and you could fulfill it easily.

In avoiding absolute promises when developing your brand, exercise additional caution  when considering a “lowest price” positioning.  The number one catalyst for destroying your brand credibility comes from presenting LOWEST PRICE as your brand promise.

Many brands do this frequently or all of the time in their communications efforts and many break that promise just as regularly. The claim to offer better pricing has become so ubiquitous in categories such as consumer packaged goods that it is devoid of all credibility. You see this all the time in ads with headlines such as “You can save up to $50!” or “We’re offering rock-bottom pricing.”

Corny headlines aside, if you promise that your brand will offer potential customers the lowest price all the time, fine. But that means you have to keep that promise. If the consumer establishes in their mind that your brand is always the cheapest, they will be all the more disappointed to find out that occasionally you are not.

Up next: UBP’s.


About cojent. marketing communications.

advertising better marketing for your business. brand branding brand promise business strategies communications consulting consumers copywriting
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