A Brand is a Promise
What’s the difference between a great brand and a silly slogan?
A powerful brand is incredibly valuable. Interbrand estimates that a successful brand can be worth tens of billions of dollars. That’s far too much money to be attributed to nice words or cool colors. What makes a brand valuable is the promises it makes and keeps.
Here are some examples of great brands that win through making and keeping their promises.
Apple promises to make the machine work with the man. We love Apple products because they are made for us. Once you buy an iPod you never want to use another MP3 player.
Apple doesn’t depend on ideas that are wholly original. All of their breakthrough products like the Macintosh, the iPod and the iPhone have been followers, not first movers. They invent surprisingly little new technology. The categories they enter have stiff competition, Apple just beats them at their own game.
What Apple does is agonize over every small detail until their products work flawlessly. A thousand engineers working on a million things that most of us will never notice, but are essentially to delivering a superior product. This is a promise that they keep everyday.
Many people have criticized Apple’s new iPad because it is, essentially, a lager version of the iTouch. Yet, it keeps all of Apple’s promises. It’s fun, tactile, easy to use and, as I’ve written before, the Apple iPad will most likely be a success.
Walt Disney stands for wholesome entertainment filled worth magic and wonder. It is an incredibly valuable brand that has stood the test of time.
Some marketing guru somewhere probably thinks that it would be a great idea to earn more value out of the Disney brand by extending it to include different categories. Why not have “Disney Sports” or attach the Disney name to movies for grown ups.
The Disney brand has endured because they know that when you extend a brand you risk diluting its promise. ESPN, Miramax and Touchstone pictures are different brands with different promises and the company benefits from them all (Disney owns them).
McDonald’s promises a minimal standard of quality combined with great service and convenience. Go anywhere in the world and you can expect to see full McDonald’s restaurants. (And after a couple bouts of food poisoning I’ve had in some of the rougher places in the world, the McDonald’s brand can be an incredibly welcome sight).
McDonald’s promises to keep their standards uniform everyday, anywhere on the planet. They have gone to enormous lengths to keep that promise. Their corporate university trains an amazing global network of executives that meet and are constantly exchanging ideas on how to improve processes and gain efficiencies.
Every supplier in every country is vetted and inspected regularly and every no detail is left to chance. For instance, there are only a few photographers in the world who are authorized to take pictures of McDonald’s food for marketing campaigns. It is their constant attention to detail that allows them to keep their promises in 119 countries around the world.
A Simple Equation
Brands are not built through gimmicks or sleight of hand. The consumer can not be fooled for long. Great companies build great brands by valuing their customers and wanting to make their lives better in some way.
In the end, despite all the gimmicks and tricks that gurus use to sell books and seminars, it comes down to one simple equation:
Brand Value = the value of promises kept.
Everything else is just optimizing efficiency.