A brand is not a single-dimension concept created by a business. It serves multiple roles- it creates identity through name and logo, it projects an image through brand associations formed about it, and it connects customers and others in a relationship with the brand owner. One other valuable role that a brand serves is to make promises. Some promises are explicit, like service guarantees and product performance claims. Other promises are implicit, expectations that we form about a brand. Some of these implicit promises are suggested to us through marketing while others are formed as a result of our interactions with the brand.
A Promise Problem
A great brand excels at delivering against explicit and implicit brand promises. Consistency in actions is influential in building brand reputation. But as the saying goes, promises are made to be broken, and we are often disappointed by the experience of a broken promise made by a business with which we do business. An Accenture study of U.S. consumers found that broken promises is an all too frequent phenomenon. Among the study’s findings:
- 70% said a company had made a promise to them (hey, it should be 100% based on the above description of brand as promise, but we will cut the respondents some slack)
- 40% said they have had the experience of a broken promise made by a business
- 90% said they would consider switching to another company because of a broken promise
Even the most customer-focused organizations will have a breakdown in service delivery or some aspect of the customer experience that is inconsistent with brand promises. Thus, the goal is not to strive for zero broken promises. Instead, businesses must have a clear understanding of promises as perceived by their customers. When performance falls short of promises, the response to service failure can make the difference between reinforcing customer trust or irreparably damaging it.