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WTF is a Brand Promise? [Definition + Examples]

by Article by Hannah Beatty Hannah Beatty | January 12, 2023 at 3:45 PM

By definition, a brand promise is a short but powerful phrase that tells your customers what feeling or experience they can expect from every interaction they have with your company.  

Quick Tips: 

  • Not product- or service-specific

  • Short and sweet

  • Not about you, about your customer

Brand Promise Examples:

  • "Environmentally responsible adventure."
    • Patagonia

  • "You're going to like the way you look."
    • Men's Wearhouse

  • "Melts in your mouth, not in your hands."
    • M&Ms

If it’s difficult to nail down the definition of the brand promise, you’re not alone. A brand promise has very lofty criteria. It should not sell your product or your services directly. It should be succinct. And it should focus on the value your customer should expect. It should elicit an emotion, an impression, a personality, or an ideal. That’s a tough order for sure!

A brand promise is a building block of your customer experience because it provides the expectation your customer should have for every interaction with your company. 

When written correctly and actually fulfilled, your brand promise can precede you creating brand trust even before someone hits purchase. 

So, do you want to differentiate your brand from competitors? Do you want to set elevated expectations for your employees? Do you want to build an intentional customer experience with a stellar reputation?

Sounds like you’re ready to build (or revisit) your brand promise.

What is a Brand Promise?

A brand promise is a short but powerful phrase that tells your customers what feeling or experience they can expect from every interaction they have with your company. 

The best brand promises, like McDonald’s or Nike’s, elicit an emotional connection and builds on the values their customers hold near and dear. This guides your company’s commitment to delivering a specific experience that fulfills that promise over and over again. 

Your company was founded because it had something different to bring to the marketplace. Maybe that was an entirely new product or service or simply a different approach to an existing offering. Your standard of doing business from your materials to your processes to your employees makes you stand out for the better. 

Because of those differentiators, your customer can be guaranteed their interaction with you will consistently reflect those ideals and improve their life as well.

When the ideals + impact are distilled into a short and sweet phrase, it becomes a mantra for employees and customers alike.

Why Your Brand Promise Matters

You need a brand promise because it serves a different purpose than your mission statement, brand guide, and brand identity. Your brand promise matters because it publicizes and guides the experience your customers should expect and holds you accountable when you don’t fulfill it. 

That’s powerful. This is not an empty pinky promise. This is not a flighty “could” or “maybe.” A brand promise is a strong “will” and “already has.”

It can be scary to be so bold with your promise, but the payoff, the energy, and the customer loyalty will be well worth it. Of course, you have to keep your brand promise in addition to writing it. 

While power should always be present in a brand promise to deliver that quintessential punch, brand promises come in a variety of structures, purposes, and tones.

Best Brand Promise Examples and Why We Love Them

Indicative Brand Promises

Make your brand promise indicative of your brand experience, who you are, what you do, or what makes you special.

No marketing should exist without a purpose. This is your chance to communicate something vital about your experience, products, services, or beliefs. Whatever that message is, it should say a lot about who you are.

These brand promises indicate specific experiences you can expect:

"The Judgement Free Zone." – Planet Fitness
"Feel like a woman." – Revlon


Differentiating Brand Promises

We want to know why you matter. Since you probably sell or do the same thing as countless competitors, you should target an aspect of who you are, what you do, or who you do it for that makes you special.

Use that differentiating factor to build your brand promise of authenticity.

These companies make it easy to understand why they’re different:

"Melts in your mouth, not in your hands." – M&M’s
"Be the world’s number one source of information." – Google


Measurable Brand Promises

Successful marketing includes measuring ROI, traffic, conversions, and more.

You can’t prove or improve what you can’t measure. So, strive to make your brand promise something that can be quantified, on a scale that’s easily understood, like:

  • Time
  • Emotion
  • Quality
  • Savings
  • Distance

Recognize these measurable brand promises?

"15 minutes or less can save you 15% or more on car insurance." – Geico
"You’re going to like the way you look."
– Men’s Wearhouse*

*OK, so maybe it’s not the strongest emotion, but it’s easy to measure whether you like or don’t like the way you look. And since their target demographic often prides themselves on not exerting too much effort on their appearance, “like” is a strong enough claim to be effective.


Luxury Brand Promises

Focus on the “why” of your goods. What’s the end game? What feeling or accomplishment can people count on you for? What’s the life-enriching purpose of your products or services? Do you provide peace of mind? Happiness? A competitive business edge?

More than just being descriptive or aspirational, your brand promise should be something you do to provide more value to your consumers. Not every business provides value through cost savings. This is your opportunity to communicate the intangible worth of what you do.

Without providing value, your brand promise is just a slogan.

These brands provide very different types of value, neither of which is cheap:

"Creating happiness through magical experiences." – Disney
"The pursuit of perfection." – Lexus


Simple Brand Promises

Short, sweet, and easy to understand is always the best strategy for crafting a universally-understood concept.

This principle is extra important if your brand emphasizes simplicity, like Uber. This app-based taxi alternative uses simple language and very plain words to communicate just how simple their service is: Tap a button, get a ride.

You don’t need adjectives to overcomplicate your message if you’re selling simplicity. So leave them out. If you need more than one breath to say it, it’s way too long. Try to stick with 10 words or less, even if your message is a bit more complex.

"The highest quality – the lowest prices." – Aldi
"Save money. Live better." – Walmart


Consistent Brand Promises

Another key consideration is consistency. What’s the true message across your whole brand?

"...exceptional performance and durability in any environment, whether in the remote wilderness, at the beach, or anywhere else it takes you." - Yeti

Yeti makes a wide range of premium outdoor products, from coolers to clothing. No matter what they’re selling, that message works, because everything they make is high-quality and made for withstanding extreme elements.

Bold but Honest Brand Promises

Don’t spend money marketing a message that’s going to be ignored. Make a bold, unapologetic claim that gets the attention of both consumers and the competition - as long as it's true.

False or exaggerated claims can be disastrous and costly in both legal settlements and reputation.

Two brands that did just that, and generated very different outcomes, are Amazon and Red Bull.

"Consistently deliver an exceptional customer experience" - Amazon

"Gives you wings" - Red Bull

Although Red Bull achieved extreme branding success with its promise to “give you wings," they were sued by consumers who claimed the drink didn’t provide any more energy than coffee does. They settled for $13 million.

Amazon’s once crazy claims, to be the Earth’s biggest selection and most customer-centric company, are now simple facts, as the world orders almost anything with the click of a button or voice command to their nearest Alexa.


Persona-Centric Brand Promises

Brand promises are not meant to prove you’re everything to everybody. That’s a dangerous pitfall of all marketing. Make some claims and take a stand that turns some people off. You’ll be glad you did when your core customers become loyal brand advocates.

Think about what matters to your consumers. Why do they want you around? What makes them tick? What do they care about? Use your brand promise to speak to the core of whatever that is.

How is that done well?

"Designed for the creative pursuit of being you."– Vans
"Environmentally responsible adventure." – Patagonia
"Pure, quality products you can trust." –Earth’s Best Organic

Experiential Brand Promises

You don’t have to encompass every element of your brand experience, just what makes you stand out.

As a build-your-own fresh Mexican fast food eatery, Moe’s Southwest Grill could have used any element of their brand to turn into a consumer promise. What they chose was their friendliness.

“Welcome everyone with open arms and a smile.” - Moes

Yes, it’s impossible to walk into a Moe’s restaurant without being noticed with the sometimes fun, sometimes dreaded, staff-wide shout of “Welcome to Moe’s!” Maybe it’s not the reason anyone goes there, but it’s definitely a key part of their brand experience and makes them stand out in the industry.

Even More Than a Promise: Brands Need Plans

By having a clear, well-thought-out intention for every piece of your brand identity, you’ll be able to keep your marketing, mission, and growth on course and headed in the right direction.

Creating a brand promise is an important step in defining your customer experience. Use the qualities that define the best of the best to help write your own. Even then, don’t discount help from the brand pros, especially when your company’s reputation is on the line.

Make sure you have a plan to deliver on your promise. The customer experience (CX) connects your brand promise, your customer journey, your buyer journey, and more. Build it with our CX planning and evaluation notebook.