Good Brands Are Fulfilled Promises


The following is inspired thinking from Future Buzz community member Erin McCahill.

Branding has become a paradox in the sense that it’s no longer a concept developed by a company and communicated to the world. Perhaps it never has been, but now, more than ever, people – customers, employees, partners and industry voices – have incredible power to impact brands.

That power can impact a brand positively like Netflix’s success in driving word-of-mouth through its unique release strategy (think “House of Cards”). As any digital marketer knows, third parties can have a tremendous negative influence on brands. I still think about Dave Carroll’s “United Breaks Guitars” song every time I see the United Airlines logo.

In all, a brand has become the actual experience of doing business with your company, from initial touch, through purchase and fulfillment, to the results afterward. When you’re a company, you build that experience, and then try to capture and communicate what a stakeholder can expect.

Good Brands Are Fulfilled Promises

A marketer creates a brand promise – the expectation of an experience fulfilled. The best branders do so in a way that defines the essence of the company in a simple and exciting way.

Things go awry when a company promises one thing, but customers experience another. Of course, there are lots of things that can go wrong along the way like executive behavior, privacy violations, or cyber attacks. Generally, brands struggle when there is a disconnect somewhere within product, marketing, sales or the target audience.

How can a marketer conquer this challenge?

Marketing strategist and author Mark Schaefer says, “First, you have to fill in the blank: ‘We do____.’” I totally agree. I think you have to know your company very well. You should be positioned to tell prospects what makes you different, relevant, important or compelling. You need to understand this outside of your office walls – talking to yourself is a mistake many companies and marketers make. You have to love your customers, understand the customer experience intimately, and engage.

When it comes time to execute, use the right messages on the right channels and ace it. In a noisy world where customers who neglect to manage their digital experiences are experiencing “infobesity,” as Susan Etlinger from Altimeter Group calls it, good branding not only stands out, but clearly communicates an authentic promise. Great marketing means delivering that promise with a winning combination of intelligence, data and heart that converts into sales and brand advocates who go on to do marketing for you.

The Power of Simplicity

My company, Vocus, just published the “Branding Rules” eBook, illustrated by Gapingvoid, with 14 top tips from brand experts. We asked them one question: “If you could impart only one piece of advice about branding, what would it be?”

Here’s my advice: Customers aren’t interested and don’t have time, nor will they remember more than one message from a brand. If they do engage with that message, you better be ready to nurture them and deliver great relevant content, or promotions to get them closer to conversion.

Remember this scene from “City Slickers”? Curly and Mitch are riding across the Wild West, and Curly, a man of very few words, says what I think is the most important rule and/or principle of branding and creative work:

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?

Mitch: No… what?

Curly: This.

Mitch: Your finger?

Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that, and everything else don’t mean s**t.

Mitch: That’s great. But what’s the one thing?

Curly: That’s what you have to figure out.

Mitch was having a midlife crisis and trying to find the meaning of life, and we are marketers trying to sell something and create engagement, but the principle and sometimes the pressure are the same.

Substitute the word ‘life’ with ‘message,’ and you’ve got the Principle of ONE. You get one message and sometimes just one chance to connect with a target audience, prospect or customer. Make it GREAT!

What is your top tip for branding in the ever-evolving digital era?

About the author: Erin McCahill is the Vice President of Brand and Creative Services at Vocus, a cloud-based marketing and PR software company. She is a results-oriented creative director with over 20 years of progressive leadership experience in branding, creative services, multi-platform campaign development, television and video production – advertising, short form content and long form series, global marketing and strategic ideation, planning and execution. Prior to Vocus, Erin served in creative and branding roles at Rosetta Stone, BBC America and National Geographic.

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