Remember when your Mom told you, “You must always keep your promises”?   Well, the same is true for brands.  Strong brands offer a “promise” or an expectation for consumers, which they consistently deliver.  Jim Siegel captured this idea when he wrote, “Successful branding is what you do, not what you say or show. Successful branding requires your delivering consistently positive experiences for your constituents. It comes from keeping your promises to them, from earning their trust that your brand will do its best at every point of contact to deliver on what they want and expect from you.”

The problem comes when a brand cannot consistently keep those promises.

I experienced this, with Volvo.  As a full time, working Mom of school aged kids I drove the ultimate Mom car, a Volvo wagon.  Volvo had convinced me that their cars are safe, reliable, comfortable, no nonsense and practical. I loved my Volvo. So, when my lease was up, I had no interest in looking elsewhere.

At the Volvo dealership, I met the salesman.  Let’s call him Ted. I told him I was a happy Volvo wagon owner with children. Ted should have known that I am the typical Volvo customer.  And yet, he committed all the cliché car salesman sins.  Ted directed his remarks to my husband, despite being reminded that the purchase was mine.  And, he addressed me as “dear”.  I considered walking out but I persevered and finalized the sale.  I just wanted to get my new car and get out fast.

When I picked up my new car, Ted greeted me with open arms open, saying, “How is my favourite person?” He took my picture with the car, saying he wanted to help me “celebrate” my purchase.  Really???  I felt like I needed a bath. I gave Ted failing grades in the after-sales survey.  Sadly, I didn’t hear back. Not surprisingly, I never returned to that dealership.

My Volvo brand experience wasn’t consistent. A brand I trusted didn’t behave in a manner that I expected or appreciated. They didn’t understand or respect me… a loyal customer. I felt betrayed.  While I still liked the cars, I didn’t like the people who sold them.  What a shame.

A rewarding customer journey is based on whether the brand experience or promise is delivered at each interaction. Here are 5 questions you should consider to assess whether your brand is vulnerable to missteps and betraying your promise to your customers:

  1. Do your employees understand their role as brand ambassadors? Marketing is not only the responsibility of those from the Marketing department. Everyone in your organization who interacts with a customer has a profound impact on the brand experience.  They need to take this responsibility seriously.  And, most importantly, they need the training and tools to deliver on the brand promise in their jobs.
  1. Do your employees know the customer?
  • who the customer is
  • motivations, apprehensions and emotions of buying your product
  • why the customer buys your brand vs others
  • how the customer feels in your “store”

Without ongoing sharing of new learning about your customer and their experiences with your brand, it is difficult for your employees to best anticipate customer needs or continually improve the brand experience.

  1. Does everyone in your organization understand what your brand stands for? Can they describe the brand promise in one sentence?  It’s hard to support the brand promise, if you aren’t sure what it is or what it means.  Do you have a brand promise statement that is simple and easy to understand?  Can your staff play this back to you consistently? Do they understand how this fits into their performance of their duties? Have you ensured that your employees have the tools, resources and processes to deliver on this promise?
  1. Do your employees understand and model the values of your brand? Do you talk about the values of your brand and your business with your team? How important are values in the hiring criteria for new employees? Is performance and behavior consistent with the brand values celebrated and acknowledged as part of the performance review process? Do you gather employee feedback and learning on better ways to deliver the brand experience?
  1. How do you reinforce the brand promise after the sale through delivery and after sales service? You don’t want your brand reputation to be tainted by buyer’s remorse.  For a brand that is known for quality and customer support, slow response time from Customer Care, a challenging invoicing process or a cumbersome repair or returns process will damage the brand image.  Are your business processes consistent with your brand promise?    


Kathryn Fitzwilliam helps brands improve the impact of their marketing investment and deliver better business results.