Promises, Promises…

Promises, Promises…

Effective brand building is about making specific promises and sticking to them

We have all heard the old line that says “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is, I don’t know which half.” This throwaway jibe has long frustrated marketing teams as their colleagues in finance use it to justify cutting budgets.

With digital advertising, the easy – or maybe lazy – answer is to look at data and pay simply for clicks. But where does this leave brand advertising, where the objective to help establish awareness, strengthen and increase loyalty? Advertising that is purely performance-driven often results in sacrifices being made.

Thankfully, using data provided by the World Advertising Research Council (WARC), business luminaries Roger Martin, Jann Schwarz and Mimi Turner say they have identified what types of brand advertising are most effective both for attracting new customers and converting them into loyal repeaters.

Performance vs Brand Advertising

The key to successful brand building is a clear and specific promise to the customer that can be demonstrably fulfilled. Advertising that makes such a promise almost always results in better performance than advertising that does not.

WARC’s database includes more than 24,000 case studies, drawn from advertising competitions around the world. These competitions require entrants to explain how their marketing communications have worked, including soft performance metrics, such as impact on brand perception, and hard measures, such as gain in market share.

Data for 2,000 campaigns that had entered from 2018 to 2022 was classified according to whether they had made an explicit and verifiable promise to customers. Around 40% included such a promise.

These two groups were then compared on a variety of metrics and the customer promise campaigns outperformed other campaigns across most measures. Customer promise campaigns were beaten on social media buzz but won out on ‘important’ metrics such as commercial triumph and enduring icon.

Emotion. Function. Enjoyment

A customer promise should involve emotion (Mastercard), function (FedEx) or Enjoyment to Buy (Uber). And the three key features that make promises attractive to customers are memorability, value (honesty) and delivery. Making a promise involves risk and you must deliver.

When the results of this study were shown to a major advertiser, they reviewed three successive previous  campaigns, two of which had been successful, having made explicit promises. In the unsuccessful one, they had been so excited about the latest version of the featured product that they focused on how great it was and neglected to make a promise to their audience.

Understand. Create. Issue. Project. Fulfil.

Introducing a meaningful customer promise to your market involves a cycle that consists of five steps. The first is to understand your customers well enough to know what constitutes memorability and value for them. The second is to create a promise, keeping it simple, compelling and deliverable. You can now issue it publicly and commit to it. Then you must project that promise to your audience so that it is received and understood. Finally, you must fulfil the promise, or it will be worse than worthless.

The ultimate goal should be to complete this customer promise cycle so often that your customers grow to assume that you will make good on your promises and purchase out of habit rather than choice. And then you will know that you have a valuable and enduring brand.

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Author: Charles Howard