Your Brand Promise: An Invisible Contract

Learn how writing a brand promise can benefit your business.

When you read the word “branding,” the first thing that might spring to mind is visual branding—for example, an instantly recognizable logo that represents a big company. But in fact, the logo is the very last element of the branding process. It’s the visible tip of the iceberg. What lies underneath the surface is just as important for business owners to consider.

Why do you need a brand promise?

A brand is simply how a business is perceived in the mind of someone who has experienced it in some way. Before online reviews and social media, a company could present an image of the business that was far from the real experience. This is no longer the case.

For example, if a company presents itself as eco-friendly but continues to use non-recyclable, single-use plastic, customers may share their observations on social media and the mainstream media might even pick it up. The difference between the claim by the business and the reality will result in a serious loss of trust amongst customers. The feeling that the brand is inconsistent in what it does and says can even creep into the customer’s perception of the quality of the product or service itself.

If you make a promise as a business, it must be an authentic one that you intend to keep. That promise acts like an invisible contract with your customer.

Creating your brand promise

What does a brand promise look like in action? A travel writer may promise to help others make new, everlasting memories by sharing their experiences. A carpenter may promise to create furniture that is built to last for generations. A software developer may promise to turn complex code into simple user experiences for those who are not tech-savvy.

Every successful business has a brand promise at its heart. What promise are you making to your customer, and how are you delivering it?

The brand promise isn’t a projection of what you want to deliver. It’s what you’re already delivering now. Try writing it down—use simple, explanatory language and leave no room for confusion over its meaning. You’ll know you’ve correctly expressed your brand promise when it feels right and rings true to your business.

Most every business starts with brand promise at its heart. But as a company grows in size, it’s easy to lose touch with the promise. As a small business, you have a wonderful advantage: You can remain close to your brand promise and aim to deliver on it every single time. Each time you deliver on your brand promise, customer trust and positive perception of your business grows.

See the bigger picture

The brand promise is a central piece of the branding puzzle and closely linked to brand purpose, or the reason your brand exists. The difference between the two is very subtle, but important to understand.

The brand promise is like an invisible contract. Imagine shaking hands with each customer and making your brand promise to them face-to-face. To visualize brand purpose, imagine a guiding star in the sky. There is no transaction, handshake, or promise, just a clear statement to direct your actions.

Communicate your value

If you’re still a little unsure if branding is a necessity or just nice to have, remember that when you clearly define your brand promise, your customers gain a clear idea of the value you can deliver. The promise is a fundamental piece of building a successful brand—and business.

It might be clearer now how a logo is the visible tip of the brand iceberg. A logo is merely a visual trigger to remind viewers of the brand promise you’ve worked hard to build up.

Written by Mo Saha for Mailchimp. Mo is a branding expert for small businesses.