Saturday, April 25, 2009

Can you keep a promise?

My 17-year old son wrote this note when he was five years old. I recently dug it out of an old scrapbook.

I will behave.
I will behave.
I will behave.

12 years ago, my wife asked him to sit down and write this after some mischief he got into. Perhaps talking back. Or acting up in school that day. He took out a pencil, and did as my wife asked. At the time, he was doing something that brand marketers do every day: creating a brand promise. A brand promise is an agreement or covenant between brands and the people it wishes to start a relationship with. "The ultimate driving machine," "Diamonds are forever," "When you care enough to send the very best," and "Made from the best stuff on earth." These are more than simply well-penned taglines. They're promises that companies can build a business around. They're the rock upon which you build your brand church.

Here's the catch. In order to be successful, you need to actually keep your promise. Today. Tomorrow. And for years to come. In fact, I've always subscribed to the definition that "a brand is a promise made consistently over time." You can't "claim" to be a brand, you must "demonstrate" you're a brand over time. You do this by creating a powerful promise that you know you can keep, and is deemed valuable by consumers.

So the question boils down to this: "how well can you keep your promise?" If it's an authentic promise that grows out of the DNA of your company, it'll probably be easier to keep. And besides, in today's digital branding world, a brand is only as good as its ability to keep the promises it makes. For in today's Age of Transparency, if a brand doesn't keep its promise, it's only a matter of before it makes the rounds on the Internet in blogs and chat rooms.

What does my son's note have to do with the creation of enduring, beloved brands? Simple. If you make a promise today, you should be able to keep it years from now. That is the essence of what makes a brand great. In my son's case, he is planning to attend his senior high school prom in a couple of weeks. A prom that includes a long weekend "after party" at the Jersey Shore. My wish is that by reminding him of the promise he made, he'll remember to live by it during his Prom weekend.

Hey, it was worth a shot.

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