A 4-Minute Primer on Brand Promises

Brand promises focus you on what your business consistently delivers on to find and keep customers.

Your customer base appreciates your brand promises, and is prepared to pay for them too.  People who you don’t want as customers may be repelled by what you offer, or at least unwilling to pay a premium to you for your product or service.

Your brand promises help you connect with ‘your people’ and build a fan base of loyal customers.

Following is a simple primer on what brand promises are and how they’re used in the business

Brand Promises convey your most compelling measurable benefit to the customer

Why do you think your customers do business with you?  Is it because you’re prompt, or you do quality work, or you’re the cheapest, or you have specialized knowledge, or you offer something that none of your competitors do?

Any of these can be brand promises.

Think of businesses you know and what they promise you.  Here are some examples:

  • Southwest Airlines: Cheap flights, relaxed/fun atmosphere
  • McDonald’s Hamburgers: Consistent taste and quick service
  • FedEx: Overnight delivery and tracked packages
  • Apple: Integrated beautiful technology with lots of ‘cool’ factor
  • Ford: Tough, reliable, American transportation
  • Ferrari: Sexy, instantly recognizable cars that define you as a superstar

We could go on and on.

Now think of what these businesses don’t offer.  Let’s look at the same list again and focus on what they don’t promise you:

  • Southwest Airlines: First class pampered service or trans-Atlantic flights
  • McDonald’s Hamburgers: Healthy, high fiber food options
  • FedEx: Cheapest service
  • Apple: Low prices
  • Ford: Exclusive, bespoke vehicles (except for the GT of course!)
  • Ferrari: Reliability

Each of these businesses has decided who their customers are, what they value, and how they can deliver on their ‘brand promises’ to them consistently.  They’ve also made choices about who they’re not.  Choosing to be everything to everyone insures that you will be mediocre at everything you do.

Ask, “What are we best at that matters to our customers?”

You have natural strengths already, and your customer like something about you, or they wouldn’t be dealing with you.  So what is it that makes you special?

When Harley Davidson asked that question, then CEO Rich Teerlink said, “We don’t sell motorcycles.  What we sell is the ability for a 43-year old accountant to ride through a small town dressed in black leather and have people be afraid of him.”

This was always in Harley’s DNA.  Harley’s leaders keyed in on that and made it into a high-end product.  They focus on creating a ‘bad boy’ image.  Their customers value it, and it’s something they’re good at and can deliver on consistently.

Honda is a different story.  From inception, they specialized in engines and drive trains, helping with Japan’s war effort in the 1940s.  Honda produces cars, motorcycles, marine engines, generators, lawn mowers, and motorcycles too.  Anything with an engine and a drive train.

Because of this specialty, Honda’s brand promise historically focuses on economy and reliability.

No one is going to ride a 500cc Honda through town and scare little old ladies. Their customers don’t value that, and may be repelled by the image that Harley Davidson has worked so hard to cultivate.

But, it’s something they’re good at, and something their customers highly value.  If you’re looking for economy, value, and reliability, you don’t look to Harley Davidson, nor do they want you to.

So what is it for your organization?  What are you naturally good at, and what do your best customers value in that offering?

Your brand promise(s) shakes out of the answer to that question.

Choose one lead promise with up to 2 supporting promises

You can’t be everything to everyone.  You must focus.  So I suggest choosing one main brand promise, and up to two supporting promises.

McDonald’s, for instance, offers consistent product, a fun environment, and the fastest fast food around.  But their main promise is food consistency.   We’ve all eaten at McDonald’s in airports around the world, and while you may not value their promise, you have to admit that they keep it with an incredible degree of consistency.

Brand Promises consistently kept produce loyal customers

What is a loyal customer?  My definition of loyalty is:

A customer who is willing to pay a premium to deal with you.

When other cheaper options come along, they choose you.  They would prefer to deal with you because they value you and how you do business, and make choices to keep doing business with you if possible.

However, they want you to offer the same thing consistently.  If their experience with you differs with every interaction, they lose faith in you.  If your brand promise has to do with great service and one day your customer feels ignored or treated with indifference, you’ve lost.

The business pivots to deliver on the brand promise every day.  Easy to say, tougher to implement.  Those who implement it successfully win.


Brand promises focus you on what your business consistently delivers on in to find and keep customers.

Your customer base appreciates your brand promises, and is prepared to pay for them too.  People who you don’t want as customers may be repelled by what you offer, or at least unwilling to pay a premium to you for your product or service.

Here’s your quick primer on brand promises:

  1. Brand Promises convey your most compelling measureable benefit to the customer
  2. Ask, “What are we best at that matters to our customers?”
  3. Choose one lead promise with up to 2 supporting promises
  4. Brand Promises must be consistently kept to be credible

Additional resources

Thanks for reading this article on ‘A 4-minute primer on brand promises’  Below are additional resources from Professional Leadership Institute, the global provider of online human resources and leadership tools:

How McDonalds dominated the world with their three brand promises https://www.professionalleadershipinstitute.com/resources/how-mcdonalds-dominated-the-world-with-their-3-brand-promises/

How McDonalds updated their 3 brand promises to focus on winning https://www.professionalleadershipinstitute.com/resources/how-mcdonalds-updated-their-3-brand-promises-to-focus-on-winning/


Trevor Throness is a speaker, consultant, and author of “The Power of People Skills.”  He is also co-founder and senior instructor at www.professionalleadershipinstitute.com https://www.professionalleadershipinstitute.com/

Find more about “The Power of People Skills” here: https://www.amazon.com/Power-People-Skills-Dramatically-Performance/dp/1632651068


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