The Damage Brands Suffer From Breaking Promises


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Article by Ernan Roman
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Don't Ignore These Three Customer Journey ExperiencesAccording to a recent report by Gallup, a brand promise represents everything a company stands for, it is the unique statement of what the company offers, what separates it from its rivals and what makes it worthy of customers’ consideration.

Yet Gallup finds that “only half of customers believe that the companies they do business with always deliver on what they promise.” When asked, only 27% of employees strongly agree that they always deliver on the promises they make to their customers.

Across the board, brand promise turns up as a major differentiating factor. Consider the following:

A Harris Poll EquiTrend study on the top 10 most-trusted packaged goods brands reported that the brands that men and women trust are those with a long history of consistently delivering on their brand promise.

In a MediaPost study that analyzed 10,000-plus consumer conversations across a broad cross-section of social media platforms, brand promise is the most important benefit category for luxury brands, with 42% of conversations on this topic.

In 1906 Harvey W. Wiley, an American chemist whose bureau was part of the Good Housekeeping Institute’s laboratory, began a legacy of brand promise that’s still going strong today. So why are consumers still avid believers in this brand promise? Trust. Consumers know that the seal has delivered on its promise. Additionally brands need to earn the seal—not buy it.Because of this there is authenticity in what the brand promise represents.

Trust is one of the key factors cited again and again when it comes to consumers buying into a brand’s promise. This was confirmed recently in VoC Relationship Research conducted by our firm, which determined that trust has to be earned by going through specific steps which comprise a Pyramid of Trust.

Here are a few of the steps:

  • Trust is the foundation and prerequisite for obtaining deeper engagement with customers.
  • Consumers want brands to do what they promise, and actually deliver on the fundamental brand promise, consistently, over time.
  • Improve my experiences: Use my stated preferences and aversions, to significantly improve my experiences.
  • Protect my information: Explain the reasons for the opt-in information requests and assure me of the privacy and safety of my data.

The Reader’s Digest US Trusted Brands survey, meanwhile, revealed that 79% of participants said they opt for a “trusted” brand when choosing between items of equal quality and price.

But on the flip side, a report by Credit Suisse regarding falling trust in our food supply cited that the largest 25 companies saw their control slip from a combined 49.4% share in 2009 to 45.1% share in 2014. Campbell Soup Co. CEO Denise Morrison, noted, “We are well aware of the mounting distrust of Big Food…. We understand that increasing numbers of consumers are seeking authentic, genuine food experiences and we know that they are skeptical of the ability of large, long-established food companies to deliver them.”

Edelman’s Managing Director of Corporate and Public Affairs Ron Guirguis summed it up well regarding brand promises: “People don’t just buy products anymore, they buy the companies that make products, the values they represent and what they stand for.”

So here are some takeaways:

Trust in brand promise is universally a top priority for consumers in determining whether to do business with a company. But trust cannot be assumed or bought. It needs to earned through actions.

Delivering on promises such as “FREE” wins trust. But when FREE becomes FREE* the small print under the asterisk undermines brand trust.

Consistency is a key factor in gaining and keeping consumer’s trust in a brand promise. It is not about fulfilling the promise once and moving on to the next campaign. It is a sustained building of trust that nurtures brand loyalty.

Marketers need to rethink their brand strategy to ensure that they deliver on brand promises. Promises that are kept strengthen. Broken promises diminish and set the stage for a long and possibly impossible win back.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ernan Roman
Ernan Roman (@ernanroman) is president of ERDM Corp. and author of Voice of the Customer Marketing. He was inducted into the DMA Marketing Hall of Fame due to the results his VoC research-based CX strategies achieve for clients such as IBM, Microsoft, QVC, Gilt and HP. ERDM conducts deep qualitative research to help companies understand how customers articulate their feelings and expectations for high value CX and personalization. Named one of the Top 40 Digital Luminaries and one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing.


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