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Are you Keeping your brand promise?

Over the festive period I was a back-seat passenger on a longish journey.  A talk radio show was keeping me company, the topic of heated discussion, the Apple iPhone battery. 

A high school student had recently discovered an issue with his phone and decided to post on Reddit.com giving details of what he had found.  He had discovered the decreased performance in his iPhone 6s handset had to do with the phones lithium-ion batteries. He decided to research into why that might be, and found a suggestion online that he replace his battery. When he did, his phone sped up instantly.

His post went viral, eventually leading to Apple to make a public statement, a confession that is said could end up costing the company billions of dollars in class action lawsuits. Apple had issued a statement that made it clear that changes it had made a year ago were indeed slowing down the maximum performance of iPhones with older batteries.

Many people phoned into the show, all expressing their huge disappointment in the final acknowledgement of something they thought was the case but up until the announcement had been strongly denied by the Company sales teams in the Apple Stores.

But did Apple go against its public brand promise?

A brand promise is the key factor that sets you apart from all your competitors and its what brings customers to you.  It must be both competitive and measurable.  Its great to create a wonderful slogan or advertising message, but if your operation cannot deliver on it, you gain absolutely no differentiating in the marketplace.  It’s a mistake to create a brand promise that is not what your clients need, its also a mistake to create a brand promise that you cannot achieve.

Apples brand promise is “Think Different”, what started as a shrug to IBM’s “Think,”, Apple’s brand promise is arguably the most famous slogan of all time and the key to Apple’s wild success in the computer industry. Apple’s brand promise is two-sided - their guarantee to create products based on seeing the world a little differently, and their promise to inspire their customers to do the same. 

Innovation is something customers look to Apple to provide, and they certainly have been innovating the iPhone, with 18 versions of the phone since its launch in 2007.  Apple have a devoted clientele, the iPhone X launch saw customers queuing many days in advance of its launch to purchase the latest handset even though the cost per phone was just under USD1,000 and the iPhone 8 plus had launched a mere 3.5 month before.  Will Apples’ confirmation of battery life slow down on older models affect Company loyalty and eventual profits of the Company?

The consensus on the radio show was that it was unlikely – yes, they were disappointed in the confession, but the immediate actions Apple had taken to rectify the issue (huge reduction in replacement batteries), seems to have appeased the listeners and anyway, they now have an excuse to buy an updated model – so potentially the honesty shown by the Company will work to their advantage.  And to be frank, someone (like me) holding onto an older version of the iPhone is probably not a core customer of Apple.  My iPhone is so old, its not affected by the battery problem!

Did Apple go against its brand promise? I am not too sure they did.

The key to knowing you have a great brand promise is that you say “no” more then you say “yes”.  When you are a growing Company it easy to yes to every opportunity, but doing this distracts you from what you are trying to create.  The whole point of a brand promise is that its your guiding light and helps you to make the right decisions, at the right time for the right reasons. 

With many brand promise examples, the promise becomes too many things to be everything to everybody, and ends up being nothing to anyone. For your brand promise to be effective, it must be measurable.  If you can't define what your promise means, you can't measure it. If you can't measure something, you can't manage it.

Take FedEx for example. When FedEx first started out, their brand promise was, "We will get your package to you by 10:30 am the next day." Time is a measurement we all agree on. If the package arrives prior to 10:30 am, the brand promise is kept. Starting at 10:31 am, the promise is broken. A strong brand promise is easy to measure against.

A brand promise needs to be meaningful.  This is where the old cliché “actions speak louder than words” is particularly true. A brand promise is nothing if it’s not followed through with action. The one thing strong retailers do well is deliver on their brand promises consistently. You make a commitment to your customers, and if you don’t deliver, you’ll lose them.  The problem is that many companies have one big barrier to consistently delivering on those promises - their employees.

Your employees are the face of your business. They are the ones who interact with your customers daily and they make the strongest and most lasting impression on your customers.  It’s their job to be the point of contact between your brand and your customers.

But you know what’s scary? Most employees don’t even know what their company is promising. Instead of helping to improve your brand, they may be harming it.  Educating your employees about your brand message is the key to ensuring that your company keeps its promises to your customers. Training programs should include clear messages about what your brand stands for, what you are committed to delivering to your customers and why it matters.

When you give employees a deeper understanding of what you promise your customers, and how their performance fulfils that commitment, your employees are better able to consistently provide the great brand experience your customers expect.

Perhaps its time to review your Company brand promise to make sure its relevant and is being achieved.

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Claire Donnelly

Written by Claire Donnelly

A Business Growth and HR Strategist helping medium size companies to Scale Up using proven systems. Claire is an MCIPD qualified Human Resource professional, with 25+ years’ experience working within various industries and 10 + years’ experience of HR practices throughout the Middle East. As a HR Generalist she has held a number of senior and Board level HR positions. She is experienced in working at both strategic and tactical levels.

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