April 30, 2019

How do you create a promise that stands the test of time?


A brand promise is a business’s commitment to its customers — the benefit that makes their investment in your brand worthwhile. As we think about building brands that stand the test of time, your promise must also be created so it is relevant both now and in the future.

According to research from brand experience agency JackMorton, 56% of millennials believe that brands today rarely live up to the promises they make. So how do we build brands that stand the test of time yet have the agility they need to adapt to changes in the market and stay relevant to customers despite their ever changing demands?

The answer lies in messaging, actions, and authenticity

Consider Nike. Since 1988, it has hung used its ‘Just Do It’ message on all ads and communication. More than that, it has committed to the promise of expanding human potential, a promise to inspire every athlete to achieve their potential, regardless of ability.

From a branding perspective, the now infamous Colin Kaepernick ad was exactly what Nike needed to propel this promise forward and give the message relevance and purpose for a new generation. The message, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything” reinforces Nike’s promise to never give up.

Victoria’s Secret, on the other hand, has failed to make this leap into the future. The brand has long promised to make women look and feel sexy — the idea of the ‘fantasy woman’ influencing every piece of communication and runway show. In an interview with Vogue magazine, Ed Razek defended the brand, noting that Victoria’s Secret isn’t meant for everyone; it is a specialty brand with an elite image. While Razek is correct in that brands should not be all things for everyone, where the brand falls short is in translating this message of “sexy” to a new, growing customer group. Unlike Nike, Victoria’s Secret will come unstuck due to the failure to evolve their message of “sexy” to fit changing consumer demands and lifestyles.

Brands need to stand for something

Consumers today demand more from brands; 84% of consumers believe businesses have a responsibility to lead social change. Brands that find a way to translate their message and purpose into tangible impact that benefits the community in which they occupy will succeed in the long term.

Following the Colin Kaepernick campaign, a potentially controversial and divisive position for the business to support not to mention a strategic risk to alienate some customers in order to appeal to their core base on 18-29 year old males, Nike’s market value rose by $6 billion. Shares also rose over 36% for the year, nearly 5% since the ad’s launch. These results are evidence that standing for something really can capture the attention of your audience, boost engagement, influence buyer behaviour and have a significant impact on commercial results.

Authenticity builds unparalleled trust

We have recently seen Carlsberg launch a new campaign which sees the business take a long hard look in the mirror and question its own marketing and product over the last decade. Having previously claimed it was ‘Probably the best beer in the world’, it now admits it is ‘Probably not the best beer in the world. So we’ve changed it.

It is a bold move from Carlsberg as it admits it lost its way and was producing a product that was not good enough by their own standards or those of its consumers. The honesty in the new strategy aims to improve customer trust in the product and brand, something that Carlsberg hopes will boost people’s propensity to purchase both now and over the long-term.

We are yet to see the results of Carlsberg’s new strategy, which places authenticity at its core, but customers will value the honesty in acknowledging its own faults and that they are actively working to make improvements.


As 2019 unfolds, we see the line between customer and brand being continuously tested. Brands that continue to build in an unrealistic world will come unstuck – brands that take a stand, listen to their customer, and act with genuine intention will succeed.