The first step towards delivering an authentic brand experience is creating clarity around your brand identity and character so that you can consistently fulfill it. But how does a brand remain true to its character?
One effective way to keep authenticity at the forefront is to consider a brand’s “promise” – what a company promises consumers through their brand image and marketing. This promise can take many forms. Examples might include “to provide the comfort of home,” “to enable adventure,” or simply “to make it easier to keep the house clean.” Once you’ve identified the promise that your brand is making to consumers, you need to prioritize it in your product development, marketing, and customer engagement to create an authentic, consistent brand identity.
Defining Your Brand Promise
But how can emerging (or re-imagined) brands explore and define their promise? There’s a tool developed by Bain & Company that can provide a powerful framework for understanding the value that you’re seeking to deliver to customers. It’s called The Elements of Value (click here for an interactive guide).
In the style of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs or the Food Pyramid, Bain has organized a comprehensive list of consumer values from the “lowest” (functional value) to the “highest” (social impact). The Elements of Value were created to help companies understand perceived value vs. actual value when it comes to pricing products, but they can also serve as a compelling test for companies who want to define and fulfill the promise they are making to customers. By identifying the values that a brand or product seeks to fulfill, we can clarify the promise it is making to those who purchase it.
Exploring the Elements of Value
On the bottom tier of Bain’s Elements are the functional values, which include “saves time,” “reduces effort,” “organizes,” “connects,” “sensory appeal,” and many more. While these sources of value may be at the lowest level, they shouldn’t be underestimated. For instance, a brand that creates time-saving products creates immense value for its customers, and sensory appeal is an underlying factor in most purchasing decisions. Most products will fulfill at least one functional value, if not many, in addition to any “higher” values.
The next tier explores emotional values such as “reduces anxiety,” “nostalgia,” “fun/entertainment,” and “provides access.” These values, because they relate to our emotional responses, can be harder to quantify. However, our emotional response to a product is a powerful thing, and brands that can deliver the promise of “wellness” or “attractiveness” can create a major impact on consumer’s lives and earn their loyalty forever.
Life Changing Values
This tier includes “provides hope,” “self-actualization,” and “motivation and belonging,” among others. These are powerful, aspirational values that can be difficult to truly deliver. But brands who can follow through on the promise of providing hope or self-actualization are often paradigm shifting, enduring successes. When it comes to these values, brand makers should be cautious about how closely they identify themselves with such a weighty promise.
Sitting at the very top of Bain’s Elements of Value pyramid is “self-transcendence,” the ability to achieve something greater than one’s self, and arguably the most impactful and powerful value a brand can deliver. Interestingly, many brands that make a social impact offer products that primarily fulfill lower-tier values. Many of today’s prized socially-conscious brands, such as TOMS Shoes with their one-to-one model of providing a pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair purchased in stores, are able to tap into self-transcendence through giving back, even if the product itself isn’t life-changing.
What Does Your Brand Promise?
Marketers and brand makers can use The Elements of Value to clarify and articulate the promise that they are making to their target customers. Start by asking “which elements of value do our products provide?”. The answers will help you arrive at your brand’s promise.
For example, a company that creates fitness products might offer its customers “motivation” and “wellness” with a dose of “attractiveness” and “reduces hassle.” Those values indicate a brand that promises “to make it easier to get fit and feel and look better than ever.”
Perhaps the best opportunity to succinctly deliver a brand’s promise is its tagline. The best taglines from successful brands, such as Nike’s “Just Do It” and Allstate’s “You’re In Good Hands” speak to the value they provide and their place on Bain’s hierarchy. “Just Do It” is as concise an invocation of self-actualization as possible, highlighting Nike’s life-changing aspirationalism. “You’re In Good Hands” evokes a strong emotional response founded on reducing anxiety and the benefits of affiliation and belonging.
Once you understand the promise that your brand makes to your audience, the task becomes highlighting that promise in your marketing and advertising and fulfilling it with your products and service. A brand that consistently embraces their promise and delivers it will gain the trust and loyalty of consumers, creating enthusiastic brand advocates and long-standing success.