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How to Deliver on Your Brand Promise, Even During Disruption

How to Deliver on Your Brand Promise, Even During Disruption

by Nate Dvorak and Jennifer Robison

Story Highlights

  • Objectively analyze the components of your brand promise
  • Only half of customers believe companies deliver on their promises
  • Modify your brand to meet customers' current reality

Of the almost 18 million customers Gallup has surveyed, only about half strongly believe that the companies they do business with always deliver on the promises they make. That massive study makes it clear: Delivering consistently on a brand promise is not easy. The disruption seen in the first two quarters of 2020 made it even more difficult.

But it's worth the effort. Keeping the brand promise builds brand equity with potential customers and engages current customers too -- and they're the most valuable customers you can have. Gallup analytics shows that engaged customers represent a 23% premium in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue and relationship growth over the average customer.

All organizations need to do what it takes to engage customers. Even during a crisis. Especially during a crisis.

Gallup's advice to clients about brand promises is to start by objectively analyzing the components of your brand promise -- your brand essence, positioning and value proposition.

Assess your brand: Break it down into these three parts.

Certain qualities distinguish your brand from your competitors; certain characteristics differentiate your products or services; certain advantages make your brand the brand for customers. Your brand's essence, positioning and value proposition are fundamental elements of your brand promise and the value that customers feel it provides.

That's during normal times. These aren't normal times.

Getting clarity on your brand during a crisis requires an assessment tailored to the moment. Start by asking yourself these questions:

  1. Brand essence: In what ways is our brand staying true to our purpose? What specific elements of our core brand do customers value more during challenging times?
  2. Brand drivers: How do we want our brand to reflect the best version of itself? What is our brand being called upon to deliver to the world, to our customers and to the communities we serve?
  3. Service values: How is our brand delivering on what our customers want right now? How do we deliver on customer experiences consistent with our brand promise in this new reality?

These questions can help you determine your brand equity and the long-term implication of the brand promise, even in an evolving situation. Enduring brand elements increase the brand equity -- they're investible assets -- and they help a brand survive a crisis.

All organizations need to do what it takes to engage customers. Even during a crisis. Especially during a crisis.

Consider the crises that have boiled up this year, which have wreaked havoc on many businesses' ability to consistently deliver on their promises. Think about all the banks that closed their branches or limited their hours. Brand essence is a function of an organization's unchanging purpose -- so if a bank's brand essence is community financial wellbeing, its brand driver is individualized attention, its service values include extended hours and branches are the primary delivery mechanism of those promises, the bank is in trouble.

Many companies are in a similar position: unable to deliver on the brand promise according to their usual means, unable to engage customers in the usual way. That's a troubling situation -- but not a catastrophic one if the company adapts and delivers on its promises modified to customers' current reality. Those that can adapt can keep their engaged customers and maintain their brand equity.

Double down on the promises you already made. Just deliver them differently.

So go back to those questions, and think of them in light of the current situation. How does your brand identity apply to the world your customers live in? What makes you unique now? How do customers see you now? What makes you invaluable now? And how does your brand transcend the times and provide value … always?

A key aspect of your answer should be your customers' wellbeing. Gallup finds that worry and stress are on the rise, which makes customers more sensitive to their physical, social, career, community and financial security and their overall wellbeing. They want to know you're looking out for them. Your organization should be frequently and proactively communicating how your products and services, your brand promise, and the way you deliver on that brand promise keep them safe and improve their wellbeing under the circumstances. Their circumstances.

Keeping your brand promise now is one of the most important things you can do to show you value your customers -- no matter what disruptions may come.

Think about that bank again. Unable to keep its promise the usual way, the bank should align its brand, decisions and customers' reality by living its essence of community financial wellbeing with expertise in PPP loan processing -- a family-owned bank in Nebraska, Union Bank & Trust, did exactly that and became famous for it. It can adapt its brand drivers by scheduling one-by-one customer visits to the bank so customers get individualized attention safely. And it can keep its service values by extending those visiting hours well into the evening and on weekends and calling customers just to check in. CommunityAmerica, a Kansas City credit union, did and found that its customers' financial wellbeing scores were higher after the pandemic than before.

Adaptive maneuvers like those allow businesses to deliver on long-standing promises -- just in a different format.

Stay consistent: It's time to be creative, not innovative.

The trick, of course, is actually doing it. Gallup's advice is to be creative, not innovative. Launching a whole new product or service during a time of crisis may confuse your customers and overwhelm stressed employees. For most organizations, now is the time to stay in your comfort zone and focus on consistently delivering on the promises you have already made to your customers, adapted to their current reality.

That was tough enough even before the pandemic -- only 27% of employees strongly agreed that they always deliver on the promises they make to their customers. But keeping your brand promise now is one of the most important things you can do to show you value your customers, no matter what disruptions may come.

Understanding how to deliver consistent experiences and promises in a disrupted environment is not easy. There's more to it than shifting the place and space where employees work. It requires understanding how changing the way you work affects the experiences your customers have. That, of course, requires understanding the most important drivers of their experience, how their engagement has been impacted by this disruption, how your employees have been affected. You -- and all the employees downstream of you -- need to know how to adapt and deliver on promises in a new way. The way your customers need them.

That way is different now. It'll be different again soon.

But shoring up your brand equity by keeping your brand promise is the way you keep customers. Engaged customers are the equity you need today because they'll see you through until tomorrow. And there's no better way to survive disruption and restart than to be backed by customers who are pulling for you -- because you kept your promises to them.

Fulfill your brand promise, regardless of disruption:


Vibhas Ratanjee contributed to this article.

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