How Smart Companies Live Their Brand Promise and Inspire Fierce Customer Loyalty
Author: Laurence Vincent
Pub Date: March 2012
Print Edition: $18.95
Print ISBN: 9780814439265
Page Count: 272
Format: Paper or Softback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814416778
Buy the book:
The world does not need another brand. We’ve got plenty of them, and to
be honest, many are underwhelming. After twenty years in the branding
trade, I wrote this book because I’m as frustrated as the average
consumer by the way so many brands consistently disappoint. Not real
brands, mind you. Real brands are excellent at
fulfilling, and often exceeding, our expectations. They are so focused
on keeping promises that they define the very concept of “brand”—they
make tough strategic decisions about what to offer customers (and what
not to offer them), they attract and retain employees who care, and they
grow without straying from the sense of purpose they symbolize. It’s the
that inspire fierce loyalty.
It takes great discipline to create and manage a real
brand. But you’d never know that by the way a lot of managers talk about
A while back, I was interviewing a prospective client. During our
discussion I asked him questions that I refer to as the reality
• How indispensable is your brand to your
• What’s your rate of employee turnover?
• What does your brand do better than any
competitor, and why does it matter?
• How easy is it for competitors to replicate
your brand experience?
• How easy is it for customers to do business
with your brand?
• If your brand disappeared tomorrow, why would
On this particular occasion, his answer stunned me. He said, “I’m not
looking for a management consultant. I’m talking to you because I need a
nice new brand to make up for the problems you just asked me about.” And
there it was: the trouble with modern branding, right there out in the
open, staring back at me without any sense of irony. My prospective
client ran a company that was being commoditized. He couldn’t keep good
employees because “they all end up wanting too much money.” His company
was engaged in a constant race to keep up with competitors, so he relied
on “cost management” (i.e., cutting corners) and aggressive pricing
tactics as his means of differentiation. And doing business with his
company was a nightmare. He’d outsourced and subcontracted so many
pieces of it that a customer was apt to believe the company was
schizophrenic. Yet somehow he believed he could solve all of these real
problems by hiring someone from the outside to design a better logo,
tidy up the website, and clean up the advertising. That’s not branding.
Needless to say, we didn’t end up working together. He thought I was
arrogant and expensive, and I thought he was delusional. The experience
agitated me because that kind of thinking is widespread, and it poisons
the well for all brands. So I began writing a manifesto about what it
takes to be a real
brand. Real brands make and keep a promise,
and they deliver simple-but-powerful experiences. My manifesto began
as a guideline for the strategists who worked for me, but before I knew
it, my notes became the outline for this book. My goal: to show you what
it takes to make and keep a brand promise.
I’m fond of a quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald: “Don’t write because you
want to say something. Write because you have something to say.” I have
a lot to say about branding. I invest a little bit of myself every time
I work with a client to create or strengthen a brand, and I find it
rewarding when the effort results in a stronger relationship between the
client’s brand and the audience it serves. I suppose that’s why I take
it personally when I hear branding described as a graphic design
exercise—a cosmetic attempt to manipulate the truth. Brands should stand
for something or they shouldn’t stand at all. If you want to create a
real brand, you have to make a promise and be willing to bet the farm on
it. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a small business in Peoria or a
large corporation with offices in every corner of the globe.
Real brands make promises they
intend to keep. This is as true for a brand that stands for a product as
it is for a brand that stands for a person. Everything you may already
understand about a brand—names, logos, advertising, package design,
retail experiences, customer support, and so on—is really just an
extension of that promise in action.
We’ll start in Chapter 1 by debunking one of the most common assumptions
about branding: that names and logos can solve business challenges on
their own. In Chapter 2 we’ll explore the mind of your audience to
understand how they remember brands and recall them when it really
In Chapter 3 you’ll discover the common ways that a brand can make or
refine a promise. After more than one hundred years of brand evolution,
you’ll see that there are some useful patterns at your disposal.
Chapter 4 looks at one of the most bothersome branding challenges: how
to create a brand architecture that provides room for growth without
sacrificing the essence of the brand’s bond with customers. For rapidly
growing brands, architecture—the purposeful organization of brands and
subbrands within a portfolio—is often a nagging issue. You’ll find some
specific ways to make brand architecture a tool for growth instead of an
obstacle to progress.
In Chapter 5 we’ll examine how to position brands within a competitive
category. We’ll discuss establishment
brands and challenger
brands, and how they engage in an ongoing battle for
Chapter 6 will help you better understand the minds of consumers.
Specifically, you’ll see how consumers attach their identities to brands
and why it’s more important to be relevant than to be liked.
In Chapter 7 we’ll explore the power of brand narrative and how brands
rely on storytelling to communicate a promise and connect with
Names and logos attract a lot of attention. In fact, they’re often
mistaken for the brand itself. But in Chapter 8 you’ll learn the truth
about the role that names and logos actually play in branding. And we’ll
see that a brand’s identity serves an important purpose that’s often
In Chapter 9 we’ll see just how much the brand experience affects
consumers’ future decision making. We’ll look into the thoughts,
feelings, and behaviors of branded experience to provide you with a
better perspective on how to prioritize your brand’s operating plans.
Finally, we’ll discuss the critical importance of aligning a brand
internally and the most effective ways to engage people on the inside so
they can deliver the brand promise to the people on the outside.
brand, at its heart, is a promise to deliver. When the brand experience
doesn’t live up to that promise, customers take their business elsewhere.
This book—intended for anyone on the inside of a brand—is a practical
guide for making a brand’s promise stand up when and where it matters
most: at every customer touch point.
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