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Creating Brand Promise
A brand is a promise. It tells consumers what you promise to do for them. That's why every organization, whether online or off-line, should start its brand development process by answering the question "We promise to deliver what to you?" Victoria's Secret promises consumers that they will get quality fashions that make them (or recipients) feel and look good. It goes on to promise that they will receive what they order in a reasonable time, and if for some reason they are not satisfied, consumers can return items and receive refunds (both in stores and through catalog and online outlets).

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For the brand to connect with consumers, it needs to promise people in core market segments that the attributes (or benefits) they want most will be delivered by the product they buy—not just the first time but every time. And if for any reason customers don't get what they expect, the brand assures them that the seller will try to correct the situation and deliver the desired benefit in the future. When customers perceive this to be true for a brand, customer loyalty and willingness to pay a price premium generates profits and long-term brand equity.

Brands are shorthand for the promises a company makes to consumers when it sells its products. If there were a pledge companies made to consumers through their brands, it would contain the following promises:

• A promise that you will like the product and you will like the brand
• A promise that we will live up to the "hype"
• A promise that you will be satisfied with your choice
• A promise that we will be there if something goes wrong
• A promise that we will fix what goes wrong
• A promise that you can trust us to keep the promises that we make

On the Internet, customers deal with unknown organizations in distant and unknown locations, which to most consumers don't feel real. That makes it difficult for consumers to know whether sellers will keep their promises or even be there in the future. Migrating consumers to online sites for bricks-and-mortar firms such as Charles Schwab, BankOne, and Wal-Mart is easier than getting them to trust e-only dot-com.

When there's a physical location, consumers who don't get their orders, receive the wrong orders, or are just plain unhappy can visit the store of a traditional retailer and pound on the manager's desk until they get some satisfaction! But why buy from Wingspan.com (Bane One's online banking entity) when you can buy from BankOne.com? When customers buy from retailers such as Bank One, Target, Sears, or a local firm that has served the community for years, consumers conclude—and rightfully so—that the firm has a proven track record and will most likely keep the brand's promise. Only experience (which takes time) and significant marketing dollars can overcome the natural advantages that bricks-and-mortar firms carry to the clicks-and-order environment.

Promise-keeping by a brand builder should occur with the fervor of a religious movement, making sure every feature, package, communication, price point, and policy consistently "keeps the promise" of the brand. Look at many of the failed dot-com firms and you'll see more fervor for technology, for being "first mover," or for launching the IPO than for understanding the benefits desired by core segment customers and how to deliver them profitably under the umbrella of a brand. Often, they totally confuse awareness of the brand name with its image or reputation for consistent delivery of desired attributes to key market targets.

In its purest form, a brand is a promise from companies to consumers. To ensure long-term success of the brand, that promise must be communicated and fulfilled with costs low enough to be profitable. Then, and only then, does a firm have brand equity.

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Source :
Roger Blackwell and Kristina Stephan, Customers Rule! Why the E-Commerce Honeymoon is over and where Winning Businesses Go From Here, Crown Business. You can find this excellent book here

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