Brand Promise vs. Brand Experience

April 25th, 2018

“You’re about to get Star Treatment”, it says as I’m getting on the plane.


Is this how you treat a star? First, you clearly let him know where he stands in the pecking order, and it’s not first.  It’s not Platinum, Gold or Silver Elite, either. And if this star wants a seat with extra legroom, well that’s $59.00.  Want to watch an inflight movie? That’s another $6.00. If you want something to eat, choose from the menu and have your credit card ready. Oh, and by the way, that checked bag is $25.00. I’m sure glad I get Star Treatment, because I’d hate to see how you treat the non-stars. I guess that’s reserved for RyanAir’s “vertical seating.”

The point of this isn’t to rant about the sorry state of air travel. It’s to remind us about the often-great divide between our brand’s public promise and the true brand experience. Marketers, be careful what you say, because the consumer is listening.

How many times do we hear an over-the-top promise from a brand only to have the actual experience fall far short? “The finest” whatever. “Number one in satisfaction.” “Best value.” With hyperbole like this, no brand can live up to the expectations. And the customer walks away disappointed. And in our culture’s oversharing environment, there’s a good chance that dissatisfaction will be shared immediately via Twitter or Facebook.

Compare that with a brand that promises a positive experience without absolutes. “15 minutes could save you 15% on car insurance.” “Let’s build something together.” “The few. The proud. The Marines.”  It’s hard to argue with these promises because they’re not absolute. It’s up to the customer to judge, relative to his or her own experience with the brand.

I go back to one of the classics of the ad business, Ogilvy on Advertising, where David Ogilvy reminds us that you don’t have to prove your brand is the very best. You just have to convince the consumer that you are “positively good.”

How does your brand promise live up to the real world? Do you truly give your customers “Star Treatment?” If not, it’s time to change your brand promise – or your brand experience.