Last week’s post talked about the vital alignment between your brand platform and your value promise. A great example of getting the two concepts of brand and value promise wrong comes in a series of ads that Madison’s Capital Bank presents in the daily Wisconsin State Journal. Each ad contains a picture of one of the bank’s commercial lenders with the words Capital Bank to the left followed by three adjectives.
The three adjectives or attributes may be what differentiates Capital Bank lenders from competitors’ lenders. But these three adjectives are neither a value promise nor are they reflective of a thoughtful brand platform. Before I explain why, let’s look at a winning example.
A winning value promise and brand promise example
Walmart’s “everyday lowest price” is the company’s value promise, its “True North” that drives all internal decisions. “Save more. Live better” is the brand promise that stems from Walmart’s value promise. This brand tagline expresses a benefit and it is emotional. Contrast that with “Knowledgeable. Resourceful. Responsive.” Where’s the benefit? The emotion?
Walmart’s value promise of “everyday lowest price” is terrific because it is:
- Highly relevant – addresses benefits or costs that matter to its target customer
- Unique – Walmart has built advantages that make it hard for competitors to copy its lowest price promise
- Translates into a compelling brand promise with high emotional appeal, living bettter
What’s the problem then with Capital Bank using attributes in its brand communications and as its value promise?
First, they may not be unique. If I am a business and my banker is already knowledgeable, resourceful and responsive I react with “I have that. Thank you anyways.” Capital Bank’s commercial lenders may have to knock on a lot of doors to find a disgruntled customer of a competitor.
The second problem is that attributes make for weak internal directives. The commercial bankers are not being called to deliver any specific result to clients. Lenders can easily say to themselves, “I am being knowledgeable, resourceful and responsive” and think that that is enough. But what if most other community commercial bankers in the market are also knowledgeable, resourceful and responsive? The adjectives create no momentum for change.
Third, the attributes are internally focused. They have no “What’s in it for me?” factor from the potential customer’s perspective. Relevancy and emotional appeal stem from the “What can you promise me?” factor, not the description of the bankers.
Capital Bank could do a lot better
What value promise would work for Capital Bank? I’d want to do customer and market research first, and understand the core competencies of Capital Bank, to answer this question correctly. But for purposes of this blog, here are three benefit promises that require knowledgeable, responsive and resourceful lenders plus a lot of systems, incentives, measures and partners. These promises would likely create internal change and lead a potential customer to say “Wow, I’d like that, even though I’ve been highly satisfied with my commercial lender.”
- Fastest answers – this is great for a target that must make fast decisions dependent on lending
- The best loan to protect your cash flow – this is terrific given all the uncertainty about future economic trends
- “Protect and enhance your creditworthiness. Call us first with any financial question or issue.” – this is a unique way to position Capital Bank ahead of accounting firms, whom businesses see as more trustworthy than bankers in general
Each of these value promises could then bridge to a great brand promise with emotional appeal. Can anyone recommend some great ad copy?
Note that I am not saying that attributes are unimportant, as they are. They are the “reason to believe” the value and brand promises. Capital Bank may be onto some interesting areas of differentiation for its commercial lending around knowledge, etc. But the bank’s leadership and ad agency have not done the work to create a winning value promise and brand platform.
If your internal and external communications are all about attributes i.e., adjectives that describe you, you’re not answering the compelling question that all companies must answer. What can I promise and consistently deliver that will draw my target customer to me and keep him or her loyal? Then, how do I align everything I do (including aspects of my organization’s culture) to deliver on that value promise? And, how do I communicate the value promise in a way that is emotional, compelling and stands out?
What examples of bad ads have you seen?
For insight on business model strategy, read my recently released book, Beyond Price.
Jacqui Sakowski says
Thank you Kay, for a well structured, sound and easy to read article about this important aspect of promotional strategy.
As a sales coach/trainer I spend a great deal of time helping my trainees to understand that clients and customers buy the outcomes provided by the products and services that they purchase, rather than the products and services themselves.
Hopefully if we can each raise the consciousness of our clients, from our different roles in their businesses, about this part of their message and promise, we will help them to communicate more effectively with their highest value customers, and to obtain a higher return on their promotional dollars!