Bridging the Gap Between Brand Promise and Expectation

by Eric Tsai

One of the first priorities in building your brand is to know who you are and why you matter before you uptake a brand strategy.  I received some feedback on the post “12 Principles of Brand Strategy” and thought it would be important to discussion how to utilize strategy to achieve business goals.  Whether you’re selling a product or a service you need to be able to articulate why you are doing what you set out to do. What’s the meaning behind your offer? Do you have a core belief in what it is that you do?

Too often businesses jump on strategy and tactics but forget the real character behind their brands.  Strategy determines how to position your brand so you can optimize the brand experience you’re trying to emulate.  If you aren’t clear with your brand’s attitude, don’t market, don’t advertise, don’t publicize – don’t communicate to the world because you will likely confuse your audience at the end.

When you start communicating, you put out signals about your brand.  Your audience can’t help but to interpret them in an attempt to aggregate information about you, your personality and ultimately your reputation.  It’s like meeting someone for the first time, your tone of voice, your body language and your choice of words are all part of your character from which all facets of your communication expands.  Marketing simply provides different communication solutions to amplify your signals to position and differentiate your brand.

By defining a realistic and manageable promise (your brand value) you can then proceed to strategize on how you will fulfill them.  If you want your target audience to see your offering as the only answer to their needs, you must meet or exceed their expectations.  That’s what remarkable brands do.  They align their brand value with their business strategy to create a winning brand strategy that’s authentic and meaningful.

Communication Tactics

In generate there are three major areas communication tactics:

1. Marketing:
Viral marketing, multi-level marketing, direct marketing, word-of-mouth marketing and integrated marketing are all forms of marketing in an attempt to influence an audience through direct communication.  Why would you put in the effort to get everyone’s attention and not fulfill the expectations? People come to expect a specific experience that’s promised to them.  As a brand you must learn to deliver across a multitude of marketing channels.

Coke Cola may have different advertising slogans, but around the world the company maintains the same focus on its core value: to ensure that everyone on Earth drank Coca-Cola as their preferred beverage. They kept their promise on the taste of their product but have utilized a variety of marketing tactics to reach their global audience.

Google, who rarely advertises, focus on their brand promise to “provide access to the world’s information in one click.” As you probably guess it, they did exactly that which is why Google didn’t have to spend heavily on advertising in marketing their search engine.  In fact, when you deliver on your promise consistently and accurately to a specific need, you become the only solution in your target audience’s mind.

2. Advertising:
Advertising can be fun and interesting but it’s merely an attempt to influence through repeated communication. Whether you agree or not, we’re all voyeur seeking for adventurous experiences and brands are the perfect purveyors to fulfill that interest. This concept generates a gap between what’s expected and delivered.

I was not surprise when I came across a recent report by Harris Poll indicating that “Though advertisers and consumers both agree that amusing ads are effective and scary and guilt-inducing ads are not, they don’t see eye-to-eye on the efficacy of other types of advertising appeals.

harris-ad09Although the poll may have some considerable bias, overall advertising professionals and the general public are out of sync.  The problem is trying to pinpoint what the consumer say they want versus the “perceived effectiveness” as well as what exactly worked in sales conversions.  This is also why advertising analytics are extremely important because as a communication tactic, it’s fairly expensive with relatively low conversion rates.  And, let’s face it, results is what it’s all about.

Regardless of your advertising approach, you must first define the desirable outcome for the campaign according to your brand value then let your creative juices flow.  Creativity is where it’s at, especially now with the convergence of media ads are everywhere and viewers have relatively short attention span.

Remember, a memorable ad may elevate your brand awareness, but it doesn’t necessary mean it will increase sales, it’s a great tactic that requires abundance of creativity. A great example would be a musical branding effort by Coke “omitting any reference to the brand in a catchy song it created,” and still, consumers were able to connect the song with the brand as it climbed to the top 40 Apple iTunes pop chart.

3 Public Relations:
Public relations or PR is the attempt to influence through third party communication in a positive light. Fundamentally, it’s reputation management while developing relationship with mainstream public as well as other organizations where communications exists.  However, with the emerging trend in social media, PR now must take on an important element of this explosive platform – conversation.

PR helps in building brand loyalty so it is even more important to have meaningful conversation to further your authenticity. This is why brands are now turning to bloggers for PR needs but the key is transparency.  According to research from Text 100, “Bloggers are big on transparency when it comes to marketer involvement. Between 85% and 89% of US bloggers agreed that they should acknowledge when a post has been written in return for some sort of compensation.


The proper use of PR will boost your traffic and increase conversion rates.  But keep in mind it can also go the other way.  Look at Amazon’s product reviews and you’ll find that there are highly influential reviewers on there that can help drive the rank of a product up or down.  And just like bloggers they have the power to endorse your brand with their signature on it. Their audience have come to expect their personal brand promise of a “proper review” thus anything less could jeopardize their reputation.  Also a full disclosure of their intentions (compensation or benefits) would not damage their name. That’s the strength of brand authenticity built on a solid relationship.

The take away: As global communication and global business are now almost instantaneous, having the right brand strategy and identity is secondary.  If you don’t define your brand promise, how would you go about managing your audience’s expectations?

How would you feel if you were promise something but it turns out to be something completely different?

3 Keys to Improve Your Brand in Social Marketing

by Eric Tsai

Many businesses continue to operate under the assumption that a website, a basic product offering or great brochure will bring profits and revenue to their bottom line. Those days are over.  Brands are now crossing over into the hybrid marketing era that incorporates some form of social media.

You already know the importance of product, price, placement and promotion, but none of that matters without people. People is what build relationship and creates opportunities.  And that’s exactly what social media has added: the fifth “P” of marketing.

Whether your brand provides information products, consumer goods or services, one thing still remains the same: the most effective marketing is still word-of-mouth (WOM).

WOM generates buzz and it gets passed along over and over and over again in a highly influential way. It’s how friends tell friends about the things that excite them or what business owners tell other business owners on what works for their business.

According to the latest Nielsen Global Consumer Survey: 90% of consumers said they trust recommendations from people they know, while 70% trusted consumer opinions posted online.

It’s indicative that all forms of advertising retains certain level of pervasiveness to them. In the case of WOM, it contributes to instant social proof and is particularly effective in social media.

Consider social media the new viral marketing tactic and will typically involve the following steps in launching a campaign:

An effective message: How you position your brand and the message you’re trying to get across.  Knowing your audience (the influencers, decision makers) is the key to build a winning message.  It’s all about getting the right message to the right people while being authentically efficient.  Communication is the heart of your customer acquisition and engagement strategies, the key is fostering a high quality relationship that aims to build long-term value: the foundation of a trusted connection.

A targeted channel: Although many brands are still utilizing traditional media outlets, ideally you want to target the most cost-effective channel that’s appropriate for your brand.  Social network advertising channel is rapidly becoming the favor platform for brands because online advertising is cheaper compared to other mediums such as TV and print and is far more targeted.  With that said, face-to-face interaction is still the top channel for people engagement.  Nothing will ever replace the old fashioned hand shake, a lunch or even that discovery phone call.

A viral network: Social media has created a new instantaneous viral network, Facebook has more than 250 million users and Twitter has 20 million growing more than 1000% year over year.  There are other social networks you can tap in such as LinkedIn or even the blogsphere.  The point is your customers are already on those networks connected and connecting with other like-minded individuals, sharing and commenting in groups with detail profiles and pictures.  Consider social network that’s a directory with the domino effect.

Now that you’ve got your killer message and a channel to distribute it, how do you get the viral network to be, well, viral?

The answer is simple: you need to be trusted.

Relationships And Conversations

In order to be trusted, you need to build influence on your audiences’ terms and be truly authentic in sharing and informing.  I’ve discussed being authentic before so I won’t get into the detail again, but recently I’ve found that there are some low level engagement that are both ineffective and deceiving.

In a recent article “Who cares about your news”, Valeria Maltoni clearly illustrated the problem with inadequate engagement and I encourage you to read her post.  In fact, I too received similar email from Gary Vaynerchuk’s publicist on July 9:

Hey, this is xxx from xxx. I’m working with Gary Vaynerchuk to help promote his new book: Crush It: Why Now Is the Time To Cash In on Your Passion.  Because the book deals heavily with social media strategy and branding, which is obviously something this blog talks about as well, we thought it might be something you’d be interested in checking out…

Ironically on the same day I received another email from a personal branding expert which I will not disclose here asking me to boost his rating on Amazon:

…my book, xxx, is being sabotaged on Basically, 5 people are giving it bad ratings, just to be negative and then at the end of each review where it says “Was this review helpful to you?”, they (and their friends) are selecting “yes,” which pushes up those negative ratings to the top and hurts the brand of the book.

As a favor to me, could you please go to Amazon link here and press “no” under the bad reviews and “yes” under the good reviews…

Honestly, I wasn’t offended but rather disappointed with the meaningless connection attempts by both media “celebrities.” Not only do they have a large following, they’re also role models to many. It’s obvious that both emails wanted me to do something but why would I care about someone that doesn’t care about me?  Have they read my blog or know what their readers are about? Is it all about selling books?

You simply have to apply those questions to your audience to start thinking about the meaning in your engagement.  Often time it will lead to questioning the value of your product and the impact of your offering.

People can be impressed easily but that doesn’t mean they’ll act on it to buy your product or do what you’ve asked.  You’re audience can be your best word-of-mouth marketing campaign but that comes from within the quality of the engagement.

As a marketer myself I understand the “selling” tactics but it only works best if you bring value to the connection and develop a consistent long-term relationship with your audience.

Why waste the time to reach out if you aren’t ready to have a meaningful conversation?

Owning The Social Distribution Network

Social media is about having a presence then connecting and sharing meaningful information with your audience for the long haul.  I’ve covered the pillar strategies in “7 Keys to Creating Social Media Strategy for Your Brand” as a high-level overview, so now let’s look the desired outcome of branding in social media.


Conceptually, you are the center of the network universe and social media is the tool that enables you to build a community around a product or service in forging your brand’s marketing distribution channel. Once you’ve earn the trust, it spreads like WOM marketing expanding to all directions reaching your potential prospects.

Whether you have a brilliant product or the perfect message, developing your channel takes time and precision while owning it takes relentless focus on your audience’s ongoing needs.

The downside to the network is that it can work against you destroying your reputation just as fast. This means knowing your brand strategy in social marketing will be extremely important to maintain the sphere of trust.

Here are 3 keys to improve your brand while marketing in social media:

1) Move the “free” line
If you want to be part of the decision making process, you need to be considered as a key opinion leader or resource. Supply your audience with free resources such as reports, statistics and guides that can help elevate your perceived expertise.  With the amount of information on the internet today, your audience can find almost anything but if you can quantify the information that leads to a path of knowledge enrichment, you will certainly earn a few brownie points to be considered as the prime candidate. Google does this very well with their how-to videos extending their brand with social learning.

Your customer will compare before they a purchase anyway so why not give them a reason to start liking you because you’ve willing to share the wealth. If the free information you provide is valuable, you’re already a step ahead of your competition not to mention that you’re turning them into your “A” customers by providing all the necessary training and education.

2) Crowdsource for improvements
While the success of your brand’s often comes down to the effectiveness of your message, it pays to ask questions.  Companies like Starbucks, Best Buy and Pizza Hut are all using customer feedback to improve product innovation and service experience. Starbucks even let’s their customers suggest on new product ideas. Social marketing shouldn’t just be about the outbound messages; it’s an ongoing dialogue to better serve your audience.

The customers that give you feedback are often your most loyal customers so why not reward them by fulfilling a few of their suggestions.  Keep in mind that providing what they want should not be the main source of innovation, rather it’s a good starting point.

3) Embrace brand transparency
People appreciate honesty and integrity so all you have to do is stay consistent and admit when you’re wrong.  If you try to twist the truth, you’ll not last long and people won’t forget manipulations and deceptions.

This can be seen by how Major League Baseball players are forgiven about steroid use if they admit their wrongdoing rather than lie about it. The players that got caught were all given a chance to show their remorse, the ones that lied never get to play the game again because they simply can not be trusted.

In addition, when you show progress or improvement as a brand, your customer will empathize with you for the openness and sincerity. Similar to the examples I gave above on the two media celebrities, if they actually took time to get to know me, I may very well assist them with their requests, but now it’s back to square one again.

How are you improving your brand in social media?  What kind of success did you have with your social marketing efforts?  I’d like to know your thoughts.