April 5, 2022

Valuable Brands Make & Keep Promises

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A brand is a promise. A good brand is a promise kept. - Muhtar Kent , CEO Coca-Cola Co. 2008-2017 

Every year, Fortune magazine publishes a list of the world's most admired companies. Apple has been at the top of the list for 14 years because of the brand Apple has built. The Apple Brand is valued at $335 billion dollars (the company is valued at approximately $3 trillion dollars). The brand of a company involves every possible communication and interaction a company and its products have with the world. The value of a brand is based on their reputation for making and keeping promises. Apple built their brand on the promise to “Think Different”, and they have been keeping that promise so well that the quality and service standards for all brands have been raised. 

Building Trust 

Making and keeping promises is more important for doing business today than ever before. A study by McKinsey and Company studies show that as choices and channels increase, brand trustworthiness is more important to consumers. “Brands are beacons of trust. The more choices consumers have, the more important these beacons become. Our research shows that brand relevance is especially high in categories that offer almost unlimited choice, such as online dating, online shopping, and online travel booking. For online shoppers, risk reduction is the most important brand function by far, well ahead of image benefit and information efficiency. A strong brand radiates trust and shields shoppers from the risk of making the wrong choice.” In other words, when options are seemingly unlimited, we look for something or someone we can trust.

Transforming Business 

Memphis based FedEx transformed the shipping business with their well known promise and slogan, “When it Absolutely, Positively has to be there overnight.” The FedEx promise set expectations. Delivering on their overnight promise made FedEx a world leader in the logistics and express shipping industry. Making and keeping their promise made FedEx one of the most admired companies and most valued brands in the world. 

FedEx is able to keep their promise to customers by having a team based strategy where all employees make a promise they call the Purple Promise, “I will make every FedEx experience outstanding.” This is an excellent example of a brand promise that gives employees more meaning and purpose in their jobs. See A Good Job For Life.

Realistic Expectations 

Brands must promise only what they can deliver. JP Morgan Chase is currently ranked by Forbes as the 10th most admired company. Perhaps no company on this list does a better job of setting proper expectations as their promise. “We will work with fierce resolve to make this a company of which our customers, employees, shareholders and communities can be proud. We cannot promise specific outcomes or risk-free results. From time to time, we may fall short in our efforts and if that happens, we will renew our commitment to these principles and re-double our efforts. What we can and will promise is to be truthful and give honest assessments of our businesses and prospects; act with integrity and honor; and do the right thing—not necessarily the easy or expedient thing.” How refreshing! How admirable! Of course, even the most admired companies make mistakes, even big ones. Not every service point or communication can be perfect. 

Inspiration Not Manipulation 

All three of these brands – Apple, FedEx, and JP Morgan – do a fabulous job inspiring people beyond just the products and services they offer. These companies understand that business is done by people to help solve the needs of other people. In light of this, great brands think long-term and are careful not to let any short-term promotion impact the trust they have built with their consumers. Companies that promise health, wealth, and happiness often fall short as they manipulate people with fear and insecurities. 

Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, recently responded to Nitesh Chopra, a dentist in Haryana, India, whose Apple watch alerted him to a potential heart problem. Upon clinical evaluation, Nitesh had a blocked artery. Overwhelmed with gratitude, Nitesh sent Tim Cook an email thanking Tim for the alert Nitesh’s Apple watch sent him. Here is how Tim Cook responded, "I'm very glad you sought clinical evaluation and received the care you desired. Thank you for sharing your story with us. Have a good day. Best wishes, Tim." This is an outstanding way to set proper product expectations. Tim Cook knew that while the watch alerted Nitesh to a potential heart problem, the solution to the heart problem was not another Apple watch – it was professional medical care. 

You Too Are A Brand

Brand reputation and value are not just something for big companies to consider. Every organization and individual has a brand. Small businesses, nonprofit, and individuals build their brands the same ways global companies do – one interaction at a time.

Take a moment and think about the promises you are making and keeping. Whose needs are being met? Are there people whose lives you are enriching by serving them, encouraging them, or creating community with them? Lewis Smedes writes, “When you make a promise you have created a small sanctuary of trust within the jungle of unpredictability…When you make a promise, you tie yourself to other persons by the unseen fibers of loyalty. You agree to stick with people you are stuck with. When everything else tells them they can count on nothing, they count on you. When they do not have the faintest notion of what in the world is going on around them, they will know that you are going to be there with them. You have created a small sanctuary of trust within the jungle of unpredictability: you have made a promise that you intend to keep.” 

And, just like brands, we will fail at times. We will make mistakes in our daily interactions. When we do, we must apologize sincerely without excuse. We can let them know that we will do our best to make it up to them. And, when our promises exceed the capacity of our ability to deliver, we can humbly explain and reset expectations for future interactions. 

The Perfect Promise Maker 

It is right for us to consider the perfect promise keeper when we consider what to promise others. 

  • The God who promised Abraham and Sarah a son and descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky when they were too old to have children (Genesis 15:4-5). 
  • The God who promised to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt to the promised land and promised to be with Moses as he would be used to lead them out (Exodus 3:8; 3:12). 
  • The God who promised David that his lineage and rule would reign forever (2 Samuel 7:16).
  • The God who promised to send His son to suffer and save His people from their transgressions and sins (Isaiah 53:4-6).
  • The God who promised an unwed virgin, Mary, a son who would be the Savior of the world (Luke 1:45).

The Perfect Promise Keeper 

Only God keeps every promise perfectly and Jesus is The Way God chooses to keep them. For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” - 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 

Jesus promises, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” - John 14:6. Therefore, we are full of hope that depends on work that is not our own but on God’s promise and the work of Christ. Therefore, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13). 

Perfect Promise Fuels Our Promises 

Hope in Christ assures us that we don’t have to earn anything on our own. Assurance in Christ gives us freedom to serve others with our leadership, goods, and services in a way that is beneficial to those around us. Praxis, a creative engine for redemptive entrepreneurship, says our faith must inform the brands we lead. “We craft a brand through imagination and truth, advancing narratives of virtue and hope across our venture’s sphere of influence. We resist the urge to play to our customers’ desires, insecurity, or ego through marketing based on fear or status.” In other words, when our brand promises take inspiration from the promises of God, we no longer have to rely on gimmicks or misleading advertisements to meet the bottom line. Our faith in Christ propels us forward to make reasonable promises and keep the promises we have made.

Resource Links 

Praxis on branding and marketing

Controlling the Unpredictable — The Power of Promising, Lewis Smedes

Fortune’s  Most Admired Companies

Most Valuable Brands

McKinsey and Company, The Future of Brand Strategy

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Howard Graham
Howard Graham
Executive Director

A brand is a promise. A good brand is a promise kept. - Muhtar Kent , CEO Coca-Cola Co. 2008-2017 

Every year, Fortune magazine publishes a list of the world's most admired companies. Apple has been at the top of the list for 14 years because of the brand Apple has built. The Apple Brand is valued at $335 billion dollars (the company is valued at approximately $3 trillion dollars). The brand of a company involves every possible communication and interaction a company and its products have with the world. The value of a brand is based on their reputation for making and keeping promises. Apple built their brand on the promise to “Think Different”, and they have been keeping that promise so well that the quality and service standards for all brands have been raised. 

Building Trust 

Making and keeping promises is more important for doing business today than ever before. A study by McKinsey and Company studies show that as choices and channels increase, brand trustworthiness is more important to consumers. “Brands are beacons of trust. The more choices consumers have, the more important these beacons become. Our research shows that brand relevance is especially high in categories that offer almost unlimited choice, such as online dating, online shopping, and online travel booking. For online shoppers, risk reduction is the most important brand function by far, well ahead of image benefit and information efficiency. A strong brand radiates trust and shields shoppers from the risk of making the wrong choice.” In other words, when options are seemingly unlimited, we look for something or someone we can trust.

Transforming Business 

Memphis based FedEx transformed the shipping business with their well known promise and slogan, “When it Absolutely, Positively has to be there overnight.” The FedEx promise set expectations. Delivering on their overnight promise made FedEx a world leader in the logistics and express shipping industry. Making and keeping their promise made FedEx one of the most admired companies and most valued brands in the world. 

FedEx is able to keep their promise to customers by having a team based strategy where all employees make a promise they call the Purple Promise, “I will make every FedEx experience outstanding.” This is an excellent example of a brand promise that gives employees more meaning and purpose in their jobs. See A Good Job For Life.

Realistic Expectations 

Brands must promise only what they can deliver. JP Morgan Chase is currently ranked by Forbes as the 10th most admired company. Perhaps no company on this list does a better job of setting proper expectations as their promise. “We will work with fierce resolve to make this a company of which our customers, employees, shareholders and communities can be proud. We cannot promise specific outcomes or risk-free results. From time to time, we may fall short in our efforts and if that happens, we will renew our commitment to these principles and re-double our efforts. What we can and will promise is to be truthful and give honest assessments of our businesses and prospects; act with integrity and honor; and do the right thing—not necessarily the easy or expedient thing.” How refreshing! How admirable! Of course, even the most admired companies make mistakes, even big ones. Not every service point or communication can be perfect. 

Inspiration Not Manipulation 

All three of these brands – Apple, FedEx, and JP Morgan – do a fabulous job inspiring people beyond just the products and services they offer. These companies understand that business is done by people to help solve the needs of other people. In light of this, great brands think long-term and are careful not to let any short-term promotion impact the trust they have built with their consumers. Companies that promise health, wealth, and happiness often fall short as they manipulate people with fear and insecurities. 

Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, recently responded to Nitesh Chopra, a dentist in Haryana, India, whose Apple watch alerted him to a potential heart problem. Upon clinical evaluation, Nitesh had a blocked artery. Overwhelmed with gratitude, Nitesh sent Tim Cook an email thanking Tim for the alert Nitesh’s Apple watch sent him. Here is how Tim Cook responded, "I'm very glad you sought clinical evaluation and received the care you desired. Thank you for sharing your story with us. Have a good day. Best wishes, Tim." This is an outstanding way to set proper product expectations. Tim Cook knew that while the watch alerted Nitesh to a potential heart problem, the solution to the heart problem was not another Apple watch – it was professional medical care. 

You Too Are A Brand

Brand reputation and value are not just something for big companies to consider. Every organization and individual has a brand. Small businesses, nonprofit, and individuals build their brands the same ways global companies do – one interaction at a time.

Take a moment and think about the promises you are making and keeping. Whose needs are being met? Are there people whose lives you are enriching by serving them, encouraging them, or creating community with them? Lewis Smedes writes, “When you make a promise you have created a small sanctuary of trust within the jungle of unpredictability…When you make a promise, you tie yourself to other persons by the unseen fibers of loyalty. You agree to stick with people you are stuck with. When everything else tells them they can count on nothing, they count on you. When they do not have the faintest notion of what in the world is going on around them, they will know that you are going to be there with them. You have created a small sanctuary of trust within the jungle of unpredictability: you have made a promise that you intend to keep.” 

And, just like brands, we will fail at times. We will make mistakes in our daily interactions. When we do, we must apologize sincerely without excuse. We can let them know that we will do our best to make it up to them. And, when our promises exceed the capacity of our ability to deliver, we can humbly explain and reset expectations for future interactions. 

The Perfect Promise Maker 

It is right for us to consider the perfect promise keeper when we consider what to promise others. 

  • The God who promised Abraham and Sarah a son and descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky when they were too old to have children (Genesis 15:4-5). 
  • The God who promised to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt to the promised land and promised to be with Moses as he would be used to lead them out (Exodus 3:8; 3:12). 
  • The God who promised David that his lineage and rule would reign forever (2 Samuel 7:16).
  • The God who promised to send His son to suffer and save His people from their transgressions and sins (Isaiah 53:4-6).
  • The God who promised an unwed virgin, Mary, a son who would be the Savior of the world (Luke 1:45).

The Perfect Promise Keeper 

Only God keeps every promise perfectly and Jesus is The Way God chooses to keep them. For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” - 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 

Jesus promises, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” - John 14:6. Therefore, we are full of hope that depends on work that is not our own but on God’s promise and the work of Christ. Therefore, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13). 

Perfect Promise Fuels Our Promises 

Hope in Christ assures us that we don’t have to earn anything on our own. Assurance in Christ gives us freedom to serve others with our leadership, goods, and services in a way that is beneficial to those around us. Praxis, a creative engine for redemptive entrepreneurship, says our faith must inform the brands we lead. “We craft a brand through imagination and truth, advancing narratives of virtue and hope across our venture’s sphere of influence. We resist the urge to play to our customers’ desires, insecurity, or ego through marketing based on fear or status.” In other words, when our brand promises take inspiration from the promises of God, we no longer have to rely on gimmicks or misleading advertisements to meet the bottom line. Our faith in Christ propels us forward to make reasonable promises and keep the promises we have made.

Resource Links 

Praxis on branding and marketing

Controlling the Unpredictable — The Power of Promising, Lewis Smedes

Fortune’s  Most Admired Companies

Most Valuable Brands

McKinsey and Company, The Future of Brand Strategy

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