Ward Alles

To Really Define Your Brand Promise, RE-fine Your Message

By Ward Alles on November 4, 2013

Whatever form your company’s brand promise takes, it needs to be carefully and clearly defined. Then narrowed. Then crystallized. And then downright refined.

Why? Because you have two major audiences (i.e. your customers and your employees) who are either going to be inspired by or <yawn> at that idea.define-01

Take the time to get it right. And make sure you define it inside and out … so what you say as an organization is how you live as an organization. Your reputation depends on it. That’s why the second phase in Core’s say it. live it.™ branding process, the define phase, is absolutely mission critical. The brand promise could be summed up by a single word. A simple phrase. Or an insightful philosophy. It just needs to stand for something (or even stand against something) to move the heart and soul.

For Ritz Carlton, it’s “Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.”

For Apple, it’s the idea of game-changing innovation.

For the Green Bay Packers, it’s the ridiculous tradition of winning 13 championships. (But who’s counting?)

For Core Creative, it’s: don’t just help clients say their brand promise … help them live it.

In each case, the brand promise is the singular focus of the company. Its reason for being. Its purpose. You need to know, in no uncertain terms, why customers would work WITH your company and why employees would work FOR your company. Write it down. Once you get that nailed, that “why” message gets packaged up with a set of ideas, actions, values, languages, images, etc. that help you connect with audiences at multiple levels. You’re giving employees and customers alike the chance to connect with, feel and live that purpose.

We put all of those goodies into something called the Brand Compass. On one side of the compass it define your:

  • Mission
  • Vision
  • Values
  • Major operating principle
  • Competitive positioning
  • What/how/why language

The other side of the compass contains two tracks written in parallel fashion. A “Say It” track – aimed at defining the customer’s experience with the brand. And a “Live It” track – aimed at defining the employee’s role in connecting with and upholding the brand.

The contents of the brand compass are dreamed up entirely out of thin air. (Kidding! Just wanted to make sure you were paying attention.)

The content all comes directly out of Phase 1: DISCOVERY. All of the research we do makes its way onto this tool, which ultimately serves as a brand platform from which to create motivating internal and external campaigns during Phase 3: DEVELOP.

Clear as mud? Don’t worry. More on that next time.

For now, what questions do you have about Phase 2: DEFINE?


Ward began his advertising career as a copywriter, working for two of Wisconsin’s leading business-to-business agencies. In 1994, Ward helped form Core Creative with his two partners. At Core, he originally served as an account executive and copywriter. As Core grew, Ward moved on to his current administrative role as president. While he still provides brand consultation and strategy to a handful of accounts directly, his primary goal now is to help guide the agency’s direction and business development efforts. Connect with Ward on LinkedIn or drop him an email at ward@corecreative.com.