The New Brand Promise

By David Corelli

Defining what we deliver has changed. It’s time to adapt.

In the summer of 2012, Seth Godin hosted a three-day workshop for 30 entrepreneurs just as they were beginning to launch their business. The audio of the workshop is one of my favourite podcasts – Seth Godin’s Startup School.

Early on, Seth walks the attendees through how people are ‘hiring’ our product or service to solve a problem, and how that problem is rarely because we have six things and want seven. Rather, it’s because we want to impress someone, connect with people, feel less alone. “This is why we do stuff,” Seth notes.

We build brands to tell people that we can solve their problem better than the alternative. To tell them that they should cross the street for us, even though there is a competitor right next door. Our promise is that we will fulfill the expectations and trust they have.

This has been fundamentally the same since the days Don Draper was slinging taglines and jingles for anything from pantyhose to tobacco.

Yet – quietly, under the surface, our culture has underwent a seismic shift on the expectations people have for our brands.

Our promise is to deliver that emotion people crave. To solve that problem they must rid. But to earn that trust, today we must do it with more than just our product and values. The best brands don’t view their relationship with consumers in a silo, they realize they are one part of their overall lifestyle. Further, they realize they can enable that lifestyle. Alongside their product, they integrate the things their consumers desire – content, exclusive benefits, retail experiences, collaborations – that make people’s lives more enriched.

In the meantime, while our brand must provide more, we are also on display more than ever. Today’s brand must promise to deliver an emotion every time people touch it – not just the product, but social media, advertising, packaging, customer service, digital apps. Anything that seems off, people sense it and immediately call it out, putting a negative check in that brand trust column. Does your social commentary seem forced, inauthentic or like you are trying to sell me something? That’s ok, I’ll take my business across the street.

And this is all rightfully so. Brands controlled the conversation for far too long. The power has now shifted fully to the consumer. They define what is good and bad, what is worthy and what is not. The promise is ultimately what the person on the other end believes, not what we tell them they should think.

Our job is to passionately solve that problem as Seth said, by delivering the emotion people seek in as many touchpoints as we possibly can.

Frank & Oak does this tremendously well. Their mission is simple: help a generation of men dress and live well. Live well is the critical part. If they were solely a clothing company, this mission would simply end with “dress well.”

The core of the Frank & Oak business is delivering fashionable, reasonably priced men’s clothing and accessories via a primarily digital experience. Surrounding the digital experience, flagship retail locations integrate hipster coffee shops in the front and old-school barbershops in the back. Curated music suggestions along with stories on like-minded artists, designers and entrepreneurs come via their blog, bi-annual magazine and social accounts. Most recently, the company has launched a consultation service at no charge, where personal stylists will help you define and select your style and pick out outfits without even having to open the app.

The Frank & Oak founders realize that today’s great brands must be a bigger part of their consumer’s lives.

For now, I have 3 pairs of jeans and don’t need 4. But the next time I’m grabbing a haircut and a cappuccino in the F&O retail shop, I might just reach for that extra pair of denim.

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