What promises can your consumer experience make?

By Steve McCallions

“I promise.” It’s a simple statement. One uttered by children trying to convince their parents that they will be good, by husband and wife on their wedding day (and every week on trash day). A promise builds a strong emotional connection between two people. They are simple words, but when spoken from the heart (and delivered on), they form the foundation for meaningful relationships–and consumer experiences.

Meaningful consumer experiences are based on a relationship between brands and people. By clearly promising something to people that is authentic and relevant, brands can increase the value of their products and services and connect on an emotional level.

Companies that deliver great consumer experiences understand the importance of a promise. Beyond a communication device, a good promise defines what a brand is willing to do for its customers and delivers on that through a series of artifacts. A good promise is simple and clear. It’s relevant to people, but if it’s only relevant it remains empty.

As we wind down the age of overabundance, people are exhausted by empty promises. An effective promise must also be an authentic expression of the brand–something that a company cares deeply and passionately about. A promise built on relevancy and authenticity forms the foundation of a relationship built on trust. Today, people are looking for that.


A handful of companies are willing to make meaningful promises. The Spanish shoe company Camper promises that your life will be better if you slow down and walk. Camper shoes are simple and built for walking. Its stores have no elaborate fixtures, just shoe boxes stacked with shoes on top of them–an expression of Camper’s commitment to simplicity and slowing down.

Billy Reid, a fashion designer out of Florence, Alabama, promises to bring back southern hospitality in the age of 500 friends, emoticons and text abbreviations. His clothing stores are reminiscent of southern houses complete with whiskey bars. Remedies, a new brand of first aid products, promises simple solutions to whatever ails you.


Help Remedies‘ first six products are packaged in biodegradable molded paper pulp and embellished only with the does-what-it-says product name: Help I Have A Headache; Help I Have An Aching Body; Help I Have Allergies; Help I’ve Cut Myself; Help I Have A Blister; and Help I Can’t Sleep. The results are deep emotional connections between people and brands.

So why don’t more companies have clear promises? Because it’s difficult to do, particularly for larger companies. A promise is a personal, intimate commitment. It often requires going out on a limb and taking a risk. Larger companies struggle with consensus building. Group writing exercises move things through the organizational system, but lose meaning in the process. Today’s over saturated consumer doesn’t register watered down promises that make everyone happy. They respond to sharp focus and clear promises.

The great thing about promises is that they are difficult to copy. Products and services can be copied, but promises are so deeply embedded into the culture of a company that they are difficult to copy. What do you promise your consumers?



About ranman

Design educator with a Masters of Design degree. 32 years of design experience. View all posts by ranman

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