What Promise Are You Fulfilling?

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All promise outruns performance - Ralph Waldo Emerson
In human to human relations, according to Wikipedia, "a promise is a manifestation of

intent to act or refrain from acting in a specified way at some point in the future."

Profit-seeking speculation is a key feature of the market economy; challenges facing government-operated and private enterprises are sometimes simple, multilayered or complex but are purely intellectual and they must be dealt with as such.

The characterizing traits which makes marketing strategies of established Brands to be followed with success, namely, breadth of vision, human and material values, deep consumer insights, marketable products and services, actionable business plan, sound financial management, human capital resources, advertising magic and so on, harmonize nicely within an integrated branding framework... Branding is fanciful catchword used by many but understood by few. The basic idea is to give direction, sense and meaning.

It is easier for a business owner to make bad investments and judgements than for the speculator on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange to make losses, chiefly because consumers buy brands, products or services for both rational reason or emotional impulse.

Suffice it to say, it is pertinent we pass to review the basic distinctions between a commodity, product and a brand. Commodities are characterized by the lack of perceived differentiation between competing offerings, for example, Irish potatoes sold in marketplaces; a product in a particular category can be differentiated from another through packaging, such as, bagged ofada rice; and a brand embodies additional attributes perceived by the purchaser or end-user to be very real and can be summed up in a phrase 'added values'. Pringles potato chips sells for a price well in excess of the cost of a small basket of Irish potatoes or Uncle Ben's rice in contrast to the price of ofada rice.
Concisely, we may say, a brand is a promise kept.

One of the frequently asked questions is, how can a commodity or product be elevated to a Brand status?
A Brand Promise is the single most important thing that spurs and makes a brand. A promise, among other elements which are beyond the scope of this inquiry, is an integral part of what resonates with consumers and endears them to the brand; and not necessarily a question of function.

Handheld devices provide an interesting analogy, the primary function of a phone is to make and receive calls, by extension to send and receive messages. In that regard, any phone can do these. A Nokia 3310 is as good as an iPhone, even though the latter has more functionality than the former. Given an option, a tech savvy youngster, who is status-driven, would prefer an iPhone. If that is not a fair comparison, let us take two brands that run on the android operating system, techno and Samsung phones. The latter is generally perceived to be a more fashionable statement, and given an option, the youngster would prefer it; in the same vein he or she will more often than not prefer an IPhone 6 to a Samsung galaxy 6.

This can be said for an individual at different times and different people at the same time. Emotions disarranges valuations.

Shoprite is a prime example which illustrates the express role a brand promise plays. It is worth noting that a brand promise is inspired by a functional quality or emotional affinity or combination of both. "Lowest prices you can trust always" is Shoprite's brand promise. It is a departmental store not only in competition with other stores and supermarkets, it competes favorably and profitably with market men and women in the unstructured markets near you. And unlike these unstructured markets, the added values derived from shopping at Shoprite, asides its serene and cozy atmosphere, is its before, during and after sale customer service. It does not own or control the monopoly of cheapness, its promise of 'lowest prices you can trust always' gives the brand direction, sense and meaning, and ensures business decision-making is geared towards fulfilling that.

In recent times, Mr Biggs made changes to its promise, identity and others, this was because the likes of KFC and Chicken republic were making further inroads into the market. Mr Biggs reworked its value proposition from 'What a delicious experience' to 'Always good', hoping that a Brand Repositioning campaign would turnaround the fortunes of the brand and put it in leading position. This move is tantamount to painting a damaged bicycle. It is true that competition displaced it and penetrated the market with new ideas, tactics and strategies, but, in reality, Mr Biggs stopped being a delicious experience for years, it had been a shadow of its former self. Its menu items and environment were no longer as inviting as they once were; the brand owners only needed to improve on these but chose to change the brand identity and promise which were its unique value proposition that the older generation could relate to but it chose the costly alternative, while the younger, poorer and richer generation prefered to been seen walking in and out of other eateries. Presently, the brand is gravitating between the devil and the deep blue sea, and, as a dictum in advertising says, no amount of magic can sell a bad product!

The central thinking of this argument is precisely that a commodity, product or service can be augmented with a promise, flanked by added values, to push a brand towards brandhood. It is immaterial whether you're just entering the market or an established enterprise. As a startup or small-scale enterprise, once you have a promise, you have a brand to be built. Crafting and articulating a promise is as simple as ABC if you know what you stand for.
As a business owner, irrespective of who your target audiences are, regardless of whether you're in business to satisfy needs or wants, what promise are you making and fulfilling?

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Abdulwaheed Bashar

A brand strategist, who's passionately driven by the entrepreneurial spirit of medium and small-scale enterprises, and a keen observer of the Nigerian market economy.

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