Brand promise

Walk the walk before talking the talk.

How the Irish Rugby Football Union and Canterbury NZ fell at the first marketing hurdle – brand promise.

Another day, another brand that falls at the hurdle of delivering on its brand promise. After proudly revealing the new 2020-21 season team shirts for Irish Rugby, Canterbury NZ had to issue an apology 24 hours later after suffering a torrent of criticism across the media.

Whilst the men’s shirt was proudly fronted by 3 of the team’s international players, grinning proudly; the women’s shirt promotion featured three paid models, all staring the camera down. No women’s athlete in sight. Picked up on social media, #iamenough started trending with women across sport joining forces to call out the double standards. The sorry story is well documented here by The Telegraph journalist Fiona Thomas, so no need to spill more ink.

What’s my beef?

There’s no point having a brand promise if it isn’t tangible across every touchpoint of your business. Canterbury NZ’s website states that “Rugby is an inclusive sport, played and watched by people of all ages, both sexes and every ability…So we make products in the same inclusive spirit”. Similarly, the IRFU’s 2018-2023 strategic plan is summarised by “Building success together”. It even has an action plan for women in rugby that amongst others, promises to “be a sport of equal opportunity and access for all”. By failing to check their actions against their brand promise, they have failed at the first hurdle of any business, to put actions before words.

What is a brand promise?

Brand promise for some, others refer to brand values, DNA, essence, purpose or core attributes. Depending on your business, the words will differ, but all refer to how a brand defines what it wants to stand for to its target customers. It’s the sweet spot between what the customer wants, that you as a business can deliver, that is better or different from the competition. But it’s not enough to have one, your business needs to deliver on it.

6 tips to keep a brand promise alive across a business.

It depends on the type of business you have, the size, industry and where you are on your business and brand journey, but below are some helpful tips:

  1. Start by (re)defining your brand promise. Do you have one and does everyone across the business recognise it?
  2. Is it short and simple? We are simple beings! Long and complicated company promises tend to fail at the starting gate.
  3. Does it stand up to the 3C’s check? Does it satisfy a Customer need? Can the Company deliver on it? Is it different or better than the Competition?
  4. Check for consistency. How is the promise delivered across each section of the business? Internally and externally.
  5. Walk the walk. Before you start talking about your brand promise, live it, test it, question it and report back on its delivery.
  6. Elect brand champions. Identify someone in each service to fly the flag and spot inconsistencies. Brand isn’t just something done by marketing, and it works best if the whole company understands its importance to business growth.

So what about the IRFU and Canterbury NZ?

My drum roll is a warning to brands who think that it is enough to have a good slogan, tagline or brand promise and then “let the marketing kids spin it for us”. The actions of the IRFU and Canterbury NZ demonstrate to businesses and brands across the world how having a smart slogan is never enough. You must walk the walk before trying to talk the talk, and to do so you need to find a way of making your brand promise something that lives and breathes across your organisation, and not just in your marketing department.

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