Broken Brand Promises – Closing the Gap

9 April 2015 / by Ashley Freeman

Can large business live up to their brand promises? What happens when those promises are broken?


Customer Experience at the Heart of Brand DNA


“while brands are built on promises, it’s the experience delivered that makes the difference between myth and reality.”

Huffington Post

In today’s interconnected economic landscape, brand engagement is won or lost on customer experience and brands are increasingly governed by the expectations of the consumer. As people become increasingly empowered through choice and information, too, expectations are higher and it is becoming more challenging to engage and court new customers in a compelling and distinctive way.

This has pushed companies to make stronger explicit and implicit promises to their customers, focused on the entire brand experience.

Problems arise, however, when businesses lack the agility to evolve in line with changing customer needs or affect employee behaviour to deliver internally. This is when a gap begins to open up between what brand promise, and what their employees can deliver.

It’s a disparity clearly illustrated in the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s in-depth study among senior marketing and brand leaders. In their Branded Customer Experience Benchmark study of 100 major international businesses, they found that while 69% of brand leaders strongly believe that the best way to build a brand is through a strong day-to-day customer experience, just 25% agree that employees instinctively act in ways that embody the brand promise.

That’s what our session ‘Broken Promises’ at the CX Edge event at Victoria Plaza last week was all about – closing the gap between what brands promise and what their employees can deliver internally.

We do this by helping employees to live their brand values. We do this through involvement.


CX Edge 2015 – Closing the Gap


“only 22% strongly believe that their employees understand their role in delivering a branded customer experience.”

 Branded Customer Experience Benchmark, Chartered Institute of Marketing


Our objective going into our CX Edge session was to look at the gap between what brands promise to their customers and what they actually deliver through their employees. We wanted to ask the question – What happens when that promise is broken?

We opened our session with a little icebreaker to highlight its central idea– sometimes reality doesn’t live up to the brand promise. We asked each attendee to share their experiences of meeting celebrities in real life, and asked how many met their expectations.

Weeks before the session we sent out mystery shoppers with hidden cameras to examine some of the biggest brands on the high street – Sainsburys, Waitrose, Natwest & Lloyds – and then discussed whether they are living up to their brand promise. In this context, we went on to talk about how they could have done better, and decided the best solution was to focus on aligning employees with company values and keep them ‘on brand’.

It’s what we call involvement.

“I realise that we need to put a lot more focus on getting our people to live our brand internally”

CXEdge Session Attendee

What we are really interested in is driving behaviours and attitudes internally to reach beyond ‘good customer service’ to a point where employees are living and driving their brand values. We know that this impacts directly on the overall customer experience.

We do this by sticking to a few ‘golden rules’, which help the companies that we work with maximize the impact of their brand through their employees:


Our Golden Rules:


1. Get it right inside first. A brand is a promise. Trust takes a lifetime to build and a moment to lose.

2. It’s about delivering a differentiated brand experience not just great customer service.

3. It involves everyone in the organisation, not just customer-facing employees.

4. Helping people to live your brand internally is about involvement, not internal marketing.

5. Face-to-face collaboration and discussion is the most powerful way to create deep understanding.

6. Line managers are key. The more they understand why and how to live your brand, the more your people will get it and the more your customers will notice.

7. Help employees translate what living the brand means to their role, location, personality, it’s not a spray job.

8. Like all the best marketing, it’s not a one-off activity – it’s a sustained campaign of ongoing activity.

9. Your brand promise is not a code of conduct, a way of ‘doing’. It’s a way of ‘being’.


At INVOLVE we design and produce brand activation experiences that powerfully immerse and involve employees about how best to live a brand promise. How can we help you?

Did you attend our session at CX Edge 2015? Tweet us with your thoughts @involve_uk!

UPDATE: In May 2015, we carried out research into whether brands are delivering on their promise, both inside and out. Download our Special Report 2015 here