THE BLOG
04/05/2013 02:20 pm ET Updated Jun 05, 2013

What's Your Brand Promise?

Every company has a brand promise and personality attributes. Some can't articulate what they are but they are circling around them and hoping for clarity as they grow, or are struggling to remember why they started their company in the first place. The brands that are most successful have been able to identify and articulate who they are, what they stand for, and what they smell, taste, feel, sound and look like.

When I was VP Global Creative for Starbucks we created a brand book that clearly laid out who we are and what we look like. At the time, the brand promise of Daily Inspiration was our touchstone for anything that we did - product development, internal communication, marketing, in-store activities, community engagement, etc. We knew that as we interacted with our customers each day that we weren't going to change their lives, but that if we remembered their name, had a welcoming smile on our faces, and gave them great product and service, that we could make that moment a little bit better - Daily Inspiration.

Before working at Starbucks I was located in Denmark as Global Creative Director for the Lego Company. While there I had the same sort of experience, knowing that all of our activities revolved around our brand promise of Endless Play. Every product and experience we created was with the child in mind. When we designed any kind of experience for adults, it was for the 'child within us.'

When I first moved to Seattle from Denmark I told my new neighbors I worked at Starbucks. When they walked into our neighborhood Starbucks and found me wiping off tables and emptying the coffee grounds, they tried not to register surprise as they assumed I was some sort of executive, not a barista. This introduction to my career at Starbucks couldn't have been more ideal.

New employees have the opportunity to work inside a retail store for a week. Having that experience was the best way for me to realize the culture of Starbucks. We called each other Partners. The building where I worked is called the Starbucks Support Center. Everything revolves around making the experience inspirational for our customers. And so, working inside a store I started to understand the true personality of the brand. Not what we as a company think it is, but what our customers reflect back to us. (I once did a presentation about the three places I worked, Nike, Lego and Starbucks, where I didn't allow myself to show any creative work that we had produced. I would only show a reflection from our customers as to what they thought of the brands.) In the end, the true face of a brand - and in many ways ourselves - is really the image that is reflected back from our customers.

In the back room of my neighborhood Starbucks store there was a sheaf of yellow legal papers hanging from the wall. I started reading the first sheet. There were lists of names; Suzy, cute little pink purse, tall nonfat latte. I asked them the meaning of the list. They told me it was the 100 Club. Each employee had pledged to memorize 100 customers and their drinks, this was their 'help sheet.' When I returned to the store a few months later to see their progress the list was now on a white board, titled the 200 Club. All the partners in the store had surpassed their first goal.

What a great lesson for me. The secret of Starbucks wasn't just the products they made, but more so, the welcoming environment they created, where a barista will call you by name and ask how you are doing.

That was, and is the personality of Starbucks. A welcoming environment that provides those moments of Daily Inspiration.

Now, as you think of yourself as a brand. How would you describe your brand promise? What is it that you would hope family, friends and strangers would say about you after they meet you or are with you? We can all aspire to leave them with a bit of Daily Inspiration.