Whether you live in London, Hong Kong or in the New York Metro area, like I do, brand images and slogans are everywhere. Not only are they in magazines, on top of taxicabs and plastered across billboards, they’re dominating the digital space. And we’re mostly okay with that, as consumers, because it’s how we relate to brands. A company’s logo and its tagline can tell us a lot about their business at face value. 

Unfortunately, a logo and a tagline only go so far to capturing our attention, and most importantly, earning our loyalty.

Any brand can create a compelling promise, but the best brands have a proven track record of delivery on those guarantees. As the former VP of Virgin Management, I’ve seen first hand the power of brands that not only “talk the talk” but really “walk the walk”.  

All Virgin brands share the common promise of delivering something different and better than the competition. The successful Virgin businesses bring this to life, not just in clever campaigns, but in customer experiences that feel, well truly different and better.

Don’t let the toilet flush away your brand

Sounds obvious and easy right? But delivering on your brand promise consistently and in every touch point (big and small) is one of the hardest, and most important, things a business needs to do.  Take for example a place the majority of brands overlook: the bathroom.

Companies often spend millions or billions of dollars on advertising quality, commitment, focus on the customer only to have customers walk into their store (or restaurant, or even airline) and have bathrooms be unsanitary. One dirty restroom can undermine millions of dollars of advertising in 30 seconds flat. 

Bake your brand strategy into your operations

Virgin America promises a “A breath of fresh airline,”  and they use this brand promise as an operational north star leading them to make product development choices (mood lighting, a touch screen in-flight entertainment system, crystal-clean bathrooms) that deliver.  Virgin Atlantic has also chosen to take three revenue generating upper class seats out of the plane and put in a bar for added relaxation and socializing mid-flight. Now that’s service. It’s one that carries and operational trade-off, but is felt to be important enough because of the distinctive halo it gives the brand.

You don’t have to be a big brand to get it right. You just need to take the time to really think about your brand promise up front and then make sure you deliver. Take the traveling deluxe food truck  Rickshaw Dumplings, for instance. The dumpling truck  travels throughout New York City, bringing its chilled edamame and chicken and Thai basil dumplings piping hot and ready for tasting. I’m hungry already.

And bingo – that’s the thing my fellow dumpling darlings expect. Disregard for a minute the stark and identifiable red lettering that is Rickshaw’s logo. Rickshaw Dumpling isn’t just claiming delight for its customers, it’s creating a business model that delivers delight. Literally – all around the city.

Your brand is your business. Don’t make the mistake of separating them

It doesn’t matter if you’re a startup founder or Larry Page. You can’t create a logo or spout a brand promises and expect it to carry your brand if you don’t deliver on what you say you will. If Virgin Airlines stopped offering the high level of customer service they do, I’m sure their Twitter feed, Facebook page and emails to customer service would reflect that almost instantly. Excellence is what people have come to expect – and fortunately for its brand, excellence is what shows through. 

Live up (and deliver!) to your brand promise, or risk losing your  audience and customers. And no one wants that – even if you’ve got a shiny logo, because a bright thing fades. Brand memories, though, they last. 

Food for thought: How is your brand walking the talk and bringing the promise to life in business?