Your Company Does Not Own Its Brand

I’ve been discussing brands a lot with my clients lately. Without a strong brand to guide them, customer experience efforts can wander aimlessly. That’s why “compelling brand values” is one of the four customer experience core competencies.

As I’ve said before, a true brand is:

The fabric that aligns all employees with customers in the pursuit of a common cause

There’s a very important implication of my definition: Companies don’t own their brands. Let me say that in another way: You don’t own your own brand.

True brands are an asset that are jointly owned by organizations and their customers… and it’s a fragile relationship. Even if your brand represents something today, there’s no guarantee that it will continue to be perceived in the same way or have the same impact in the future.

So how do you build true brands? With promises. Brand building is based on three ingredients…

  1. Making promises. Companies need to be explicit about the purpose of their organization which translates into promises that they make to customers.
  2. Embracing promises. It’s nearly impossible to keep a promise that you don’t know about, so everyone in an organization needs to understand the customer promises.
  3. Keeping promises. Companies need to make sure that they live up to their promises during every interaction in every channel.

The bottom line: Make, embrace, and keep your promises

Written by 

I am an experience management transformist, helping organizations improve business results by engaging the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, and partners. My "job" is Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute. The Institute is still being established, but our goal is to help organizations around the world thrive by mastering Experience Management (XM). As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. Prior to joining Qualtrics, I was managing partner of Temkin Group (leading CX research, advisory, and training firm), co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (, and a VP at Forrester Research. I'm a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Check out my LinkedIn profile:

5 thoughts on “Your Company Does Not Own Its Brand”

  1. In 2009, our Tech Support group at our 3D modeling software company had the philosophy of “Make the Promise, Deliver the Promise, and Improve the Promise.” We designed a better support services offering by asking customers and touchpoint staff what they wanted. Following that, we implemented the back-office processes through cross-functional groups to achieve the desired customer experiences as our support users engaged with our team. Finally, we had a support member advocate focused on monitoring our improvements and working directly with customers to find new ways to “up” the experience.

  2. Everybody has a brand presence. Now the question is that, is it a positive or a negagtive brand presence and the answer will differ from customer to customer based on their over-all experience with the organizatio, hence the brand. True brands are built by meeting the expectations or delievering on the value that is expected by the end user. Brands are constantly being evaluated based on the most current experience or secon hand expreience by the user. A good example is Hyundai and how they have transformed their brand form cheap (economical) cars to high performing luxury cars. They have certainly done a good job in transforming their brand but there are those that still believe Hyundai is not a luxury performer and have kept the brand out of consideration when they are considering luxury brnds. At the end its your perception that is driven by personal experience and or what somebody writes about the brand.

  3. Bruce: Unfortunately, it was not continued (Make/Deliver/Improve). Two factors killed it. Our subsidiary was finally integrated into the parent company (after being acquired 10 years ago), and senior management did not fully carry the flag of customer centricity, thus they cut resources in services versus adding. They talked about being all about the customer. However, their actions did not reflect their speak. I’m sure you’ve seen this a gazillion times before.

  4. Bruce, You have said it so nicely. We at Lead On have developed something similar – MOM (Make/Offer/Maintain) approach to deliver your brand experience, your Moment of Magic to the customers.

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