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Content Lessons From Three Brands That Kept Their Brand Promise (and Three That Didn't)

by Ryan Johnson  |  
January 8, 2015

Content marketing has the power to help companies articulate and communicate the brand promise—which goes beyond a corporate mission statement. Marketers can craft content that shows what they really stand for.

"The promise of content marketing is that we can directly connect to our customers," says Ann Handley, chief content officer for MarketingProfs. "Customers don't want to hear about what you do; they want to hear about what you can do for them. The smartest brands are aligning their content to something greater than themselves."

A brand that has expertly demonstrated brand promise over the years is Subway. The website is full of content—mainly health advice, fitness tips, and meal suggestions from expert trainers, doctors, and dieticians—none of which advertises Subway in any way (and which sometimes even advises making your own meals at home). In addition, the brand sponsors shows, such as The Biggest Loser, and events like the American Heart Association Heart Walk.

All together, this content builds a picture of what Subway's true brand promise is—helping you live a healthier life. There's no mission statement telling you so; the story is told through the content. However, some brands find understanding the line between content that demonstrates the brand promise and advertising difficult.

"We are classically trained as marketers to describe value. We look at a product or service, and we can come up with very clever ways to talk about features and benefits to convince you that this product is great," says Robert Rose, chief strategy officer for the Content Marketing Institute. "But we're not very good at creating original value. What we often get is a mishmash, where brands try to sprinkle a little bit of sales into informative content and end up with something that just feels like a watered-down ad. It doesn't feel valuable to consumers nor does it enhance the brand's story."

Before any brand can create meaningful content that also lives and promotes the brand promise, they have to ask some hard questions.

"You have to understand who all of these buyers are and what their pain points are," says Steve Farnsworth, content marketing strategist for B2B High Tech at the Steveology Group. "You have to ask, 'Who are these people and why do they care?'"

Rose concurs adding, "Who is it we are trying to move? Who is our audience? What value will they get from this? How will they be better off after having received it?"

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Ryan Johnson is an award-winning Web content producer, SEO practitioner, and digital marketing strategist based in Chicago.

LinkedIn: Ryan Johnson

Twitter: @rsj8000 

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  • by Jennifer Thornberry Thu Jan 8, 2015 via web

    Hi Ryan, great post. It seems to me that the three brands on your list that "hit" their message did so because they were clear about who they are, exactly who their customer is, and how to be authentic to that customer. Brands that don't try to be everything to everyone and market to a particular type of customer are more likely to succeed.

  • by Ryan Johnson Thu Jan 8, 2015 via web


    You hit the nail on the head. you can't accurately represent yourself to customers until you strip away all of the layers of corporate speak and marketing and ask yourself what your company is really all about. Subway did an excellent job of separating themselves form the pack of fast food and sandwich shops and it paid royally.

    I think it is really hard for brands to potentially turn away from any extra money by saying "this is a market we don't serve", but that is exactly what's required sometimes. I think Subway is in danger of doing that when they start turing to offerings like Frito subs things that violate the brand promise of "Eat Fresh".

  • by Mash Bonigala Fri Jan 9, 2015 via web

    great article! However I must admit LinkedIn is perhaps still lagging behind. Here is another interesting article I wrote about your brand promise in the new year:

  • by Ryan Johnson Thu Jan 15, 2015 via web

    Thanks Mash:

    You should add some social share options to your blog post - I couldn't find any!~

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