Why what brands say should always be what brands do…

Sam Hughes
By Sam Hughes | 15 June 2023
Sam Hughes

FutureBrand Australia’s brand experience director Sam Hughes

Creating a positive customer experience is the cornerstone of building a successful brand. But as many brands have discovered, there can often be a disconnect between what a brand promises and what it actually delivers. One of the themes that comes up time and time again is the importance of trust and consistency required to build a stronger brand and what this means when there is a gap between the two. We refer to this gap between strategy and reality as the Say-Do Gap.

Why it matters

This Say-Do Gap is not just a matter of failing to meet expectations, it has a significant impact on a brand's reputation and bottom line. When people feel that a brand has not delivered on its promise, they are more likely to share negative reviews, avoid doing business with the brand in the future, and even share their negative experiences with others.

On the other hand, when a brand is able to deliver on its promises consistently, it can build trust, loyalty and positive word-of-mouth. This is clearly evidenced by a recent study by Edelman, 81% of customers say that trust in a brand is a deal-breaker when considering a purchase, and this concern is one that is also echoed in our own FutureBrand Index.

Often what this means is there are moments that need to be seamless, easy and consistent: simply put, they need to work as expected. But what’s more, by meeting those functional needs, brands can then be empowered to focus on creating moments that not only exceed those expectations – surprise and delight – but also, more importantly, build a more meaningful connection and a sense of loyalty. These moments are natural breaks in the customer journey but can feel uncomfortable and disjointed if not handled well. This is where a shift in language and tone can elevate those moments so that they feel considered and deliberate.

Bridging the gap

When thinking about how these moments should show up in the world – context is the bridge between the experience (do) and language (say) – shaping the tone and meaning we are trying to create.

An example of this could be the contrast between how an invite to an event is delivered, the difference between a calendar notification on your phone and a handwritten note is clear both in tone and expectation. What would it mean if the calendar notification was to a friend's wedding?  The importance of making sure there is an alignment in the consistency of what we are saying,  vs where and how it shows up cannot be overstated.

The consequences of this could sit somewhere between misalignment and distrust. Not designing these moments will almost certainly affect a brand's ability to communicate in a way that is appropriate for the tone of the message. But if this misalignment is significant, it can be detrimental to trust.  After all, when someone says they will do one thing and then does another, we quickly learn that they can’t be relied on or trusted, and it becomes a perception that can be difficult to break. 

So how do we ensure that as a business or organisation we are showing up in a way that is consistent? Here are some strategies that can help:

  1. Empower employees: Employees are often the face of a business or organisation, having a significant impact on the brand experience. Empowering employees with the tools, training and resources they need – to deliver on what the brand promises – goes a long way to solving the disconnect between the promise and delivery.
  1. Measure and track performance: To bridge the gap between saying and doing, there should be a clear understanding of how a brand is performing, how people are experiencing your brand and where there’s room for improvement. This means setting a regular cadence for measuring what matters most to the business.
  1.  Align the messaging with reality: Before making promises to customers, brands should ensure what’s being promised is possible. This might mean ensuring that other key stakeholders and teams have been involved to make sure that it’s a business priority. 
  1. Regularly revisit the brand strategy and test it to ensure it’s aligned with the three points above. This will help guide how people experience your brand and make sure that the messaging is consistent and considered across all channels and touchpoints.

A great way to help deliver on all three of these strategies is by creating tools that can act as a set of guard rails and ensure alignment between language and experience.

We’ve found it useful to have a set of key ‘experience principles’ that can stretch to work in conjunction with each other. This is important because it helps to create an overall experience that unifies language and experience with the strategy they are built from – all in service of making sure a brand is not only saying the right thing in the right way but also in the right place at the right time.

How will you bridge the Say-Do Gap?

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