These days, we consumers tend to measure whether or not something should be considered “legendary” by how many pages a Google search brings up. Based on that metric alone, the merchandiser, L.L. Bean is extra-legendary. Stories abound about how faithfully the company honors a guarantee it first made to its customers more than a century ago:
“Our products are guaranteed to give 100% satisfaction in every way. Return anything purchased from us at any time if it proves otherwise. We do not want you to have anything from L.L.Bean that is not completely satisfactory.”
Since its very start, the company has stuck to its core principle: delivering customer satisfaction. No matter what.
This sounds great in theory. We at Verve Concepts argue that the vast majority of businesses say they believe in very similar ideas. After all, it’s hard to stay in business if you don’t have any customers, and customers don’t come back if they’re not happy. But what about the obvious? Delivering customer satisfaction can be very expensive. All those stories about L.L. Bean customers returning boots and coats and shoes years after buying them come with a cost — and the risk of customer abuse.
In an interview with Business Insider, L.L. Bean spokesperson, Mac McKeever explains how the benefit of their guarantee offsets its risk. He says, “Our guarantee is not a liability, but rather a customer service asset — an unacknowledged agreement between us and the customer, that always puts the customer first and relies on the goodwill of our customers to honor the original intent of the guarantee.”
Did you get that part about the “unacknowledged agreement”? That’s what we at Verve Concepts call a “brand” – the promise a company makes to its customers about who it is and what it stands for. L.L. Bean has made a business out of making good on its promise of satisfied customers.
The promise is the part of branding that companies too often overlook. A brand isn’t a logo or a tagline; it’s doing what you say you’re going to do. For example, we recently wrote an article about ordering business cards from a company that promised overnight delivery and that, ten days later, still hadn’t arrived. What’s the point of building a brand around a promise you can’t keep?
No brand promise is necessarily better than another. The crucial question for businesses to ask is this: “Is our brand promise one that we’re willing to fulfill, no matter what?”
If the answer is no, change your brand promise and change it quickly – and do it now before your customers find out.