Brand Promise: Providing the ‘Second Wow’

Several years ago, I was entertaining customers at dinner. After salads were delivered and the waiter left, one customer said she didn’t like carrots. When the entrées were served, everyone’s side dish had a medley of broccoli and sautéed carrots—except the one set before the guest who disliked carrots. She had a substitute.

What happened? When our waiter picked up the salad plates, he noted that she had raked the carrots to the side of her plate, and he instructed the chef to provide a substitute for her in the next course. Six people spent the next 10 minutes discussing the incident, saying they’d never had better service, and they’ve told that story over and over since then.

This restaurant has a well-deserved reputation for incredible service and great food. When I told the owner about the occurrence, he explained his theory of “The Second Wow!”

“With enough money, you can buy the first ‘wow,’” he said. “That’s what people say when they walk in and see a beautiful room with expensive furnishings, lighting, and paintings. The ‘second wow’ is the hard part, and it’s what keeps people coming back—a total dining experience, great personal service, and wonderful food.”

The “second wow” starts with a conscious, strategic decision. How can we make our business stand out from the competition? What do we want our patrons to remember when they think about or discuss our business? The answers to those questions provide a business with its brand promise—the defining position that gives meaning to your store name and logo.

To establish a valuable store brand, you must have a brand promise that your business can consistently deliver. A brand promise is a collection of attributes, tangible and intangible, that frequent customers associate with your business and that define the beliefs or impressions of those who have never been customers. Consistent delivery requires a complete understanding of “the promise” and an absolute commitment to it by the leadership and everyone else in a business. In the above case, for example, it would have mattered little if the waiter had done his part, but the chef hadn’t.

A strong brand promise is beneficial to every stakeholder in your business. It creates pride in employees and helps them understand their roles. Suppliers serve your company more effectively, because they understand your point of difference. Most importantly, it creates brand awareness and brand loyalty in your customers.

Great companies work hard to establish their brands and even harder to deliver on their brand promise. Consider two examples:

  • Though you may not own or drive a BMW automobile, chances are good that you know its brand promise of “The Ultimate Driving Machine” and how it differs from a Lexus or a Cadillac. Every new car that BMW introduces must meet the standard of an incredible driving experience.

  • Second, you’re out of touch with popular culture if you don’t understand that Apple’s iPod is much more than just another MP3 player. Apple’s brand promise of “cool innovation” with its music player and music Web site iTunes resonates with its target audience—to the tune of 60 million units sold and 80 percent market share.

A company that develops a valued brand promise and delivers on it consistently will build a loyal customer base and rarely be forced to compete on price. BMW and Apple are product brands built around customers’ exceptional experiences with cars and computers. Your jewelry store brand is different—but not much different. Great retail brands also are built around exceptional experiences, including incredible service, exciting inventory, and/or knowledgeable salespeople. Both product and retail brands must attract customers by appealing to their desires and having an attractive point of difference.


Potential customers expect jewelry stores to sell jewelry. What they want to know is how you are different from and better than the jewelry store across town—i.e., what’s your point of difference? As a retail jeweler, you must ask yourself, “How can I make my business stand out from the competition? What do I want my patrons to remember when they think of my store?” In other words, “What is my brand promise?” Making a conscious, strategic decision to define your store’s point of difference—and then following that with deliberate, consistent delivery of that difference—is the first step in building a great retail brand.

Effectively executing a strong retail brand promise will help drive your business to greater success. Remind your customers over and over that you’re different—and remind them why you’re different. Persistently and consistently meet their jewelry needs and supply answers to their shopping questions. Sell your brand and let your brand promise sell the jewelry.