Don’t Confuse Brand Promise and Advertising Campaign


I recently had a conversation with an economic development professional who told me her community had just launched a new brand to promote the location for capital investment. She had previously heard my presentation on place branding in which I define a brand as a promise that sets an expectation of an experience. She couldn’t reconcile why a new campaign meant her community had a new brand.

… Because it doesn’t.

That conversation made me realize there is still confusion in the economic development community about the topic of branding.



A promise that sets an expectation of an experience. A good brand is relevant, competitive and authentic. If you are talking with a Creative Agency, this is sometimes called brand essence. During my career at P&G, we referred to the concept as brand equity. Dr. Kevin Keller (Tuck School of Business) likes the term brand mantra. Today, I prefer the term promise because everybody understands what a promise is and intuitively know that promises should be kept, not broken.

Classic Brand Promises (a.k.a. brand essence, brand equity, brand mantra)

Nike – Authentic Athletic Performance

Hallmark – Caring Shared

Disney – Fun Family Entertainment

Starbucks – Rewarding Everyday Moments


– The creative communication platform that brings the brand to life in the minds and hearts of your strategic target audience. Campaigns are built on a deep understanding of the benefits your brand delivers. A campaign is comprised of a series of messages that share a single idea and theme delivered across relevant touch points over a specific period of time.

Short Hand

Promise – What you want to communicate.

Campaign – How you communicate it.


The trick is to keep things simple when thinking about branding. It is conceptually easy, but can get complicated in a hurry in execution. When in doubt, just go back to the basics and reorient yourself. Your community promise is a long-term strategic choice. Nike promises you that you will experience an authentic athletic performance if you purchase any one of their products. The Nike Marketing Team and Creative Agency communicate that promise to you through well-coordinated campaigns. The Nike promise has permanence. The campaigns are transient and judged good or bad based on how well they communicate the promise.

Like Nike, your community brand is a promise. How you choose to communicate that promise to a specific target audience is the basis for a campaign. It is okay to have a different campaign for different target audiences. For example, you would likely not communicate your community promise exactly the same way to a back-office service company executive as you would a manufacturing company CEO. In my experience, there is a good chance that, at a minimum, the reasons to believe your community promise would be different (e.g. different assets would be important).


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