Business man water skiing in leather jacket.

You know the saying.

A TV show has jumped the shark.

Lost its identity.

Detoured in a direction so inexplicable because the writers’ room, clouded in a haze of creative ecstasy, forgot who they are and where they’ve come from because an idea sounded neat, rather than staying true to the promise of the show offered from the very beginning.

(Phew, that was a mouthful).

Viewers intuitively know when a show has gone off the rails. They’re the experts. As the non-creative consumers of the service — or the television show — the viewers have an outside perspective on whether or not the promise of the service has been delivered.

And when it hasn’t, it’s brutally apparent to them.

In advertising, we at Zooka call this concept Brandnesia.

Brandnesia · (brandˈnēZHə) · noun

An easily preventable condition where brands suffer from a lack of clear, consistent direction and messaging, causing widespread confusion and loss of satisfaction in consumers.

Consumers possess that same intuition and know when a brand has lost its way. All the positioning in the world won’t help if it’s schizophrenic, like throwing ad-concept darts at a map while blindfolded.

You need a brand promise.

From the get-go, you need a statement that defines you, your brand, and the service you provide. All future creative, logos, campaigns, and customer experience strategies will derive from this promise, helping ensure your messaging stays on target and solidifies your identity in the minds of your consumers.

It’s both a promise you make to yourselves about your business, and a promise you make to your customers about your service.

Television writers call this a Series Bible. Though more extensive than a singular statement, a series bible describes the topic, defines characters, and provides an overall ethos to the show.

(Thankfully, the Breaking Bad we know and love developed a little differently. The Pink Jester?)

As you write your brand promise, here are three key tips to keep in mind:

  1. Make it Measurable
    If you can, create a measurable, concise, and easily digestible description of your service. If you deliver pizza within 29 minutes or it’s free, say so. A well-known example: “15 minutes or less can save you 15% or more on car insurance.” — Geico
  2. Keep it Authentic
    Stay away from embellishments or vague, corporate-y language. Consumers can sniff out a fib from a mile away, and vague promises will lump you in with millions of other bland, substance-lacking voices. Tell the world what makes you unique. A well-known example: “Think Different.”— Apple
  3. Consistency is Key
    No matter how cool your ad concept is (and yes, astronauts playing guitars made of fried chicken in outer space might be cool), if it doesn’t align with your brand promise and positioning, you will only confuse your customers about your identity, potentially creating a lack of confidence in your business. A well-known example: “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.” — Nike

Take your time. There’s no need to rush into a promise you feel doesn’t accurately represent your identity. And remember, nothing is permanent. As your business grows over time, so might your services evolve.

Just don’t jump the shark. Please.

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