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The power of a brand promise

Most businesses have a brand promise – and rightly so. It’s an effective way to let your customers know what they can expect from your organisation and its mission, values and service offering. And when you deliver on this promise, it can be a very powerful thing indeed. Let’s take Great Western Railway as a case in point. 

In 2015 First Great Western became Great Western Railway (GWR), and coinciding with this name change was a rebrand centred around a commitment to put people and customers first. In itself, this is hardly a ground-breaking route to take; surely all brands should seek to prioritise their customers? But it’s no secret that rail companies in particular are all too often a topic of complaint for the public, and tales of poor service and delays are the norm.

What GWR wanted to do was revalue rail in the hearts and minds of the public through a set of core strategic priorities, including delighting its customers and employing great people. And alongside this reinvigorated strategic direction came a visually impactful, inspiring ad campaign soaked in nostalgia. 

GWR’s ‘Adventures Start Here’ Famous Five brand campaign by Adam & Eve and DBB brought a sense of fun, excitement and just a touch of sentimentality to British rail travel. It was romantic and perhaps even idealistic – but in providing one particular customer with an exceptionally personalised and positive experience, GWR was able to truly deliver on its brand promise. 

A brand promise brought to life

GWR’s success in living up to its brand promise is encapsulated in the personal story of Lara, a nine year old girl from Devon. Each year on her birthday Lara heads up to London on the train for a special day out with her family – and she invariably brings along Mr Monkey, her beloved toy and best friend who she’s had since the day she was born. 

Lara turned eight in September 2018 and as usual she travelled to London with GWR. But after a great day out sightseeing with Mr Monkey in tow, Lara accidentally left him behind on the 16:57 train from Paddington to Penzance. She was understandably devastated and her mother reached out via GWR’s social media channels for help. 

After making her posts public Lara’s mother was met with a huge response of over 1,500 shares from Facebook users alone, all of whom were keen to see Lara and Mr Monkey reunited. And much to the relief of Lara and her family, one of GWR’s train managers saw the social media activity and responded directly to say that Mr Monkey had been found and would be returned. 

Within two days from the start of his outing, Mr Monkey was making a train journey back to Devon to see Lara again. And much more than merely getting him home safely on a first class ticket, GWR’s train manager also took the time to document Mr Monkey’s return trip with a series of fun and thoughtful photographs of him enjoying his very first solo adventure. Those who followed his return home via social media were quick to praise GWR for its efforts as the brand not only made good on its commitment to delighting its customers, but also demonstrated that it employs the kind of great people who were able to make this experience possible. 

Fast-forward a year later and Lara and Mr Monkey were again aboard a GWR service to London. When staff discovered it was Lara’s ninth birthday they upgraded them to first class – and in once more going above and beyond to deliver on its brand promise, GWR has ensured that all of Lara’s future journeys with the brand will be synonymous with an exceptional experience. 

It’s also worth considering the overwhelmingly positive role played by social media in seeing Mr Monkey safely returned to Lara. This is a fitting example of ‘Digital for Good’ in action, connecting companies with customers on a personal level and enabling this particular brand to provide a memorable and even heartwarming experience. For Lara, her adventures with GWR will have a truly lasting impact and there’ll always be an element of sentiment and nostalgia to her journeys which perfectly reflects the spirit of GWR’s Famous Five campaign. That’s the power of a brand promise made manifest.