Companies like to talk about commitment. But do you believe them?

British Gas brand language: committed to calling ahead

Committed copy

Do a quick search on the web and you’ll find companies keen to show commitment in their brand language. Here are four examples I found pretty easily.

  • British Gas is ‘committed to calling ahead’.
  • Google is ‘committed to helping to build a green energy future’.
  • Air New Zealand is ‘committed to the environment’.
  • KFC is ‘committed to helping you maintain a balanced and healthy diet’.

So what’s the problem? Well, commitment is starting to sound just a little insincere — like a promise you know could well be broken. It sounds like they’re saying: "Calling ahead is company policy but we know that might not happen for you." Why not just say you will call ahead? After all, it's not much to ask, is it?

Other companies tell us they’re committed to something really big, like the environment. That sounds like a good thing, a worthy ambition. But the issue for me is whether the brand can ever hope to live up to such a big commitment. If Air New Zealand was really committed to the environment, would it be in the aviation industry? It might be doing a lot to mitigate its impact on the environment, but is it really committed? Really?

Commitment is in danger of becoming as tired an idea in business as passion. Brands ask us to believe they’re passionate about the most unlikely things. KFC is ‘passionate about providing great tasting, high quality food for every occasion’. Really? Every occasion? Passionate brand language started with good intentions but has become devalued with over-use. Commitment could be going the same way.

It’s nice that businesses want to tell us they're determined to do good things. But perhaps their brand language is over-committed.

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