A brand promise is your organization’s commitment to its customers — the benefit that makes your brand worthwhile. As we think about building brands that are truly future-proof, your promise must follow suit. With 56% of millennials believing that brands today rarely live up to the promises they make, according to research from brand experience agency JackMorton, how do we build brands that are enduring yet flexible enough to adapt?

The answer lies in messaging, actions, and authenticity

Consider Nike. It’s impossible to ignore Wieden+Kennedy’s work for the athletic-wear brand. Since 1988, Nike has hung its hat on Just Do It. More than that, it has committed to expanding human potential, a promise to challenge and inspire every athlete, regardless of ability.

From a branding perspective, the Kaepernick ad was exactly what Nike needed to propel this promise forward. The line, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything” reinforces Nike’s promise to never give up.

Victoria’s Secret, on the other hand, has failed to make this leap into the future. The brand has long promised to make women feel and look sexy — the idea of the “fantasy woman” influencing every design and runway show. In an interview with Vogue magazine, Ed Razek defends the brand, noting that Victoria’s Secret isn’t meant for everyone; it is a specialty brand with an elite image. While Razek is correct in that brands should not be all things for everyone, where he falls short is in translating this message of “sexy” to a new, and growing, customer group. Ultimately, the demise of Victoria’s Secret will come in the failure to evolve their message of “sexy” to fit changing consumer demands.

Brands need to stand for something

Consumers today demand more from brands. In fact, 84% of consumers believe businesses have a responsibility to spur social change. Brands that find a way to translate their message and purpose into tangible impact will succeed in the long term.

In a social media post that went viral, Dick’s Sporting Goods distributed an emotional call to action. The letter, written by CEO Ed Stack, stated, “Following all the rules and laws, we sold a shotgun to the Parkland shooter in November of 2017. It was not the gun, nor the type of gun, he used in the shooting. But it could have been.” The memo later goes on to list out its own gun reform: A ban on the selling of assault-style rifles, a ban on selling firearms to those under 21, and a ban on high capacity magazines and bump stocks. Despite criticism from the NRA, Dick’s revealed that first-quarter income rose 3 percent, and sales grew by 5 percent.

Authenticity builds unparalleled trust

Considering the growth of direct-to-consumer brands such as Glossier, ThirdLove, Allbirds, customers are showing a clear attraction to brands that speak, and sell, directly to them. Despite a largely online presence, these brands cut out the middleman – retailers – to build an authentic relationship. A casual and transparent brand voice reflects this genuine connection.

By consistently listening to customers, Glossier establishes enough trust to amass purchases without in-store trial. Community pages and social media enable Glossier to build a brand (and a host of products) that are made for the consumer, not the shelf.

As 2019 unfolds, we see the line between customer and brand being continuously tested. Brands that continue to build in an unrealistic world will flounder. It’s those brands that take a stand, listen to their customer, and act with genuine intention that will succeed.