A friend of mine who is fond of tweaking me at every opportunity used to frequently chirp, “I’m sorry Eric. What you do speaks so loud, I can’t hear what you say.” The older I become, the more I believe that this strikes at the heart of one of the half-dozen greatest challenges we face.

Overstatement? Consider a relationship with a significant other. Or how about in the context of parenting. It seems to me that in life’s most critical relationships, the degree to which deeds and words are consistent is in direct correlation to the respect afforded.

To put it in marketing terms, this is the challenge for every brand — personal or corporate: for proclaimations to square with the reality of experience. The result of a relatively frequent lack of alignment between message and experience is the deterioration of respect. And the bad news here is that this lack of respect can result in a new “brand promise” of unreliable, inconsistent, hypocritical. (Needless to say, this is a brand not easily changed.)

In today’s professional services marketplace, where client service, customer satisfaction and loyalty programs occupy a position of prominence (rightfully so) in marketing strategies and messaging, it seems to me the challenge is magnified. In this environment, with relationshps so central to effective marketing, brand promises tend to be personal and tangible. Clients expect that marketing proclaimations and their own experience will be aligned. Misalignment (nevermind, dissonance) in today’s “new normal” will be met with brand dismissal: what you do simply carries much more weight than what you say.

(And yet again I am reminded that equity building in relationships — whether personal or in the context of marekting — is based on a handful of the same undeniable principles.)