The BS is too easy to sling.
Needs aren't just physical. Or the promise might be something as straightforward as the company understands what you, the customer, is going through and can actually help. Using Duracell Canada as the example again, there's an implicit promise that the company believes in the idea that people need each other and should pull together.
In my opinion, the problem was indeed a marketing problem — but not the one the team leader identified. Always offer something real. Is there something they want that they're not even conscious of yet?
Before considering your brand, ask what your potential customers are trying to achieve.
Ultimately an effective brand campaign can't be theoretical. Needless to say, the French customers refused to buy. So get them. In direct, you try to move people along the sales process. Of course, this puts you squarely in the hot seat.