Bridging the brand gap

Today’s consumers shop differently. They don’t buy products based simply on features, or services because of what can be offered. Many make their purchasing decisions based on brands that they feel they can trust. Have you ever been to a foreign country and automatically navigated towards the familiarity of a Starbucks or McDonalds? It’s because you know what to expect from those companies. That’s the power of branding. 

A good brand is worth a lot of money to an organisation. Starbucks’ brand value is currently estimated at $44,230 million. McDonalds’ is a whopping $97,723 and is the most valuable fast food brand in the world. It should be every company’s goal to move from being seen as a business in a customer’s eye, to becoming a brand. 

But a good brand can always fail because of the brand gap. 

Introducing the brand gap

Brands are now the net sum of lots of different interaction that create a feeling of trust (or distrust) in consumers. From billboards to TV ads, social media, to sponsorship deals. All of these add up to a ‘gut feeling’ in your customers. To achieve a strong brand, you need a new approach to marketing.

That’s where the brand gap comes in. It’s the gap between your marketing team’s strategy and creativity. In most companies there is a gulf that has appeared between right-brain oriented marketers, and left-brain creatives. Here, one group isn’t aware of what the other is doing and vice versa. There is constant tension between the two camps. The left-brainers are analytical, logical and verbal. Meanwhile, the right-brainers are emotional, visual and intuitive. When communication and understanding breaks down between the two, you get a brand gap.

That means that your strategy doesn’t get translated into a creative initiative in the way that you intended. If your brand gap is too great, your strategy will fail completely.

Consequences of a brand gap

A company suffering from a brand gap cannot effectively communicate who it is to its customers. That means it cannot build a strong relationship with consumers and they don’t know what to expect when interacting with the company. That undermines its position and strength in the market. In turn, this offers opportunities for competitors to take the company’s place as a brand leader. 

It’s a serious problem, and its root lies in failing to bring your right and left-brained team together.

Marketing is more complex

Of course, creative marketers do still exist. However, they are becoming far fewer in number. Marketing itself is becoming more complex. It requires right-brain, logical thinkers who can work with numbers and many different marketing channels. There’s a lot more analytics in marketing nowadays, and that’s doing away with a lot of creatives.

But with audience’s attention spans at a premium, we need differentiation and innovation now more than ever. Brands need to connect emotionally with customers and to make a business stand out amongst the crowd. In short, we need to bridge the brand gap.

So how do we achieve this?

How to remove the gap

A brand, and marketing as a function, is about facilitating the sales process. It needs to communicate value and entice consumers to a brand. You need to begin here, with this understanding, in order to drive your creative process.

Your brand and any designs need to win attention and create interest.

You must also understand that you cannot completely control or perfect a brand. It’s something that can be refined over time, but it’ll always evolve with changing needs and culture. Instead of focussing on perfecting it, instead work on making your brand consistent across all your marketing channels. That’s how you develop an instinctive gut feeling in your customers.

Your brand must be charismatic. Think of companies like Apple and Coca-Cola. They’ve positioned themselves as exciting, innovative, joy-inducing brands. Anyone who has seen the queues at an iPhone launch can vouch for the happiness that Apple induces in some people. Coca-Cola’s tagline used to literally be “Open Happiness”. 

Through creating this kind of aspirational brand, you can build a strong relationship with your customers. 

Building an aspirational brand

There are several areas you need to consider when bridging your brand gap and creating an aspirational brand:

Differentiate: We stand up and pay attention when something different crosses our path. We notice the unexpected. It’s something your brand can use to gain a competitive advantage. Smoothie brand Innocent takes part in the Big Knit every winter. This doesn’t just give it charity brownie points. It also makes its smoothies stand out on every shop shelf. Every winter, its bottles wear their own miniature wooly hats. Each one is unique, each one draws a consumer’s eyes to the brand.

A key part of being differentiated is to remain focussed. You must understand what your brand is, why it is appealing, and what makes it different. Don’t be scared of narrowing your audience and niche down. It won’t cut you off from potential opportunities. In fact, being focussed is the only way to be truly competitive.

Collaborate: A brand cannot develop in isolation. It requires all sorts of different people with a range of skills and specialties to come together and build. That includes right and left-brained people!

Innovate: You must appeal to your customers’ emotions and that means you cannot do what every other company in your industry is doing. You must innovate. When every competitor zags, make sure you zig. 

Validate: This is how you ensure that your brand resonates with the real world and not just inside your company. You might think that your brand is the bee’s knees, but you need to confirm this by doing a concept test with at least 10 people from outside your company. You can also do a swap test (like swapping your logo or name with a competing brand) to test different elements of your brand. It your results are better or equal to the competitor then your brand needs more work. 

Cultivate: Every brand is a living thing. It must always change with the times. Make sure you have processes that allow you to monitor and understand the outside world, and then apply these to your brand and internal culture. This is what keeps your brand authentic and builds a stronger gut feeling with your audience.

Mind the gap

The brand gap is a risk for every business. Logic and creativity can co-exist, they just need to be on the same page. That needs discipline. Five to be exact: differentiation, collaboration, innovation, validation and cultivation.

Make sure all your teams are united under these five disciplines and you’ll have no trouble creating a charismatic and strong brand. 

Arnt Eriksen