Mind the Gap: Navigating Between Strategy and Creativity

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I recently attended a workshop where we discussed Marty Neumeier’s book, The Brand Gap. Some of you may be familiar with the book, but it’s a quick two-hour read illuminating the fact that, at most companies, strategy and creativity are separated by a wide divide. On one side of the divide, you have the analytical, logical thinkers. And on the other you have the emotional and intuitive thinkers. And in the middle is this wide gulf connected by a rickety bridge that many don’t dare to cross.

Neumeier believes that it’s when you combine strategy and creativity – when both sides of the divide work together – is where the magic happens. A serving of each help to create the recipe of a charismatic brand that consumers don’t see as “nice to have” but “essential to have” in order to live out their daily lives. On a micro-level, you could even boil down this recipe to an “amuse-bouche,” a blend of strategy and creativity for a successful project that gives you that “taste” of an appealing brand.

But how do you help your brand become “charismatic” in the chaos of the consumer marketplace? Neumeier outlines the five disciplines of brand-building that he sees as imperative to master:

  • Differentiate: Humans are hardwired to pay attention to the unexpected, so differentiation is a good thing! You can identify what differentiates your brand in the marketplace by answering three questions: Who are you? What do you do? Why does it matter? If you can’t answer those questions…time to get back to the drawing board.
  •  Collaborate: Ever hear the saying “It takes a village…”? Well, in the case of a brand, the same is true. It requires many different people with all sorts of skills and specialties to come together and build it. Your can build that brand collaboration in your company by either 1) outsourcing it, 2) working with an agency (and we know a great one!), or 3) having an integrated marketing team.
  • Innovate:  It may seem apparent but too easily forgotten – to become a leader in your market, you can’t just follow what others are doing; you have to innovate. Continue to look for new and different ways to express your unique ideas.
  • Validate: No longer do we live in the world of one-way marketing communication. Today’s brand-to-consumer communication is a continuous loop of senders and receivers, so you need to get your brand out there and ensure it resonates with your audience. You need to validate the brand you’ve come to build.
  • Cultivate: Once you have a handle on the first four brand disciplines, you have to cultivate your brand and keep it alive. Continue adapting and changing – along with the rest of the world – and ensure that your brand is differentiated, collaborative, innovative, and validated every time you do.

Whether you’re a fan of cooking or baking (or neither), it’s not hard to see that the right mix of elements have a certain chemistry that all work to work together. Similarly, your brand is a recipe, with all the main ingredients designing an incredible end-product that your consumers will crave again and again. And whether all or just part of Neumeier’s words ring true for you and your company’s brand, remember to not get stuck in the “gap” of the brand divide.

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