Brand gaps need filling in order to rectify scepticism

Richard Clayton’s article about managers feeling the heat over rebranding scepticism (News, DW 18 July) raises fundamental issues within design, for clients and, perhaps most importantly, for customers.

There is often a huge gap between strategy and experience – a disconnect between the promise and the truth. This disconnect is doubly damaging: not only are wishes left unfulfilled, but, you lied.

This can be addressed in two ways. In developing the promise, don’t sacrifice achievability for aspiration – you need both. More importantly, operationalising a brand is not a communications activity. It is a staff activity. Internal branding must be more than internal marketing – you need to re-engineer the organisation’s processes and practices to deliver the brand promise.

Branding is often, mistakenly, used as a synonym for image, usually accompanied by the phrase ‘image is reality’. A much closer parallel is culture and reputation. Culture is intangible, but very real. Reputation is hard to quantify and of enormous value. Yes, we live in the perception economy where your brand assets can be your most valuable assets; yes, the vis

ual representation of your company, service or product is a compelling surrogate for strategy, vision and values; but perception is shaped by image and defined by experience. You can’t fake it.

A visual identity with a big idea attached is not a brand. It’s a logo with a superiority complex. Those of us involved in brand strategy and design have been hugely guilty of bullshit, forgetting that a beautifully crafted brand essence is without value if it cannot be translated into customer value. We can’t do this – our clients do this. We’ve got to acknowledge the potential value of our work and the limitations of our influence.

The problem is one of action not definition. Call it strategy, culture, reputation, image, personality, DNA, identity or brand; the issue is translating the compelling special difference into concerted actions, behaviours and communications.

And a more robust understanding of brand valuation is one of the ways to elevate branding. Many companies adhere to the mantra that ‘if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it’ and if you can’t manage it, you don’t want it. But there’s a lot of confusion about measuring the value of brands. It’s a relative measure, connected to the intangible value of the business and not least the human capital.

There are two brand gaps: one experienced by customers is when the brand promise is a far remove from the real deal; the second is experienced by clients when big ideas are revealed as just ideas. To drive where you want to go, you need a clear road not just a fast car.

Alec Rattray

Marketing director

Landor Associates

alec.rattray@uk.landor.com

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