Monday, August 11, 2008

Bridge(s) for sale

Image remixed from Molas

We’ve all read Marty Neumeier’s “The Brand Gap”, or at least checked out his highly popular slideshare of the same name.

To recap the premise, here’s an excerpt from an interview with Brian Alvey:

Alvey: What is a "brand gap"?

Neumeier: The brand gap is the distance between business strategy (what the company wants to be) and customer experience (how people actually perceive it). The brand gap has its origins in the way our brains work. Strategic thinkers favor the left side of the brain (the logic), while creative thinkers favor the right side (the magic). Since these two ways of thinking reside in different people, there's always a gap between brand logic and brand magic.

There is another, related brand gap out there, and it exists not between business intention and customer experience, but within the brand development process itself.

On one bank is theory. It might be a simple advertising brief. Or, it might be the final report from a six-month, seven-figure market research study.

On the other side we have reality, namely the various people whose job it is to interpret that theory and turn it into design, advertising, product innovation, brand behavior etc etc.

And between the theory and reality, we have a yawning chasm. It represents time lost, arguments had, relationships frayed, focus diminished, and invariably disappointment from the theorists when they see their fine work (that they’d sold through to their bosses) come back unrecognizable.

The funny thing is the gap is invisible. You sure won’t see it called out in a development timeline. But again and again, there it is, suddenly bringing all momentum to a halt.

Why is this so?

I think it’s because we’re all optimists, for a start. We’d all like to believe that the translation of business fact into creative expression is smooth, even propulsive. (“I am engaged by your business challenge, and inspired solutions are already springing from my head” is the fantasy response.)

The other reason is that it’s very difficult to plan for the very real differences between the two types of minds that attack each side of the problem.

If I step back and look at what we’ve been doing at Persuasion, and before that at our previous company Cream, whether working on the client side as brand consultants, or collaborating with an agency on a new business pitch, it’s been re-interpreting fact into something more actionable for creative people. We’ve been building bridges and selling them.

The fact that it accounts for maybe ninety percent of our business suggests that the problem is more prevalent than anyone is aware of, and that it deserves to be planned for.

Have you ever had to re-write the strategy to fit the creative? Have you ever had to hire a second brand consultant to make sense of the first consultant's work? Have you ever found yourself staring at the climactic powerpoint slide, agreeing with every box, arrow and bullet point, but having no idea how all those squiggles will ever turn into an action?

You might want to find yourself some good bridge builders.

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