Just Brand It

The Brand Gap
By Marty Neumeier
178pp. Indianapolis: New Riders Publishing. $14.95

A good brand is a powerful thing. If done properly, a brand is much more than just an array of logos and slogans. It can conjure up magic images in the mind of the consumer and build life-long affinities. Lately, it seems, companies have fallen in love with the branding concept all over again.

Accepting brands are important is merely the first step in the process. Presumably, all marketers agree that having a brand like, say, Coca-Cola (valued in the billions of dollars) is a good thing. Building an instantly recognizable brand with such enormous equity is another matter entirely.

Acutely aware of this problem, Marty Neumeier crafted an entertaining and enlightening volume on the subject. Starting with the premise a brand is a must-have for any serious business, The Brand Gap goes on to explore why some companies never quite achieve the quality branding they seek. Not surprisingly, it boils down to the all-too-common rift between the hard-nosed business side and less easy to quantify creative functions.

Neumeier dubs this chasm the brand gap. As he succinctly puts it: “Whenever there’s a rift between strategy and creativity — between logic and magic — there’s a brand gap.” In other words, some companies just don’t get it.

His perspective will endear him to every marketer. Neumeier declares: “There are no dull products, only dull brands. Any brand, backed by enough courage and imagination, can become a charismatic brand.” Basically, this means anything from dental floss to DVDs can be branded effectively with enough marketing might. Good to hear!

What, then, is the solution to the perennial branding dilemma? To vastly over-simplify, Neuimeier advises us to “differentiate, collaborate, innovate, validate and cultivate” our brands. Very nice words indeed. Life-long marketers will find much here that’s familiar. Yet so often, the challenge is not so much agreeing on the value of a good brand. but deciding on how best to get there.

Paying deep homage to Marshall McLuhan’s classic The Medium is the Message, The Brand Gap is presented in a chic format, complete with black and white photos and lots of graphics. This should appeal to creative directors, but it’s uncertain how this will sway buttoned down bean counters who often scoff at marketing expenditures. If nothing else, this slim volume and its PowerPoint writing style should make for easy presentations.

In the end, there can never be too much emphasis placed on branding’s importance. Modern consumers exist in a ridiculously cluttered media environment. Anything that captures attention amidst such chaos is worthwhile. The difficulties inherent in creating a magic brand presence mean good marketers will always stay in business. Spending an hour reading The Brand Gap is an excellent step in the right branding direction.

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