The Brand Gap: The only book on brand you need to read

10 September 2017 / Andy Wright

The Brand Gap is a clear, easy-to-read business book that discusses the most important elements of what branding is and isn’t and provides powerful principles that can be readily applied to any business.

Amidst a sea of lofty, pseudo-academic publications that surround branding, this book cuts through the lot with clinical effectiveness. A short, sharp, easy read that tells you all you need to know in a clear, memorable way. That’s why we believe it’s a great book for anyone who holds the reigns to their organisation’s brand.


What’s the gap?

This book is written to bridge the gap between strategy and creativity so is perfect for marketers, brand managers, designers and creatives alike. It’s written for business people not academics so zips along with examples and clear tools for use in your business. It works for start-ups, established businesses and large corporates.

Even though it was originally written in 2003 and updated in 2006 good branding knowledge doesn’t date and it shows you how to ‘bridge the gap between logic and magic to build a sustainable competitive advantage.’

Even if you are a seasoned brand specialist there will be nuggets of information in this book that you either didn’t know or will need reminding of.


The book

Whilst you and your company might do your best to influence what the customer thinks the brand is – it’s not until enough people have the same gut feeling about a business that it can be said that a brand exists.

The brand gap is that gulf between strategy and creativity that can confuse the customer and ultimately be the death knell for a brand.

The book is structured upon 5 disciplines:

• Differentiate

• Collaborate

• Innovate

• Validate

• Cultivate



There are so many companies and brands competing for your potential customers attention that unless you can answer the following 3 questions you’re likely to be blurring into the background:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What do you do?
  3. Why does it matter?

The key is not only to differentiate but ensure that you are focussing your products and services to a tightly targeted group or ‘tribe.’ ‘It’s often better to be number one in a small category than to be number three in a large one.”



“It takes a village to build a brand!” This section discusses how your marketing, design, advertising, PR, strategy consultants etc are all part of the branding community and are all required to make a brand cohesive evolve.

There are 3 models of collaborating to manage a brand:

  1. Outsourcing the brand to a one-stop-shop – which will ensure a unified message across all media but you might not get best of breed and you effectively hand over stewardship to an external body.
  2. Outsourcing to a brand agency – a variation to the one-stop-shop but this involves the client working with a key lead agency who then assemble a team of specialist firms to work on the brand on the client’s behalf. This ensures unified messaging and best of breed agencies but still a lack of stewardship of the brand.
  3. Integrated marketing team is by far the best approach where the ownership of the brand is firmly with the client and they see the brand as a continuous activity across the business. The internal marketing and branding team work alongside specialist brand and design agencies creating a ‘virtual super team.’ This method ensure that brand control and knowledge is nurtured internally but it does require a very strong internal team to manage it.



“Innovation is what gives brands traction in the marketplace.” This is where the magic of creativity and execution ignite the logic of the defined strategy.

Creativity is the most difficult part of brand development to control but the most important as it speaks directly to the human emotions. Logic and reason seldom “ignites passion in customers” and therefore the desire to purchase.



This section discusses how communication and feedback loops have evolved – it’s no longer just sender – message – receiver. The process now involves a fourth part – the most important one of soliciting feedback from our customers or ‘tribe.’ Social media ensures that this makes clear branding and communication more important than ever and “it transforms marketing communication into a contact sport, and spectators into full participants.”

The key to getting it right is test, test and re-test your concepts, messaging, brand prototypes with at least 10 members of your target audience. Marty defines 5 key areas that all elements of your brand must score highly on: distinctiveness, relevance, memorability, extendibility, and depth.



The last section encourages you to be brave and embrace the concept that a brand is a living thing and you should allow it to live and make mistakes. To ultimately show its humanity.

A brand is a “collaborative performance and every person in the company is an actor,” from the receptionist to the CEO everyone needs to live and breathe the brand.

The brand is the compass that steers the ship and everyone in the organisation needs to have a clear definition that they understand. Before every decision should always be asked “will it help or hurt the brand?”

Clear internal communication and brand knowledge must be imbedded throughout the organisation and be regularly shared to ensure that the brand definition is not forgotten as experienced people leave for pastures new.



The Brand Gap reminds us that good brands live, breathe and ultimately evolve. Good brands understand who they are targeting, are differentiating and are not scared to try stuff out. Ultimately, The Brand Gap challenges us to combine magic and logic to speak to the customer.

Whilst the book does show its age with some of the examples and brands stated, especially to start-ups such as Google and Amazon (!) the principles of brand don’t really change and the clarity of the language used make this a fantastic book to dip in and out of, or an-easy-to-read-in-one-go business book.


The Brand Gap – How to bridge the distance between business strategy & design – A whiteboard overview. By Marty Neumeier

Marty Neumeier is an American author and speaker who writes on the topics of brand, design, innovation, and creativity.


Want your own copy? Click the book to purchase.


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