Need to know

  • Global brands should be aware of the mental disconnects that can occur between the meaning intended to be communicated by a brand versus meaning created, the disconnect between ideas and their form of execution or between brand values and the real-world behaviors of brands.
  • The four biggest brand disconnects appearing in branding today are:
    • CultureBrands and communications versus culture and society: Is what you’re doing and saying culturally relevant any more?
    • ContextBig idea versus creative execution and brand experience: Is what you’re saying and doing contextually relevant?
    • TrustBrand image, values and ideals versus actions and corporate behaviors: Is what you’re saying relevant and trustworthy, given that it’s you saying it?
    • Social impactRole and identity versus message and tonality: Do you have the mandate to be saying what you’re saying in the first place?
  • Brands can overcome these disconnects by employing the approach of meaning strategy. This involves a clear focus on the three key areas of brand:
    • Brand meaning: What is meaningful to your brand (mission, vision, purpose, values, positioning, differentiation, identity, personality, key iconic elements, brand narrative, brand semiotics etc. – ‘the brand strategy’)
    • Social or customer meaning: What is meaningful to your customers (target audiences, segmentation, consumer insights, need states, personas, empathy mapping etc. – ‘the customer strategy’)
    • Cultural meaning: What is meaningful in the current context of culture (cultural signifiers, dominant/residual/emergent meanings, macro trends and market trends, cultural foresight, cross-category and cross-cultural insights – ‘the cultural strategy’)
  • The key to creating meaningful brands, however, is not just to study each of these three sources of insight individually in silos, but to study and measure them all together.
  • Where these three dimensions overlap is where your brand can gain most meaning, so capitalize on this space of opportunity as much as you can.