The Brand Gap

by Marty Neumeier

Troy Shu
Troy Shu
Updated at: February 23, 2024
 3 min read
The Brand Gap
The Brand Gap

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What are the big ideas?

  1. Branding is about the perception and trust customers have in a product, service, or company, and it grows in value when it quickly resonates with customers.
  2. A charismatic brand is perceived as irreplaceable by its customers, signifying a deep connection and loyalty.
  3. Effective branding involves five key disciplines: differentiate, collaborate, innovate, validate, and cultivate the brand.
  4. Differentiation in branding has shifted from focusing on product attributes to creating an emotional connection and sense of identity with the brand.
  5. For a brand to thrive, it must foster collaboration, encourage innovation, seek constant feedback for validation, and continuously adapt and grow.


The Essence of Branding

  • A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or company. It’s not what you say it is. It’s what they say it is.
  • Branding is the process of connecting good strategy with good creativity.
  • The foundation of a brand is trust. Customers trust your brand when their expectations consistently meet or beat their expectations.
  • Modern society is information-rich and time-poor. The value of your brand grows in direct proportion to how quickly and easily customers can say yes to your offering.
  • People base their buying decisions more on symbolic cues than features, benefits, and price.
  • Only one competitor can be the cheapest—the others have to use branding.

Building a Charismatic Brand

  • A charismatic brand is any product, service, or company for which people believe there’s no substitute.
  • A charismatic brand can be defined as any product, service, or company for which people believe there is no substitute.

The Five Disciplines of Branding

  • Differentiate
  • Collaborate
  • Innovate
  • Validate
  • Cultivate


  • To begin building your brand, ask yourself three questions: Who are you? What do you do? Why does it matter?
  • Differentiation has evolved from a focus on “what it is,” to “what it does,” to “how you’ll feel,” to “who you are.”
  • As globalism removes barriers, people erect new ones. Brand names are tribal gods, each ruling a different space within the tribe.


  • Over time, specialists beat generalists.
  • How a brand should fit its space is determined by the brand community.
  • For successful precedents to creative collaboration, look to Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and the cathedral builders of the Renaissance.


  • It’s design, not strategy, that ignites passion in people.
  • Radical innovation has the power to render competition obsolete.
  • Expectation innovation from people outside the company, or from people inside the company who THINK outside.


  • Transform your brand communication from a monologue to a dialogue by getting feedback.
  • Use focus groups to FOCUS the research, not BE the research.
  • Measure your company’s brand expressions for distinctiveness, relevance, memorability, extendibility, and depth.


  • Your business is not an entity but a living organism. Ditto your brand.
  • Every brand contributor should develop a personal shockproof “brandometer”. No decision should be made without asking, “Will it help or hurt the brand?”
  • The more collaborative a brand becomes, the more centralized its management needs to be.


  1. How can I ensure that my brand reflects what customers actually feel and say about it, rather than just what I want it to be?
  2. In what ways can I build trust with my customers, ensuring that my brand consistently meets or exceeds their expectations?
  3. What makes a brand truly charismatic, and how can I develop such charisma for my brand?
  4. How can I differentiate my brand in a way that resonates with people's identities and personal experiences?
  5. Why is collaboration important in branding, and how can I effectively engage with different communities to enhance my brand?
  6. What steps can I take to keep my brand innovative and relevant in a rapidly changing market?

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