Your Brand’s Aspirations

When working on branding projects as a marketing executive and as a consultant, I have been asked by executives “How aspirational should our brand be?”.  By this, they mean should the brand consider some future state of the company or product/service.

First, remember that your brand is an expectation in the minds of customers and prospects of what you will deliver and how you will deliver it.  The question cannot be answered effectively without answering other questions:

What is the brand now?

If you don’t already know, now is a good time to research what customers and prospects think about the company and/or product.  You must get a clear picture of your current brand before considering a future brand.

What do you want the brand to be?

The person who asked the original question (usually the CEO) has a vision of where he/she wants to take the company.  Ask him/her to articulate that vision so you can make a reasonable analysis for the next step.

What is the gap from the current state brand to the future brand?

This gap can be a curbside puddle or the Grand Canyon.  If the future brand seeks to offer a wider range of similar products/services to current market segments, I would view it as a puddle gap.   If the aspirational brand seeks to offer dissimilar products/services to totally new market segments, you may be looking at a Grand Canyon gap.  My experience has been that most times the future brand falls somewhere between a puddle and a canyon, with current offering being made to new segments or new products/services being offered to current segments.

What operational changes will be needed to fulfill the aspirational brand promise?

With the gap identified you need to assess what organizational changes are needed to fulfill the future brand promise.  If the gap is small, probably minor organizational changes are needed.  If the gap is large, substantial organizational changes may be in order.  Whichever the case, it is important that these organizational changes be made before the company attempts to launch the future brand.  Otherwise, the market will perceive the future brand as just a repackaging of what they already know.  In other words, customers and prospects won’t believe it until they see it.

Should we consider a separate brand for the future brand?

If the gap between the current brand and future brands is very large, the company might consider creating a separate, new brand for the future brand.   This works well if the company is still committed to the current brand.  Advantage of this approach include:

  • It avoids creating a brand that is somewhere between the current brand and future brand, which will be confusing to customers/prospects in both markets
  • It does not confuse the customers/prospects in the current brand market
  • It does not confuse the customers/prospects in the future brand market who might know the company’s current brand
  • It allows for selecting a brand name that is more appropriate for the new products/services or markets
  • It avoids “rebranding” the current brand, which can be more difficult than establishing a new brand
  • If the future brand does not meet expectations, it can avoid damaging the current brand

The downside to this approach is the cost involved in establishing a new brand without any transfer of brand equity from the current brand.  Some companies overcome this by including a naming convention that identifies the future brand as part of the parent group.

While a company should always be thinking about the future, its brand must convey what the company can deliver realistically in the short term.  If the brand messaging gets out in front of the ability to deliver, it confuses the market and damages the brand.


© 2011-2018 Bill Fellows, Top-of-Mind Branding All Rights Reserved