Plato’s “theory of forms” or “theory of ideas” proposes that nonphysical forms or ideas represent the essence of reality. In other words, before a thing exists, there is the idea of the thing.
Before a chair exists, there is an idea of the chair in the mind of the carpenter or designer, and while there may be thousands of chair designs with distinct differences, anyone, anywhere can identify the object as a chair.
This addresses the concept of universal ideas, also called classic forms or archetypes, the essentials that people across time and in any culture can easily identify and relate to.
Why does this matter? Because any business that wants to develop a brand bridge must first conceive of the “idea of the brand.”
The idea of the brand comes first.
Starbucks aspired to embody the most important elements of the ideal coffee house, a concept that had been in formulation for centuries before Starbucks happened along and transformed that idea and ideal into a modern business concept. To fulfill its aspiration Starbucks must therefore recognize that it’s in the experience marketing business, which is a complex, high-concept vision of branding.
A simpler concept would be focused around the brand name, logo, tagline, and perhaps a few products, their packaging, and a distribution and sales strategy, elements that constitute the initial visual identity of the brand. For many companies, the marketing game forms around how to increase awareness of the brand and increase distribution of the product; this is Branding 101, blah, blah.
More substantial and sophisticated brand ideas develop differently. They’re organized around a romantic ideal of what a brand might become, which is in the domain of the larger and more etheric “brand field.”
7 Action Questions
How should you think about your own organization and its brand bridge? Brands that have a clear vision surrounding the questions below can begin mapping new leverage points and identify effective strategies for building their brand bridge.
1. What’s the brand field in your category?
2. What resonates with customers in a deep and personal way?
3. What category does your brand reside in? (Coffee was not a high interest – high involvement category in the US until Starbucks made it that way.)
4. How can the power of your Brand Bridge be enhanced?
5. What do people outside your company believe your brand stands for?
6. What could your brand become? Think about an ideal. Uplifting the category experience in ways nobody else is doing.
7. Considering how all brands are positioned in your category, does any brand occupy the emotional high ground? That is, when the product consumption experience is ‘as good as it gets’, is there any one brand associated with that moment?
These core ideas and others can be found in my latest book The Brand Bridge – How to Build a Profound Connection Between Your Company, Your Brand, and Your Customers.
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