Meaning Is The Bridge Every Brand Must Build

Jerome ConlonJune 6, 20194 min

Consider for a moment how a Scrabble box full of single letters, lacks the quality of poetry, but if those letters are arranged in a certain way, they can then produce a poetic effect. It is the ordered relationships between the letters that create the identity of poetry.

There is a profound parallel between the process of how our consciousness creates and shapes reality and how dreams manifest. The dynamics of how humans create material things has a deep similarity to the dynamics of dreaming. But, in the business world, materialization efforts must be validated by consumers. And the switch that flips inside a consumer’s mind to get them to buy a new product or service is activated by a “meaning circuit”.

This leads to the question – ‘What are the bits of information that matter most to consumers in closing their ‘meaning circuits?’ Information about brands, products and services come to consumers in a wide range of forms. Not all of this communication is rational. Some of it is experiential, some emotional. And it is also quite possible that key information the consumer needs to be motivated is missing. Messages, images and stories from your brand can do more than merely describe a physical or functional benefit. They can symbolize identity value or provide a vision of an experience worth having.

“Meaning Is The Bridge Between The Mental And The Physical” ~ David Bohm

Brands that take on symbolic meanings have successfully found a way to tap into the language of dreams. Sometimes this language can touch upon an archetype, which is a more profound “information field of influence” on how to live life more fully. In The Brand Bridge I shed light on the topic of how brands can create greater symbolic meaning. Any symbolic meaning, when it is successfully conferred to consumers is the brand bridge. This is a bridge between an ordinary state of mind and a desired experience that the brand enables or empowers.

Central to the concept is an important tool for discovering meaning and personal truth. The tool is the phenomenon of “Consilience”. What is consilience? It is an agreement to the approaches to a topic of different academic subjects, especially between science and the humanities. It is the convergence or concordance of evidence between two different subjects. This refers to the principle that evidence between independent, unrelated sources can converge to help you form strong conclusions. ’

Through decades of work with consumers I’ve witnessed many insights connecting disparate fields that have been successfully acted upon in business and branding. For example, in asking the vision of an ideal coffee shop in a projection exercise with 120 different respondents in focus groups across the US, I observed common elements  to the ideal coffeehouse and began to recognize a way to improve the Starbucks business model, to better align it with a hidden collective ideal.

Like Starbucks, with the right orientation, a company can source its brand idea from higher energy insights that touch upon deeper truths about the lives of those most important to your organizations future.

Many brands are competing in the marketplace on product or technology or some other physical, logical product appeal. Yet, there is a much wider range of ways to position brands than to always use product positioning. If you want greater insight into more expansive brand positioning strategies, then The Brand Bridge will interest you.

For example, when Steve Jobs (pictured with Nike’s Mark Parker) returned to Apple in 1997, the Apple brand had been through a decade-long period of neglect and decline, and was desperately in need of thorough renewal. Jobs lamented that Apple had drifted from its founding values, and its marketing had fallen into the old and exhausted product positioning formulas used by so many other technology companies that extolled the virtues of “our product” versus “their product.”

He knew that the way back for Apple wasn’t by talking about why its user interface was better than Windows, or why its processors were faster than Dell’s. Instead, Apple had to build a brand bridge, just as Nike had done ten years earlier with the launch of its Just Do It campaign.

In the internal company introduction at which he presented the Think Different campaign for the first time to Apple employees, Jobs said this about Nike: “The best example of all and one of the best jobs the marketing universe has ever seen is Nike. Nike sells a commodity. They sell shoes. And yet when you think of Nike, you think of something different than just a shoe company. In their ads, they don’t ever talk about the product. They don’t ever talk about why they are better than Reebok’s air soles. What does Nike do in their advertising? They honor great athletes, and they honor great athletics. That’s who they are. That’s what they’re all about.” That’s the brand bridge.

These core ideas and others can be found in my new book The Brand Bridge – How to Build a Profound Connection Between Your Company, Your Brand, and Your Customers.

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Jerome Conlon

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