Design Strategy

Design and Strategy: filling "The Brand Gap"!

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.
— Marty Neumeier

Business strategy and design thinking haven’t always been on the same page, but let’s think about it for a second while considering renowned and loved brands: What’s the first thing that come to your mind when Apple is mentioned? It's certainly not the fruit, but an aspirational brand with next generation products. What about Mini Cooper? It's about the sexiest vehicles in the small size category. What made an energy drink like Red Bull become a symbol for adventure and extreme sports? Let's explore together how a Business Strategy and Design Thinking come together to empower brands through a summary of the workshop given at Blue Hat discussing Marty Neumeier’s famous book: “The Brand Gap”. 

Someone loved the book!

Someone loved the book!

The only way you can create a charismatic brand is by creating a cohesive, collaborative working environment that unites strategic and creative components.
— The Brand Gap

A strong connection between design and strategy should be ensured to empower your brand!

To take part in developing business strategy, designers must understand the business landscape focusing on the user experience, and be their brand's advocates. In other words, they need to ask themselves if their design thinking aligns with the company’s strategy.

As strategy changes, so should design, and if design changes, there should be a strong strategic reason for that change. Designers' input is essential for strategic success. As they are empowered to influence strategy, this will help your brand thrive in the new ecosystem.

EXAMPLE. AirBNB for Instance didn't invent the concept of renting rooms / apartments online, it has existed long before AirBNB. What made AirBNB succeed is that they noticed that apartments were poorly represented with dull and unclear images on the online portals that existed. Their Design-led decision to have a team of photographers as part of their organizational structure who ensure that every entry on AirBNB look as a desirable destination through high-quality mesmerizing photography  made the company become the number 1 website worldwide for renting apartments and rooms.

A strong brand can give your company a competitive edge.
— The Brand Gap

“The Brand Gap” is your guide to experience something logical and creative, in the words of Marty Neumeier, and to learn how to implement the five branding disciplines: differentiation, innovation, collaboration, validation and cultivation. Once done, there will be no trouble reaching customers and dominating the market niche.

Understand that in closing the gap between strategy and creativity, you’ll be able to build an irresistible brand that will make customers take notice.
— The Brand Gap


Our brains act as filters and we only notice the things that are different. Being unusual and different main criteria of any successful brand.

Who are you? What do you do? Why does it matter?

Not having appealing answers to these questions to customers means you don’t have a focused brand. When your customers think of your brand, it should be their destination, while staying ahead of trends.

EXAMPLE. Volvo’s brand differentiation was that their heavy, boxy cars made them the safest ones on the market. 


A brand is a collaborative project. No brand can develop in isolation: To build a charismatic brand, a team with all sort of skills is needed. Don't have a team? Outsourcing your service to a third-party is a good idea. Having consultants helping on your projects is definitely a must. 

EXAMPLE. The best example of collaboration is in Hollywood where directors, actors and other specialists come together to make a great movie, then when the project is done, split up and move on to different projects.

From the "Freshwater" movie in the Old Town Helena (Source: Helena City News)

From the "Freshwater" movie in the Old Town Helena (Source: Helena City News)


Creativity is where you can make a mark for yourself in the market. Is innovation your goal? Inspire your customers, develop and express novel ideas, always look for NEW ways. Let your brand stands out!

EXAMPLE. Take Volkswagen : The brand straddled this line between risk and innovation with its humorous, attention-grabbing VW Bug automobile.


Validation means bringing the audience into the creative process. Break the monologue and focus on a dialogue. Nowadays, when your company sends out a message, you get a response! Make sure your brand is following the 5 essential validation keys: Distinctiveness, Relevance, Memorability, Expandability, Depth. These 5 keys will help customers recall your brand without thinking of a competitor.

EXAMPLE. It would be weird if Nike started making hand soap.
That will be failure at two levels: relevance and expandability. Soap is not an extension of the Nike as a sports brand, nor does it relate to its target audience. 


Keep your brand alive and ensure it’s not becoming stale or boring. It’s okay if your brand has inconsistent elements, as long as it holds true to its defining characteristics, and has a collaborative performance.

EXAMPLE. Red Bull's Felix Baumgartner stunt: Red Bull is not about the product only. A huge hit for the energy drink company, and a world record was set for the highest skydiving jump by Austrian extreme athlete Felix Baumgartner in 2012. His jump was watched in real time on YouTube by 8m people. The brand broke away from the usual into the unusual, and tried things that have never been done before.  

Felix Baumgartner: The Red Bull Stunt that captivated the world (Source: )

Felix Baumgartner: The Red Bull Stunt that captivated the world (Source:

Well, next time you should definitely join us at Blue Hat to attend our workshops! 

Are your business strategy and design thinking on the same page? Share your thoughts!