Mind the Brand Gap: Management Intent vs. Customer Reality

Brandkit Sticker MIND THE BRAND GAP

In the world of brand management, there’s an often-overlooked chasm: the gap between what management intends and what customers actually experience.

This brand gap, while intangible, can have tangible repercussions on a brand’s success and its overall market positioning.

Management Intent

At the heart of every brand strategy lies management’s intent.

This intent is a blend of vision, purpose, and the strategic direction a company wishes to take.

For instance, a brand may aim to position itself as an innovator in its field, or as a reliable, time-tested choice for consumers.

In the case of B2B brand and digital asset management services, like those offered by Brandkit, the intent revolves around providing seamless, efficient solutions to enhance brand consistency, save time, and deliver brand content assets safely and smoothly.

Customer Reality - The End-User Experience

Contrasting (sometimes sharply) with management’s vision is the customer’s reality.

This encompasses how customers interact with and perceive the brand. It includes their experiences with the product or service, customer service interactions, and the brand’s overall presence in their lives.

For a company like Brandkit, this would translate into how effectively the software streamlines brand asset management and brand consistency for its users.

When things go wrong - a brand gap

History is littered with examples of this “brand gap”. Here are just a a few.

  • New Coke (1985): The Coca-Cola Company introduced New Coke with the intent of revitalizing the brand and appealing to a younger demographic. However, they underestimated their customers’ emotional attachment to the original formula. The backlash was immediate and intense, demonstrating a significant gap between the company’s intent and its customers’ expectations and experiences. Coca Cola recognized the blunder and brought the “old” coke back.

Some may argue though that this was an intentional head-fake - what better story to tell than “we tried the Pepsi style of drink but no one wanted it, they just wanted the classic Coca-Cola taste”. Makes you wonder.

  • Gap’s Logo Change (2010): Gap introduced a new logo in 2010, intending to modernize its brand image. However, customers had a strong emotional connection to the original logo. The public outcry was so significant that Gap reverted to its old logo within a week, highlighting a disconnect between the brand’s internal decision-making and its customers’ perceptions. More on this in this article by The Branding Journal

  • Airbnb’s Neighborhood Impact: Airbnb’s intent was to democratize travel by allowing homeowners to rent out their spaces. However, in many cities, the influx of tourists staying in residential areas led to rising rental prices and community disruptions, impacting local residents’ quality of life. This unintended consequence revealed a gap between Airbnb’s vision of empowering homeowners and the actual impact on local communities. More on this in an article by The Guardian

  • Over-Tourism in Popular Destinations: Many travel companies and national tourism boards have marketed destinations like Venice, Barcelona, and Santorini with the intent of boosting tourism and local economies. However, the reality of over-tourism has led to environmental degradation, strained infrastructure, and a negative impact on residents’ lives, creating a gap between the intent of promoting tourism and the adverse effects experienced by these destinations.

  • United Airlines’ Leggings Incident (2017): United Airlines faced public outcry when two passengers were barred from boarding a flight due to wearing leggings, considered inappropriate by the airline’s dress code for pass travelers. While the airline’s intent was to enforce its dress code policy, the incident was perceived as enforcing outdated and gender-specific dress standards, showcasing a gap between corporate policy and public expectations of reasonable dress. More on this in an article by the New York Times.

Bridging the Gap

So how to we manage these brand gaps? How do we set our brands up for success? Here are some ideas:

  • Feedback Loops: Regularly collecting and analyzing customer feedback is crucial. This helps in understanding whether the brand’s strategic intent aligns with the actual customer experience. Tools like surveys, focus groups, and user testing can be invaluable.

  • Consistent Communication and Branding: Ensuring that every touchpoint with customers - from marketing materials to the product itself - communicates the brand’s core message consistently is essential in bridging the gap.

  • Adaptability: Markets and consumer preferences evolve. Brands must be flexible enough to adjust their strategies based on these changes, ensuring that the management’s intent doesn’t become outdated or disconnected from the current market scenario.

  • Employee Alignment: Employees should be ambassadors of the brand’s intent. Training and internal communication strategies should align with what the brand aims to represent in the market.

  • Customer Alignment: Customers should be ambassadors of the brand. However the reality is product market fit doesn’t last forever and the market and customers perceptions and expectations change over time. Management needs be aware of these changes and evolve the brand offering and perception over time.

  • Data-Driven Strategies: Utilizing data to understand customer behavior and preferences can help tailor the brand experience to meet or exceed customer expectations.


The brand gap, if left unchecked, can lead to a dissonance that affects customer loyalty and a brand’s reputation.

Understanding and bridging the brand gap is not just about enhancing customer satisfaction; it’s about building a foundation for long term sustainable growth.

Mind the brand gap, and the path to brand success becomes clearer and more attainable.


Mind the Brand Gap: Management Intent vs. Customer Reality

In the world of brand management, there’s an often-overlooked chasm: the brand gap between what management intends and what customers actually experience.

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Statistics above last updated 1 March 2024