The election of bill clinton (born 1946) to the presidency signaled a generational shift in the US as early as 1992 (though, in terms of policy he is attacked for being to similar to the Republicans, in the same way Blair is attacked for the “New Labour” ideology, that was soft Thatcherism).
The shift in generations was signaled by Bush (1946) and Al Gore (1948) slugging it out. Both were different in their ideologies and Al Gore, the more radical of the two lost out. What this tells us is that it was not the difference in thinking at the top, but the difference in thinking of the masses that will matter more.
The humble Mind the Gap warning that prevents people from falling of trains is fast becoming a more sinister global issue. If you believe the media...well actually I don’t know if we do anymore but lets assume we can, minding the gap is becoming a national obsession. Whether it is the gap between the, ‘haves or have not’s or the uneducated or the educated, ATL agencies and BTL agencies, R&D and sales, sales and marketing or even the good ol’ property debate of the northern and south divide, the western world and the eastern world mind the gap is ringing in our ears. But why is this gap so important and what is it that we need to address?
Some will argue that these growing ‘gaps’ are because our governments are dysfunctional, or our financial institutions are demanding short term thinking, but there is no question that these gaps are where the hard questions lie, and to be honest, always have. My recent book, ‘One Hard Question” explores some of the hard questions that have defined our history as well as the global brands that we see today, but we face far greater questions in this very uncertain and changing world.
At the heart of the issue is trust, or lack of it and this is what makes the equation so difficult when deciding what should be done. In the past the foundations of business have relied on a basic level of trust, which has enabled our society to develop. A Darwinian process that was at the heart of Maslow’s theory, but for some inexplicable reason the titans of our world have come crashing down because the bedrock of this theory, trust has been put into question. Arguably it started with Enron, a giant in energy, followed quickly by Apple, amazingly but they managed to save themselves with the Nano recall. Nostradamus in this new world could not have predicted what followed, but the wrong decision to let Lehman brothers go to the wall signaled the financial crash. This led to the government scandal’s, which resulted in imprisonment and now the fall of the Murdoch Empire that will surely drag down our law enforcement with it. The government who make law, the media that report on it and now the police that enforces it, what a mess.
So, whom can you trust now and is this the reason why the gaps are appearing? I think that I might have one theory about who is causing this unrest and the finger points at baby boomer. The gen Y and gen X have already established the idea that everything the boomers thought was a blast will now probably kill us. So my theory is that the Y’s and X’s have decided that enough is enough as the boomers take leave of the boardroom and they take charge. Lets face it this crew could not be further from the self obsessed hedonists of excess, and can only think assimilative thoughts. Out with the old in with the new will be the rallying cry, lets sort this out together, which will require some very hard questions to be asked and will require a certain level of ‘emotional intelligence’ to find the answers, This emotional intelligence is at the heart of this generations ‘heart’ the only way to conquer the gaps, left and right brain working together to ask the right question and answer it together, however difficult it may appear. If you refer to my opening passage, the reason why this is so critical is because it’s not the difference of thinking at the top that matters the most but that of the masses they serve. This in itself probably forms one of the hardest questions that need’s to be asked because it will require a new way of thinking that crosses traditional government thinking. The problem is that this will require closer working relationships and the glue that will enable this is trust and from all parties concerned. Lets hope this can happen.
So, this leads us to our world, the business of design and branding and the gap that we all face, the gap between strategy and creativity. As brands strive to stay competitive and continue to chip away at the ‘bottom line, it is very easy to lose sight of the very reason for their existence and that in many cases it is the emotion that sells their brands and not JUST a great distribution centre and great operational logistics. But, this is where the hard questions comes in because there can only be one ‘lowest price’ and we already have crammed houses full of stuff that we simply do not need that we bought on promotion or yet another BOGOF. The one hard question I would be asking is, ‘how do we get the operations, sales and marketing teams working together with the same end goal in mind’?
At 1HQ we have always believed that the gap between strategy (left brain thinking) and creativity (right brain thinking) is the key to ensure the hard questions are addressed and that brands stay true to who they are and what they do. Great research leads to great strategy, but unless that great strategic vision actually makes something happen then it remains as just a thought or good idea. Building brands is a complex process and if Coke can get it wrong then we all can. It is a grey area because this is where the two most important parts of brand building must overlap. But even today, big global brands are often working in silos, as do many of the creative brand agencies that serve them. How many times as a client have you heard the line of ‘here is the strategy, over to you’, or even worse been offered the creative route that looks great but does not exactly fulfill the commercial expectations.
Minding the gap between strategic thought and the creative output is where the magic happens in brand building, it is where the hard questions are asked and answered and wrapped into a creative brief that will lead to a brilliant creative and commercially successful solution. It is as simple as the phrase itself ‘mind the gap’, but never has it been more important as the tectonic plates of business shift beneath us that demand that we think differently and collaboratively. The process can only be seamless and should never be separated and something that cannot short cut or separated however much procurement processes insist…but do so at your peril.
Ironically it is the Bank tube stop that utter these famous words of warning…
‘MIND THE GAP’!