Strategy16 Apr 2024Simon Druery

Navigating Aspiration in Branding: Striking the balance between Inspiration and Realism

"We're going to the moon" JFK (1962). Now that's what I call an aspiration! But how aspirational should your brand be? Some? A lot? Or not at all? Aspiration when balanced well, can be a powerful force that shapes the trajectory of a brand, setting its tone, energy, and personality. However, the use of aspiration in branding comes with its own set of pros and cons, which must be carefully navigated to ensure a brand's success.

Let's delve into the nuances of aspiration in branding, exploring its potential benefits, pitfalls, and strategies for effective implementation.

(image source: AI-generated by midjourney @sd80sjam)

How do you balance aspiration with realism in your brand?

For me, what comes to mind, is the renowned speech - "We choose to go to the moon".
It was made at Rice University, on September 12, 1962, by then United States President John F. Kennedy. It was intended to bolster public support for his proposal to land a man on the Moon before 1970 and bring him safely back to Earth.

JFK's speech left a lasting imprint on both the external perception of the United States as a global brand and the internal psyche of its citizens. It embodied the spirit of American exceptionalism and resilience, inspiring generations to come to reach for the stars and strive for greatness. If we look at America, in this context as the brand, and this speech as the aspiration, there is a lot we can learn from it.

Because of it's aspirational nature, JFK's speech had a profound impact on country and citizens. Here's how...

Global Brand Perception: The ambitious goal of reaching the moon symbolised American innovation, ingenuity, and leadership on the global stage. It showcased the United States as a nation that was not afraid to tackle monumental challenges and push the boundaries of what was thought possible. The speech elevated the United States' standing in the eyes of the world, reinforcing its image as a beacon of progress and technological prowess. In brand language, this is differentiating yourself in the market.

Inspiring Patriotism and National Identity: JFK's call to action resonated deeply with the American people, instilling a sense of pride and patriotism. By setting a bold vision for the nation, he galvanised citizens from all walks of life to rally behind a common goal. The moon mission became a source of national unity and identity, reminding Americans of their shared values and aspirations. In branding, we refer to these factors as personality and purpose which attract the right type of customers or employees.

Fostering Innovation and Progress: The moon mission sparked a wave of innovation and investment in science, technology, and education. It spurred advancements in aeronautics, computing, and countless other fields, driving economic growth and prosperity. By investing in the future, JFK inspired a generation of Americans to pursue careers in STEM fields and contribute to the country's ongoing success. This is the aspiration being realised. For customers/employees, a brand must be real about what the challenges and obstacles are to be overcome - because that enrols people who can, and want, to contribute and play a role.

Promoting Soft Power and Diplomacy: The moon landing served as a powerful demonstration of American 'soft power', influencing perceptions of the United States around the world. It showcased the country's capabilities not just in military might but also in scientific and technological achievement. The success of the moon mission bolstered American credibility and influence on the global stage, strengthening alliances and fostering diplomatic relations. In marketing, this is evidence or case studies that we then leverage to reinforce our brand position in the market. We told you who we are and here's proof.

(image source: AI-generated by midjourney @sd80sjam)

So what is Brand Aspiration?

Brand aspiration is all about consumers (aka clients, customers, investors, employees), longing to connect with, own, or be associated with a brand they perceive as desirable or exclusive.

In the world of branding, it represents the desire of consumers to embody the values and lifestyle that a brand epitomises. This concept also serves as a savvy marketing strategy aimed at crafting a sense of exclusivity and allure around a brand, ultimately setting it apart from competitors and crafting a powerful brand identity.

The Power of Aspiration in Branding Strategy

At its core, aspiration in branding is about painting a compelling vision of the future that resonates with consumers on both an emotional and intellectual level. It taps into their desires, dreams, and aspirations, inspiring them to align themselves with the brand and its values. When executed effectively, aspiration can:

Set the Tone and Energy of the Brand: Aspiration infuses a brand with a sense of purpose and direction, guiding its actions and decisions. It creates a narrative that captivates audiences and distinguishes the brand from its competitors.

Enrol people to join the Brand Journey: By articulating a clear vision of where the business is headed, aspiration can motivate individuals to become stakeholders in the brand's journey. Whether it's employees, customers, or partners, people are drawn to brands that inspire them and offer a sense of belonging. Rather than communicating a brand's status quo (as of today), it's about enrolling people into the journey ahead and how they contribute to that.

Drive Innovation and Growth: A lofty vision can ignite creativity and innovation within an organisation, pushing boundaries and driving progress. It encourages a mindset of continuous improvement and empowers teams to pursue ambitious goals.

Balancing Aspiration with Realism

While aspiration can be a powerful tool in branding, it's essential to strike a balance between inspiration and realism. John F. Kennedy's iconic speech serves as a compelling example of this balance. While Kennedy conveyed a bold vision of putting a man on the moon he also acknowledged the formidable challenges that lay ahead. By grounding his aspirations in the reality of the situation, Kennedy inspired confidence and determination in the face of adversity.

Watch-Outs: The Dangers of Over-Aspiration

Aspiration, when taken to extremes, can backfire and lead to disillusionment among stakeholders. Brands must be cautious of the following pitfalls:

Unrealistic Expectations: Setting overly ambitious goals without considering the practicalities can create unrealistic expectations. When these expectations are not met, it can erode trust and credibility, leading to disengagement from the brand.

Lack of Authenticity: Consumers are savvy and can detect insincerity in aspirational messaging. If a brand's aspirations are not aligned with its actions and values, it risks being perceived as inauthentic, resulting in a loss of trust and loyalty.

Failure to Deliver: Aspiration should inspire action and progress, not mere rhetoric. Brands must follow through on their promises and demonstrate tangible progress towards their vision. Failure to deliver on aspirations can result in disappointment and disengagement from stakeholders.

Strategies for Effective Aspiration in Branding

To harness the power of aspiration while mitigating the risks, brands can adopt the following strategies:


Aspiration is a potent force that can propel brands to new heights, enrol and inspire stakeholders and drive future growth. However, it must be wielded with a careful balance of inspiration and realism. By grounding aspirational messaging in authenticity, transparency, and actionable steps, brands can harness its transformative power while minimising the associated risks. In a world where the possibilities are limitless, aspiration remains a guiding light for brands seeking to make a meaningful impact on the world.

What is your brand's aspiration? Is it ambitious, or uninspiring?

Article by Simon Druery

Simon Druery is Director and Brand Strategist at Belong Creative. What gets him jumping out of bed each day is helping business owners and marketers craft brands that people want to belong to. When he’s not working you can find him travelling Australia in the family caravan and enjoying a tawny port by the fire.