July 30, 2021

148: The Bridge | Gerard Tannam and Strategic Brand Building

148: The Bridge | Gerard Tannam and Strategic Brand Building

Gerard Tannam, Strategic Brand-Builder at Islandbridge, tells us all about the use of storytelling as a framework in bridging the gap between buyers and sellers, businesses and their markets. In this episode, we weave through Ger’s own story that takes him from Ireland to Hong Kong and back again, then into the lessons learned from marketing and strategy direction for big brands before launching the Islandbridge business, how building bridges between businesses and customers drives growth for businesses of all sizes….and almost becoming a priest!

MoneyNeverSleeps is sponsored by PAT Fintech, the training partner that demystifies fintech and digital finance for financial services professionals.


On one of the earliest signs of what became Gerard’s modus operandi in building brands:

“As part of our event management business in Hong Kong in the ‘90’s, we also set up an art gallery. The common thread was that I became used to walking into an empty space and looking on both sides and asking the question, what do I need to do to fill this gap?”

“You're constantly being thrown into an environment where you're obliged to translate, to step into that space between and to determine how are we going to make this work?”

“Narrative and story are concerned with making sense of the world, of finding a language to describe the world. So when Alice goes down the rabbit hole into Wonderland, what Lewis Carroll is doing is he's describing another world. When we build brands, that's what we're doing.”

On what’s at the core of brands:

“Branding is about the relationship between two people, usually a buyer and seller, who are about to meet, but they don't know it yet. What a brand does is that it sets up the relationship, so that when you do meet, you're both clear about how you need to behave, what's expected of you and how the relationship should work.”

On the bridge-building analogy that works with brand-building:

“What does a bridge-builder do? First, they do a survey to understand what's on this side of the gap, what's on the other side of the gap and what other bridges are available. When we survey, we look at our clients and what they value in the business, we look at their customers and what they value in the transaction, and we look at what the marketplace seems to value.”

“It's in the value that you get an understanding of what it is that people want to exchange, because people are always exchanging based on their perception of what's valuable to them.”

“Bridges are designed to ensure that people pass quickly, easily, and safely from one side to the other, and that's what brands are for. Brands are not about being beautiful. It doesn't mean you can't be useful and beautiful at the same time, but the most important thing when you define a brand is you ask, is this relationship useful? Is it productive, fruitful? Is there a real exchange happening? “

On encouraging businesses to take the pressure off themselves with publishing:

“One of the first things we do is to tell new clients to stop trying to be a publisher in dozens of areas. The reality is there is a very small number of people and a very particular type of person who’s a good publisher, and the rest of us are not good publishers. Stop publishing, stop feeling that you have to keep filling the silence. Shut up and listen, stop talking.”

“A lot of the time when I first meet a business, they're obsessed with, ‘we're not tweeting enough, we’re not producing video, we’re not podcasting enough’. I usually say, ‘well, there's only a certain number of people who should be publishing, and the rest of us should be listening.”


Episode title inspired by The Bridge by MC Shan

Get in touch with Gerard Tannam and learn more about Islandbridge

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Gerard Tannam

Strategic Brand-Builder at Islandbridge