Since the first person scratched their mark on a pottery bowl successful businesses and marketers have known the power of branding. Branding helps consumers identify their products in a crowded market, signify the quality and product experience, and for a few select brands can become a key part of the product in their own right.
Like the original maker’s mark, branding is more than just the brand name. Branding involves all those elements that combine to signify your brand. These individual elements are your brand assets. Strong brand assets can greatly improve your marketing efficiency by increasing correct identification of your brand with your message and, for goods, with the product itself. When valuing a brand for sale the brand assets are considered a key part of the valuation.
Understanding what brand assets are central to your brand are critical for businesses when leveraging their assets in communication, product development and launching into new markets, and when repositioning. Strong brand assets used in communication can significantly increase ROI, while getting it wrong – like the well-publicised change to Tropicana orange juice – can lead to major sales loss, with consumers no longer able to find your brand.
Defining Your Brand Assets
Excluding the brand name, brand assets are the design elements that a consumer uses to identify a brand. When we look at a some brands we can quickly identify their key brand assets: McDonald’s golden arches and the colours red and yellow, Coke-a-Cola’s their distinctive type face in white on a red background, and their iconic bottle shape, and Toyota’s ‘Oh What a Felling!’ tag line and music. Because they are used to find a brand, brand assets are generally visual or auditory design elements.
- Visual Devices. Such as colours and colour combinations, logo, typeface, product shape, and personalities such as fictional characters (M&M characters, Meerkats for Compare the Market) and celebrities.
- Auditory Devices. Jingles, songs, music, or any sonic device.
Having brand assets that cover both visual and auditory senses increases communication effectiveness across different media channels. A brand with a jingle or other auditory device can take better advantage or radio.
Knowing and Measuring Your Brand Assets
To be more than a design element a brand asset needs to be something consumers use to identify your brand. Strong brand elements can create brand recognition even when the brand name is absent. Weak brand assets can easily be removed or changed without affecting brand identification. To understand the strength of a brand asset we need to know its brand linkage and ownership.
- Brand Link. Brand link is the proportion of the market that links your brand asset to your brand. This tells us if consumers think of your brand when they see the brand asset.
- Brand Ownership. Ownership is the proportion of the market that associates your brand asset with your brand and no other brand. This tells us if consumers only think of your brand or something that also has them think of other brands.
Using these two measures we can understand which are your most important brand assets and how we can manage different assets for improved effectiveness, during the design and evaluation stages of brand management. For increased insight, you can map both your and your competitors brand assets to understand your strengths and weaknesses.
The ideal position is to have all your brand assets in the top right, with high brand linkage and brand ownership. In this position the majority of consumers unambiguously recall your brand with your brand assets. These brand assets allow you to cue your brand without mentioning your brand name. Your logo, tag lines and jingles should all be in this position.
Brand assets that have high brand linkage but low ownership are assets that can lead to misattributing your communication to a competitor. Use these assets in combination with other brand assets. Brand colours may fall into this category unless they are unique or use a unique combination. For example, the combination of yellow and black for Commonwealth Bank in the Australian banking sector. For logos, you may require a redesign.
Low brand linkage and high ownership should only occur when an asset is first used. If a brand asset has this profile, consider increasing its use in communication so that a greater proportion of the market can learn to use it for identifying your brand.
When a brand asset has low linkage and ownership it is not an asset. Unless the lack of linkage and ownership is due to lack of use or inconsistent use, consider dropping the asset to ensure focus on the stronger brand assets or replace it. New taglines or ones with limited relevance, and single brand colours can fall into this category.
For new logo launches, measuring recognition, independent of branding should also be included in any tracking research.
What Makes a Great Brand Asset?
What makes a great brand asset? In a word, ‘distinctiveness’. Brand assets that are distinctive are more likely to get attention and because of their distinctiveness consumers are more likely to associate them with one brand. Giving you Brand Link and Brand Ownership. What makes a brand asset distinctive is a combination of how different it is from competitors, ease to which it can be perceived and held in the mind.
How many of these international bank brands can you identify?
What about Meaning?
The primary role of branding assets is to help gain attention and recognition, while meaning can play an important part in positioning the primary role of brand assets are to get is attention and brand identification. For example, the Lion in the ING DIRECT logo is first used by consumers to identify the bank then it provides a differentiating brand story. Similarly, the Butterfly used for many years by Tony Ferguson on their weight loss products was used by consumers to identify products on shelf, followed by a brand story of personal transformation, lightness and beauty.
Leveraging Your Brand Assets
Brand assets deliver value and become stronger through consistent use. To get the most from your assets you just need to follow the 3Cs: Consistent, Creative and Continuous.
- Be Consistent! Consistent use of assets teaches and reinforces their link to your brand.
- Be Creative! Use your brand assets as part of your creative rather than static devices linked only to your brand name. For example, the St George bank dragon design is consistently used across all creative, however, the dragon also has multiple forms when used as a character in their advertising.
- Continuous Use! Every time you use your brand assets in a consistent yet creative way your increase the value they deliver. You lose what you don’t use.
From the first pottery scratching, brand assets and their management have greatly evolved. Brand assets should play a central role in all your communication. Understanding them and building them and protect them through consistent and creative use. Businesses that understand their importance can go to extraordinary lengths to protect these assets, including copywriting colours and devices. These business understand that it is their brand assets that consumers use to find them and to link their positive experiences.
For those who would like to know a bit more
- For a similar model see: Romaniuk, B. Sharp (2016). How Brands Grow: Part 2 – Emerging Markets, Services, Durables, New and Luxury Brands, Melbourne, Vic: Oxford University Press
- Information on how the Tropicana branding and packaging change reduced sales. Young Scott Ciummo Vicenzo. “Managing risk in a package redesign: what can we learn from Tropicana? “. Brand Packaging (August 2009). and http://www.thebrandingjournal.com/2015/05/what-to-learn-from-tropicanas-packaging-redesign-failure/