The Four Commandments: future proofing a brand’s identity

A supermarket aisle BUSINESS AND LAW
A brand’s distinctive assets that form its identity help trigger the brand in the minds of buyers and help them identify it with ease in-store and elsewhere.

xxxThink of M&M’s and you get an instant visual image of the characters Red and Yellow; a flash of bright green in the haircare aisle can draw you to Fructis; and when I write the words ‘Aussie kids are….’ a good number of you would have finished that sentence in your mind without prompting (probably also with the music to accompany it!).

Each of these factors are Distinctive Brand Assets. They’re the non-brand-name aspects of a brand that form its identity. Built up over time and embedded in your memory, Distinctive Assets trigger the brand in the minds of buyers and help them identify the brand with ease – online, in-store, in the street or on your phone.

Distinctive Assets are created by the brand’s marketing activities, and when done well—like M&M’s, Fructis and Weet-Bix—they can activate a rich vein of thoughts. Yet there are also risks. The appeal of Distinctive Assets can lead marketers to make poor choices about assets for their brand, particularly when they’re considering (or have been told) it’s time for a change.

The following four commandments help you focus on the important, and avoid some common traps that damage the brand.

Commandment 1: Choose wisely

Cadbury logoCadbury fiercely protects its distinctive purple colour.

Building strong Distinctive Assets is a difficult task, and it’s important to identify which of your assets you should focus on. Avoid assets with pre-existing mental competition – such as those that link to competitors or already have a strong meaning that is not the brand name – these will compete for retrieval and will make it very difficult for a brand to own the asset. Don’t abandon usable assets without a strong, evidence-based, reason. Remember, if you (or buyers) are bored with an asset, this just means you need better creative talent.

Commandment 2: Prioritise smartly

Nike logoThe Nike ‘swoosh’ is the epitome of a symbolic shape Distinctive Asset

Focus on one Distinctive Asset at a time. This means setting realistic goals about the number of assets to build. By tackling Distinctive Asset building in waves, you make your job easier over time, as building one strong Distinctive Asset gives you an anchor on which to base the next. Remember one strong asset is worth ten average ones.

Commandment 3: Execute well

Distinctive Assets become strong when they’re known by all category buyers. This happens faster if your asset-building activities are prominent and widespread. Unfortunately, many brand assets languish in the background if they’re not well-developed or promoted. Having a brand presence is not enough – you also need good quality execution for the asset to work its magic.

Commandment 4: Resist change

Coca-Cola logoCoca-Cola is synonymous with the colour red and its trademarked font.

Consistency is crucial. When a brand’s assets have been embedded for a while, it can be tempting to tinker with them. Don’t. Changing your brand’s identity is like inviting someone around for dinner, and then moving house without telling them. This doesn’t mean you should never change an asset, it simply means switch your default answer to ‘no’ and demand a high bar of evidence when you switch to ‘yes’. Treat every moment where the asset is present as a ‘do or damage’ moment as this will reduce the number of unnecessary, costly (and damaging) changes that you could do to your brand’s Distinctive Assets.

Following these four commandments will help you make smart decisions when building your brand’s Distinctive Assets, and importantly, protect those that the brand already has, so they will be around for the long term.

Prof Romaniuk’s new book Building Distinctive Brand Assets. New book

For more information on brand management and distinctive assets you can read Prof Romaniuk’s new book Building Distinctive Brand Assets.

Readers of UniSA News can receive a 20 per cent discount when they purchase Prof Romaniuk’s new book Building Distinctive Brand Assets from the Oxford University Press Australia website using the discount code “ROM20”*.

*Offer ends 13 June 2018.