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How to Manage Distinct Brand Assets



How do I manage my brand's distinctive assets, things like colors, fonts, and shapes?


"Distinctive brand assets" is a term for a brand's cues and signals that leverage nonverbal stimuli such as colors, logos, characters, celebrities, audio devices and music, or scents and tastes when interacting with a brand or product.

Examples include colors and logos like Mastercard's red and yellow overlapping circles, characters like KFC's Colonel, and Intel's sonic signature, explains Ipsos. Being distinctive is not about "bigger, better, tastier, faster..." and is unrelated to a brand's functional differences or unique selling proposition.

Brands should inventory their assets — colors, fonts, shapes, characters, sounds, etc. — and determine the level of uniqueness and renown for each asset. The higher the differentiation, the better. To successfully leverage assets like sounds, colors, and fonts, it's important to understand what distinctive brand assets are in the first place, how to evaluate and manage them, and findings from industry research into relationship between effectiveness and brand assets.

Joe Belliotti, CEO at MassiveMusic North America, discussed the effectiveness of brand jingles, explaining at an ANA event that jingles "are fun. They work and they're infectious and all those things. What I do see brands doing more of is creating their holistic Sonic identities, that more comprehensive Sonic identities, which could then influence the jingle. If you think about McDonald's, the "I'm loving it," which we didn't do, but I love. It's been around for 20 years. I'm loving it. It's a jingle in the sense that it sings the tagline, but it's also this great melody that they use to continue to reinforce brand identity. I would say, "yes," to Sonic identities. Jingles probably because they're infectious and they're cute and I'm guilty. I've created them before and I love them."

Below are case studies, brand examples, and best practices for brand assets. 


  • Distinctive Brand Assets Defined. Branding Strategy Insider, June 17, 2019.
    For a brand element to reach the status of a distinctive brand asset, it needs to:
    • Be unique and distinctive: The element must make your target audience think of your brand, and not your competitors' brand.
    • Stand out: Attract attention of your target audience and stand out from the crowd.
    • Be well-known: Enough of your target audience must associate the brand element with your business to make it a valuable asset.

This article also includes a discussion of valuing your distinctive brand assets, based on findings from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute. Jenni Romaniuk at Ehrenberg-Bass developed a Distinctiveness Grid (see also below) that measures brand elements on two key criteria: Prevalence and uniqueness. Prevalence is how many people know the link, and uniqueness is how many brands are linked to the element. Brands should calculate and place each of their core assets on the matrix, and, based on the results, prioritize assets that score highly on both axes. This approach makes sure that all marketing works to build strong brand recall for your brand — and only your brand. It also allows you to understand and categorize the weak assets from the strong ones.

  • Distinctive Brand Assets: Harnessing Their Full Potential for Growth. Brandgym, October 2023.
    Brandgym's 16th research project looks at how to fully harness the potential of distinctive brand assets to drive growth. It looks at the importance of brand assets and the barriers that lead to only a minority of these assets being truly distinctive. It also looks at a strategic approach for creating, measuring, and amplifying brand assets to drive distinctiveness.

  • Only 15 Percent of Brand Assets are 'Truly Distinctive', Study Finds. Marketing Week, June 2023.
    Distinctive brand assets are widely seen as crucial in creating mental availability for brands, yet a study classes only a small minority as truly distinct, suggesting brand codes are not being deployed to their full potential. Distinctive brand codes are seen by many as crucial to mental availability but according to a study less than one in five (15 percent) of brand assets are "truly distinctive" finds research from Ipsos and Jones Knowles Ritchie (JKR).

    Ipsos surveyed over 26,000 global consumers and tested their perceptions of a diverse mix of brands and their assets. It then graded the brand assets into three categories: bronze, silver, and gold, with gold being "truly distinctive" assets that immediately bring the brand to mind. On the other end of the spectrum, bronze assets are unlikely to signify the brand when used in isolation. Almost two-thirds (65 percent) of assets were found to fall into this category.

    While logos might seem like the most obvious of brand codes, with the best chance of being distinctive, the research finds that less than one in five (19 percent) of brand logos are in the gold category of distinctiveness. The findings from Ipsos and JKR state that it is not necessarily the design of the logo that is important, but rather the sustained use of it. This applies to any brand code, whether it is color palettes, typography, or logos.
  • Distinctive Assets: How To Include These Unique Elements in Your Content Strategy? Rock Content, March 2021.
    What comes to mind when you think of the image of a bitten apple? What about when you hear someone say, "Just do it?" What if you hear someone humming the tune to "Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame-seed bun?" Many of you will think of Apple, Nike, and McDonald's right away. And it is not a coincidence that these brands are so vivid in people's minds – branding strategies have defined distinctive assets that create a special place for them in our heads.

    Distinctive assets are elements that stand out in the public's memory and help brands consolidate themselves in the market. Now, thinking about content marketing strategies, do you think it's possible to develop distinctive assets for your brand? That's what this article is about: what distinctive assets are and how to develop them in content marketing. It covers:
    • What are distinctive assets?
    • Why define distinctive assets for your brand?
    • What are the benefits of using distinctive assets?
    • How to insert distinctive assets in your Content Marketing strategy?
    • Examples from successful brands
  • The Power of You: Why Distinctive Brand Assets Are a Driving Force of Creative Effectiveness. Ipsos, February 2020.
    To examine the relationship between effectiveness and brand assets, Ipsos conducted a meta-analysis of more than 2,000 pieces of video creative. Three recommendations emerged from their study:
    • The presence of brand assets is strongly linked to positive branded attention effects, more so than just directly showing, or talking about the brand.
    • Brand assets that leverage their power via such things as cues from brand characters or sonic "signatures" are more effective than assets that are leveraged from wider culture, such as celebrities and music.
    • While less frequently used, audio assets are on average more effective than some visual assets, which suggests brands can take the opportunity of audio to improve the branded attention of their video creative over time.
  • Seven Costly Sins: Brand Identity. Unisa Business, November 2018.
    If you nurture and protect well-developed distinctive assets, you'll stand out, no matter how crowded your market is. On the other hand, if you misuse or neglect those same assets, then you can very quickly undo all your careful identity building.

    Professor Jenni Romaniuk's book, Building Distinctive Brand Assets, helps brand managers navigate the strategy and tactics involved in building a strong brand identity. In her first chapter she outlines some unfortunate situations and scenarios to look out for, as they can derail managing your brand's distinctive assets – meet the seven costly sins of brand identity:
    • Envy: Don't steal brand assets (or let others steal yours).
    • Gluttony: Too much of a good thing and your brand will break.
    • Pride: Home in on one asset and you can damage your brand.
    • Sloth: Neglect your brand and it'll waste away.
    • Wrath: All-consuming emotion comes at your brand's expense.
    • Lust: Constantly craving the next big thing can cost your brand.
    • Greed: Wanting it all can lead to confusion.
  • Building Distinctive Brand Assets. Ipsos Webinar, April 2017.
    By deconstructing a brand's distinctiveness into four categories, Ipsos delves deeper into understanding what sets brands apart. These measures can determine how the brand's assets are linked with consumers' mental image of the brand. Presentation slides from this webinar (view recording here) outline how you can gain a deeper understanding of the level of distinctiveness of your brands and highlight strengths to leverage and opportunities to further drive distinctiveness.


  • Hershey's Updates Its Logo to Celebrate Women. ANA, May 2023.
    Hershey and Walmart wanted to create a movement celebrating women during Women's History Month — women who included shoppers, associates, executives. Hershey did so by capitalizing SHE in the center of its logo, encouraging women to celebrate one another through gifting of the products. Additionally, Walmart's exclusive HerSHEy's bars 12-pack urged stakeholders to "Share one. Inspire all" by posting inspiring women on social media.

  • Coldwell Banker Global Luxury's Transformation. ANA, August 2021.
    Coldwell Banker Global Luxury (CBGL) is an international marketing program that agents and brokerages use to distinguish themselves in the high-end real estate market. It rebranded in 2020 to enrich, invigorate, and polish its presence in the marketplace while aligning with the Coldwell Banker brand. Its identity standards guided the redesign and relaunch of a full range of marketing assets. While the CBGL name is well-recognized, the brand identity and design were dated. As a sub-brand of the Coldwell Banker brand, CBGL had to align with the parent brand, which had undergone a 2019 rebrand that hadn't been reflected in the CBGL program, while still maintaining a distinct design and voice that appealed to the wealthy. As the brand prepared to launch a new CBGL logo, the team was charged with creating an identity standards rulebook that would guide the look, feel, and voice of its marketing.

    The company needed to maintain the power and integrity of this successful brand while enhancing and updating its graphic appeal and ultra-luxury presence. Its target audience, therefore, was global luxury brokers and agents in 40 countries and territories, as well as those who serviced a high-net-worth clientele.

  • How Doritos Became Relevant Again. ANA, May 2020.
    Doritos capitalized on the recognizability of its product with a campaign that self-consciously jettisoned all mention of the brand name.

  • We Make Brand System. ANA, March 2020.
    Most companies and organizations do not accommodate the needs of people with autism. Atmosphere Proximity helped Tony Lesenkyi, a parent of a son with autism, create a brand design system for "we make — Autism at Work," a manufacturing business which catered to the needs and abilities of autistic employees. The system included a brand positioning strategy, naming, and graphic design of materials ranging from the logo to the workspace interiors.

  • Mastercard's Rebranding Effort: Crafting a New Visual Identity and Sonic Signature. ANA, April 2019.
    Mastercard knew that it wanted to maintain the most recognizable aspects of its iconic logo. However, it also wanted an image that was more "futuristic" and "aspirational," and that offered a more contemporary appeal. To achieve these effects, the company dropped its name from the logo, slightly tweaked the shades of its circles, and turned the circles' overlapping portion into a blended shade rather than rows of red and yellow bars. Here Mastercard explained how it developed a new logo along with a new brand melody and sonic signature.


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"How to Manage Distinct Brand Assets." ANA, 2024.