How to Manage Distinct Brand Assets

October 14, 2020

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.

Read on for more on what distinctive brand assets are, how to evaluate and manage them, and findings from industry research into relationship between effectiveness and brand assets.

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

What Distinctive Brand Assets Are and How to Assess and Fully Leverage Them

  • 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.

  • 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.

Distinctive Brand Assets Industry 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.


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"How to Manage Distinct Brand Assets." ANA, October 2020.