Creating valuable brand assets is just the first step in arming your marketing and sales teams with the resources and collateral they need to engage and inform prospects and close deals. If you’re not able to easily identify brand assets, and your team members can’t easily locate them, all the effort you put into developing those high-quality assets is for naught. Here’s what you need to know to identify and effectively leverage your most valuable brand assets.
What are Brand Assets?
Your brand includes the distinguishing characteristics of your company, the things that make your business stand out from the pack, both tangible and intangible. There are many elements that make up a brand, from your company name, slogan or tagline, and unique value proposition to visual characteristics such as your company logo, font, color palette, and product packaging – even a mascot. Advertising themes or scripts and distinct smells, music, or sounds are also brand elements.
While these elements all play a role in your brand identity, only some qualify as true brand assets.
According to the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute of Marketing Science, brand elements like those described above should be considered assets if they meet two important criteria:
- The element is unique. It should automatically be associated with your brand in the minds of consumers, never a competitor’s brand.
- The element is well-known. Most or all consumers should recognize the element as representing your brand.
Brand Strategy Insider says that brand assets should also be relevant or on-brand, serving to reinforce your brand’s core values and convey the benefits that your brand promises to deliver.
Examples of brand assets include:
- Nike “swoosh” symbol
- Aflac duck
- Coca-Cola bottle shape
- McDonald’s golden arches
- M&M’s characters
Any brand can develop a distinctive asset over time by consistently presenting the element with other brand assets over time. However, many companies already have valuable brand assets, but they haven’t recognized them as such.
How to Identify
The Ehrenberg-Bass Institute of Marketing Science outlines a clear process for identifying your distinctive brand assets:
- Audit your existing brand elements. Compile a list of brand elements that you believe may be distinctive brand assets for further evaluation. Include historical elements that have been associated with your brand in the past for a long time but are no longer utilized, as well as ideas that you have for the future – these not-yet-executed elements can be evaluated for their viability as a distinctive brand asset.
- Get feedback and collect data. For this step, you’ll need to ask your target audience which brands from a category they associate with particular elements. You should also collect contextual data on those consumers, such as how familiar they are with your brand and the category, as well as other demographic data.
- Interpret findings. What percentage of consumers associate a particular element with your brand, and how quickly do they make the association? The answers to these questions indicate how prominent, or well-known, the element is. What share of the association with your brand does the element have compared to association with competitors? This answer indicates uniqueness, or whether the element is exclusively associated with your brand or whether the element is associated more broadly with the category as a whole.
By assigning scores for prominence and uniqueness based on consumers’ responses, you can plot your findings on the Distinctive Asset Grid, developed by Research Professor Jenni Romaniuk, for a visual interpretation of the results.
Using this grid, your elements will fall into one of four categories:
- Avoid: Elements that are likely to be associated with competitors’ brands.
- Use or Lose: Elements that can be used to supplement (or replace) your brand name in advertising or other brand materials.
- Ignore or Test: Elements that are not recognized by the market. These elements will require a lot of work to develop value as a potential brand asset.
- Invest Potential: Elements that have potential as brand assets but require further development through consistent use alongside your brand name and other distinguishing elements to strengthen association with your brand.
How to Leverage
Now that you’ve identified your distinctive brand assets, how can you best leverage these elements? Rely on these best practices to continue developing your brand assets and reap the benefits.
- Use them consistently. To maintain that brand association in the minds of consumers, use your brand assets consistently across marketing campaigns, channels, and touchpoints.
- Leverage a digital asset management solution to keep brand assets organized and readily accessible. To ensure that brand assets are used consistently, make it easy for your marketing, sales, and content creation teams to locate them with a DAM system.
- Trust consumers. Even if your marketing team says they have a winning brand asset, you should always rely first and foremost on real feedback from your target audience. Consumer feedback is the only way to gauge the true strength of a brand asset.
- Use the same brand elements across the digital and physical worlds. If you use certain brand assets in your product packaging, those same assets should appear consistently in digital marketing campaigns, as well.
- Keep an eye on your competition. It’s not uncommon for competitors to hijack brand elements, particularly those that aren’t protected by copyright or trademark.
- Be smart about introducing new brand assets. If you’re developing a new brand asset, always use it in conjunction with your brand name until you’ve evaluated its brand association among consumers. Only when an element scores high for both prominence and uniqueness should it be used as a stand-alone brand asset in place of your brand name. Before you even introduce a new brand asset, though, you should evaluate it to ensure that there’s no existing association with competitors. (You don’t want to be a brand asset hijacker, do you?)
How do brand assets benefit your company? First, they can help to bolster advertising effectiveness. Many consumers attribute ads they recognize to the wrong brand, and that’s a missed opportunity – you might even be giving your competitors an advantage.
You can also leverage brand assets to increase sales conversions. The buyer’s journey is increasingly complex, and that means that advertising and other lead-nurturing messaging may be mostly forgotten by the time a buyer reaches the decision-making juncture. By leveraging brand assets throughout the buyer’s journey, you’ll create a consistent link across those important messages and help consumers more easily link benefits and value propositions to your company.
Distinctive brand assets, when utilized effectively, can help to catapult a brand to the ranks of Nike and Apple. By relying on consumer insights to identify your most valuable brand assets and consistently developing and reinforcing them, you can boost your ROI by maximizing the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns throughout the entire buyer’s journey.