Don’t flip-flop on your brand assets

When consumers are overloaded with options, brands that aren’t aware of what makes them stand out will struggle to survive, failing to catch the eye across the customer journey and at the point of purchase.

So what do consumers instantly, instinctively recognise about a brand? What makes packaging, ads or an online presence distinctive and memorable?

One thing is for sure, it’s not the brand name alone: pictures are seen 200 thousand times quicker in pattern recognition than words. So is it the logo? The colour? The font? The photography?

Louise Southcott, Managing Director from research firm, Link Consumer, believes brand assets go well beyond visuals to smells, sounds, taste and touch.

It could be the sound of a meerkat or a bottle of tonic water opening. It could be the specific taste of a ketchup or soup. It could be the smell as you open a package or as you enter a shop. Louise revealed to the Mindlab Academy her three key steps to identifying and developing a really strong, multi-sensory set of brand assets.

Step 1. Know your assets

Go out to consumers and check what sets you apart from competitors because your assets might not be what you think they are, and you might find hidden assets – colours, shapes, packaging styles you didn’t realise consumers associated with you.

Don’t ask: “Do you like our brand? Would you notice it?”. What people say they remember and what they actually remember is not the same. It’s got to work at an instinctive level so implicit testing is much more important.

Step 2. Create a set

Brand assets rarely work alone. There are usually a combination of factors that all work together. Think of Tanqueray’s typeface and green fire hydrant bottle matched with a red dot.

Look at whether you can improve the supporting cast to your main assets. What are the items that currently feature in your brand that you could turn into assets and so create a set that is truly memorable?

Guinness started to make the harp more central to designs about 15 years ago. Coupled with the font, colours and taste, it’s now a strong asset set that helps the drink stand out at the bar, in the supermarket and online.

Step 3. Stick with it

Just because a brand asset doesn’t have a positive association, that doesn’t mean you should get rid of it. Think about how you can update it rather than flip-flopping on your assets because nobody will know who you are or what you stand for. You can change the ads, change the packaging but what needs to stay the same is the assets as the point of continuity.

Look at Shell: they’ve always used a scallop shape and red and yellow, but these have developed subtly over time to be more modern and vibrant.

Assets can even be pain points – a quirk in the design. As long as they’re distinctive and memorable, marketers can then make the association a positive one. What’s important is that they trigger something in consumers.

Louise Southcott has been working in consumer research for more than 30 years and set up Link Consumer two decades ago to work with companies from Diageo to Heinz.

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