Building Distinctive Brand Assets: The Key to a Strong Brand Identity

An image of several Apple product boxes featuring the iconic Apple logo prominently displayed on a plain background. The ample white space surrounding the logo is a distinctive brand asset, creating a clean and recognisable visual identity for Apple products.

By Nine Blaess | 4:51 min

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    Have you ever wondered why certain brands get imprinted into your memory while others don’t? Some brands have logos, taglines, or packaging features that instantly come to mind. Other brands don’t quite make the same impact. But why?

    The difference lies in strong and distinctive brand assets. Researchers found strong brand assets are about 52% more prominent than those of their competitors. In other words, strong brand assets are more noticeable.

    But what exactly are brand assets, and how can your brand develop and leverage distinctive brand assets?

    Let’s find out.

    What Are Brand Assets?

    Before we get into distinctive brand assets, let’s briefly discuss brand assets in general.

    Brand assets are all those elements created to represent and distinguish your brand.

    They can be tangible, like your logo, or intangible, like your brand values. Collectively, these assets shape your brand’s unique identity across various brand touchpoints.

    Your brand assets can take different forms, for example:

    • Visual brand assets like your logo, colour palette, brand fonts, or mascot.
    • Verbal brand assets, such as your tagline, slogans, or your brand’s tone of voice.
    • Auditory brand assets, including jingles, voiceovers, or sound effects.
    • Scent brand assets, like signature-scented environments, products, or marketing materials.
    • Tactile brand assets are found in the materials used in your product, packaging, or retail environment.
    • Symbolic brand assets, such as your brand values, brand personality, and brand storytelling.

    What Makes a Brand Asset Distinctive?

    Not every brand asset is automatically distinctive.

    Distinctive brand assets are recognisable and memorable features that instantly bring a particular brand to mind when shopping in a category.

    You might have heard people use terms like ‘strong brand assets’ or ‘iconic brands’—they usually mean the same thing.

    ‘Distinctive Brand Assets’ by Jenni Romaniuk

    The term ‘distinctive brand assets’ was coined by Jenni Romaniuk, an author and researcher at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute.

    According to her, distinctive brand assets act as triggers that prompt consumers to think of a particular brand name without mentioning it.

    Romaniuk emphasises that for your brand assets to be effective, they should have fame and uniqueness.

    They should be well-known enough for consumers to easily associate them with your brand (fame) and distinct enough to avoid any confusion with other brands (uniqueness).

    The simpler an asset, the better. According to research by Siegel+Gale, companies with simpler brand assets outperform those with more complex ones by 200%. So, you want your brand assets to be simple but not generic.

    In the graphic below, your brand assets should ideally sit in the top right quadrant.

    Ehrenberg-Bass Distinctive Assets Grid showing that distinctive brand assets are unique and famous
    Source: Ehrenberg-Bass Institute [1]

    How to Build Distinctive Brand Assets?

    Here are some steps you can take to make your brand assets more distinctive:

    1. Identify Your Brand’s Most Relevant Brand Assets

    Decide which brand assets best represent your brand’s unique personality and identity.

    These could be tangible brand assets, such as your logo or typography, or intangible ones, such as your brand story.

    2. Define the Most Effective Brand Assets

    Based on research, testing and observation, decide which assets are most recognisable and memorable to your audience.

    3. Ensure Consistency Across All Brand Touchpoints

    Apply your brand assets consistently across all brand touchpoints, including packaging, advertising, website, and social media.

    This consistency helps people build strong memory structures associated with them.

    4. Focus On Developing a Few Key Assets

    Concentrate on strengthening a select few brand assets—those you’ve identified as relevant and effective.

    Building distinctive brand assets takes time and dedication, and juggling too many elements at once will likely only dilute them.

    Remember that sometimes, it’s the combination of two or more brand assets that makes them particularly distinctive—especially when it comes to brand colours. A clever combination can contribute to a unique and memorable brand presence.

    5. Invest in Ongoing Monitoring and Evaluation

    Regular evaluation can ensure that the brand assets remain successful over time.

    Make adjustments if necessary. Eliminate brand assets that don’t work and concentrate on those that do. This goes beyond your personal taste!

    When you follow these steps, you can build distinctive brand assets that come to peoples’ minds at the right moment in the customer journey.

    Of course, your small business may not have the scale of a multinational corporation. However, the strategic development of recognisable brand elements can still help you build recognition and, ultimately, trust with your audience.

    After all, when people see something repeatedly, they develop a sense of familiarity and comfort with it.

    This principle, known as the mere exposure effect, is a cognitive bias that holds true in branding.

    Real-World Examples of Distinctive Brand Assets

    Numerous examples of distinctive brand assets exist, such as McDonald’s golden arches, the typical sound of starting a Mac computer, or Heinz Ketchup’s iconic glass bottle shape.

    Here are a couple more examples:

    The Coca-Cola and Snickers logos use iconic fonts that are so recognisable that the companies can use them without even featuring the company name. Yet, people can still readily identify the brand.

    Coca-Cola

    In the case of Coca-Cola, the logo font has been used since the late 19th century.

    In 2011, Coca-Cola launched a marketing campaign in Australia called “Share a Coke,” replacing the logo on the bottles and cans with popular first names.

    Snickers

    Similarly, Snickers ran a campaign called “Hunger Bars,” using words associated with the word ‘hunger’ to replace its logo.

    Image shows Snickers replacing their logo font with words associated with hunger
    Image source: Ad Week [2]

    Tiffany & Co.

    Tiffany blue® is an example of a distinctive brand colour. The trademarked colour has become Tiffany & Co.’s signature feature, appearing on its packaging, website, and retail shops.

    But as I mentioned before, colours are pretty generic. Tiffany probably needs to show other brand elements alongside its colour to become truly recognisable.

    Tiffany Blue as an example for a distinctive brand asset
    Image source: Tiffany & Co. Website [3]

    Air New Zealand

    A prime example of distinctive brand typography is Air New Zealand’s custom typeface, designed by Designworks.

    Living in New Zealand, whenever I see that font, I know it’s an Air New Zealand ad right away.

    Air New Zealand font as an example for a distinctive brand asset
    Image source: Fonts in use[4]

    Nike

    Nike’s “Just Do It” is a famous example of a distinctive tagline.

    The tagline was created back in 1988 by the advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy and has since become one of the most recognisable taglines in the world.

    Die Nike Tagline 'Just do it' as example for a distinctive brand asset
    Image source: Sydney Morning Herald[5]

    Toblerone

    Toblerone is an excellent example of a distinct packaging shape.

    The iconic triangular shape packaging was introduced in 1908. The Matterhorn inspired the unique design of the chocolate bar. It has since become one of the brand’s most recognisable features.

    Michelin

    The Michelin Man, named Bibendum, is a classic example of a distinctive brand mascot.

    Michelin created him in 1898, entirely made of white tyres. I can still vividly remember him being painted across the wall of the tyre shop my uncle worked at when I was a child.

    Michelin Man "Bibendum" as an example of a distinctive brand mascot
    Image source: Unsplash

    Conclusion

    In summary, distinctive brand assets are essential to building a memorable, strong brand.

    Focusing on a few key brand assets and showcasing them repeatedly and consistently across all your brand touchpoints can ensure your brand is instantly recognised.

    If you enjoyed this article, you will also enjoy Jenni Romanuik’s book “Building Distinctive Brand Assets.

    If you buy the book through my link, you can support independent bookshops as well as my work here.

    Feel free to reach out if you need help designing distinctive brand assets for your brand.

    References

    Nine Blaess

    Nine Blaess

    Hello, I’m Nine. I blend strategy and design to craft engaging brand identities and websites that celebrate the uniqueness of each business.

    Sign up for my newsletter and get my hands-on Brand Storytelling Workbook in return.

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