WRITERS: Dan Lander
ILLUSTRATOR: Andrea Innocent/The Jacky Winter Group
Distinctive assets are those key elements of your brand that make it stand out. If you nurture and protect well-developed distinctive assets, you’ll stand out, no matter how crowded your market is. But, if you misuse or neglect those same assets, then you can very quickly undo all your careful identity building.
We all know the modern market is cluttered and competitive, and there’s always someone who wants the same corner as you do. In this kind of environment, very few businesses have a product that is genuinely unique, but that doesn’t mean you can’t build a brand that is unique.
With more brands going global, competition is increasingly intense. But whatever you’re selling, and wherever your market, building brand identity is all about recognition.
For every brand, the elements that make you stand out are known as distinctive assets. These are not the product; rather, think of Nike’s swoosh, Cadbury’s royal purple, the curlicue of Coca-Cola’s calligraphy or those Golden Arches, whatever splash of colour, image or association that sets a brand apart and brings it instantly to mind.
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 new 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...
DON'T STEAL BRAND ASSETS(OR LET OTHERS STEAL YOURS!).
Thou shalt not covet thy competitor’s assets (or turn to them to create your own brand’s distinctive identity). Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but knowing how to zag when your competition zigs is instrumental for building a strong distinctive asset. Equally important is that the same holds in reverse: learn how to manage the envy of others, such as when a competitor tries to imitate your brand. Your unique identity is precious, and another company stealing your style can compromise that identity as much as playing copycat yourself.
TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING AND YOUR BRAND WILL BREAK.
Gluttony is overindulgence, to the point of waste. Contradictory to the saying, you can have too much of a good thing, and gorging yourself on the thrill of playing around with your brand’s distinctive assets is just that. Constantly tweaking, testing and tinkering with these assets can be more harmful than ignoring them completely. A thousand cuts to your brand identity will lead to a slow death. And while a strong, stable asset may need careful tending from time to time, constantly changing it makes it harder for people to identify and connect with the brand.
HOME IN ON ONE ASSET AND YOU CAN DAMAGE YOUR BRAND.
A little pride is a good thing, especially if your brand is doing all it should do. But don’t let pride lead you to hang everything on a single distinctive asset – there is more to success than a celebrity endorsement or fancy tagline, and more to failure than an old-fashioned identity. Distinctive assets can help set you apart, but attributing growth or decline to them alone creates two problems. Firstly, it can blind you to the real cause, which means you aren’t solving the right problem or learning from a particular success in order to be able to replicate it. Secondly, attributing everything to the distinctive assets means you may be tempted into unnecessary change, which is likely to damage the brand’s long-term identity.
NEGLECT YOUR BRAND AND IT'LL WASTE AWAY.
In branding, sloth manifests as the neglect of distinctive assets. Assets need to be put to work to remain fresh in people’s memories. So, get them out there, doing what they do best: reminding people about your brand. Neglecting an asset not only reduces its effectiveness as a marketing device in the present and future, it also undermines all the investment that has gone into it in the past. Don’t let a good thing go to waste.
ALL CONSUMING EMOTION COMES AT YOUR BRAND'S EXPENSE.
Wrath manifests when you get caught up in the emotion and forget the major purpose of your asset. The goal of an asset is to trigger recognition of the brand in people’s minds. While generating emotion or having an additional rich meaning might seem appealing, it can be more of distraction than a benefit. Obsessing with deep meanings and emotions can cause you to neglect other meaning-neutral assets that offer more promise as branding devices.
CONSTANTLY CRAVING THE NEXT BIG THING CAN COST YOUR BRAND.
Lust is a constant craving for the next big thing – whether that be the latest celebrity, technology or even this season’s hot new colour. Chasing the latest and greatest, however, becomes a sin when it leads you to neglect what you already have by ignoring well-established assets. Siphoning off resources to new assets starves existing assets, leaving them vulnerable to decay and competitor attack. Don’t lust after something just because it is new – value all your assets according to their ability to add something meaningful to your brand’s asset portfolio.
WANTING IT ALL CAN LEAD TO CONFUSION.
Greed manifests when you want too many distinctive assets. Developing a truly distinctive asset is a long-term project and trying to focus on too many at once means they will never become distinctive. Narrowing the possible assets to a few priorities is one of the most important strategic decisions you will make. The ideal number depends on the diversity of your media and use of distribution channels, as well as your above-the-line marketing expenditure. But, as with so many areas of business, less can really be more.
Professor Jenni Romaniuk is a Research Professor and Associate Director at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science. An international expert in branding, she has been named in the top one per cent of influential advertising academics in the world.