If you work in, around or near anything to do with brands and marketing, you may be familiar with the term ‘distinctive assets’. If these words have only ever brushed past your eardrums briefly, and you want to know more about what they are, then this is the blog for you.
WHAT ARE ‘DISTINCTIVE ASSETS’?
In a nutshell, distinctive assets are a set of sensory identifiers for a brand. They are the unique factors that help you navigate your way through the toilet paper aisle until you find your preferred brand of softness. We’ll forgive you if you thought that distinctive assets are what makes your brand unique. They’re not. They are, however, a unique way for a consumer to pull you out of a line-up of triple-ply options.
WHAT IS AN EXAMPLE OF A DISTINCTIVE ASSET?
A distinctive asset could be any of the following examples; typography, colour, sound, tone of voice, shape, logo, image, tagline. Simple? Let’s try a little exercise and see how well you know your brands.
What do you envision when you hear the word, Toblerone?
Here’s what I see. Triangles; yellow; red; gold; serif font; all caps.
Do you know which company makes Toblerone? I didn’t until I Googled it. I could picture the packaging in my mind, yet I couldn’t tell you where those clever little pyramids come from. My Google image search suggested that I got it pretty spot on. However, my now Toblerone-craving brain hadn’t recalled the illustration of the Swiss mountaintop that sits to the left of the logo. Even though I missed the one asset that gives rationale to the famous shape of the chocolate bar, to me, it wasn’t as ‘distinctive’ as the shape, colour and font of the product.
WHAT MAKES AN ASSET, DISTINCTIVE?
Many brands will undertake audits of their brand to identify and test their existing assets, to ascertain whether they should drop, use, or invest in them, in order to become a set of distinctive assets. Whether or not an asset is distinctive to the consumer comes down to two pretty crucial qualifiers. 1. Are they unique to your brand? Tick. 2. Are they famous? Tick.
The triangular shape of Toblerone is certainly unique (and if you’re unconvinced, check out the legal battle that ensued when a competitor attempted to use this asset as their own here). And I’d argue until I was Facebook Blue in the face that the Toblerone triangle is famous, worldwide.
WHAT MAKES A DISTINCTIVE ASSET VALUABLE?
Distinctive assets are simply about brand recognition. They are the flare you set alight and let off into the sky when you are standing shoulder to shoulder with your competition. Distinctive assets are like a set of sensory clues for your audience, so when standing in the cereal aisle, they reach for that iconic purple packaging as if on auto-pilot. And, as a brand, you know you’ve hit the big time when Aldi replicates your product. Mmmm…Bran with Sultanas, anyone?
‘The greatest success a brand can achieve is to be selected without conscious thought’.
Philip Graves, Consumer.ology.
What could be more valuable to a brand than that?
DO DISTINCTIVE ASSETS NEED TO MEAN SOMETHING?
In a word, no. But it’s nice when they do. As a designer, I’ll always try to put some deeper meaning into the simplest of creations. I suspect that I am not alone in this. Nike is a well-worn example of a brand with meaning. If you’ve read Shoe Dog by Phil Knight (or had a partner who loved the book so much you feel like you’ve read it…twice) you’d know that although the logo was created on the fly, it does represent speed and motion. All the things that a shiny, new pair of Nike runners will give you.
Some of the most recognisable brand assets are completely devoid of deeper meaning and it’s important not to confuse ‘creative meaning’ with ‘creative intent’. Designers might make creative choices to push consumers into feeling something (“Milo has green packaging, it’s going to give me natural energy, right?”) but there needn’t be a deeper meaning behind the decisions to make them distinctive to the audience.
DOES MY BRAND NEED TO HAVE DISTINCTIVE ASSETS?
It depends. Are you selling a product? A consumer service? A publicly-funded service? If yes, you’d be crazy not to try and get your assets in order. If you’re unsure if you need distinctive assets in your life, it couldn’t hurt to consult a professional, like us at BlueMelon.
Rach is a creative lead at BlueMelon, where we love all things branding. Get in touch to see how we can help elevate your brand.