Author: Jonathan La Greca
VP Strategic Growth, Hotspex


Over the last 6 months, we have interviewed over 20 CMOs from different global organizations to better understand what is keeping them up at night.

One of the most salient insights from these interviews has been that there is a significant amount of pressure to demonstrate impact and return on marketing investment. A myopic lens has been created because of cost cutting measures or because organizations have introduced proactive and preventative measures to avoid interest from activist investors.

The structure of many companies exacerbates this issue as marketers tend to rotate from categories every 18-24 months in search of new experiences and brand challenges. While this may provide them with a breadth of experiences, it affects the depth of their understanding and, more importantly, has significant impact on the brand.

A new marketer joining a new cross-functional team should be focused on growing share of its brand through innovation and expanding penetration of its base business. That said, sometimes the easiest way to get attention and recognition is to create change.

Change often means creating a new line extension, launching a new advertising campaign, or renovating packaging. Often overlooked ways of having impact are the less glamorous ways of growing the base business, which might include winning at shelf through better shopper-based design and in-store activation.

The bottom line is that marketers joining a new cross-functional team come in and change that brand. This can lead to confusion for consumers and can have deleterious effects for the long-term health of your brand.

So the question is, who is acting as the guardian of your brand’s equities to ensure that you continuously build and reinforce your brand’s distinctive memory structures and assets?

Do you really understand your brand identity and how to leverage it to create impact and ROI?

As awareness of the latest marketing sciences continues to expand many more marketers are using the words “laws of growth”, “distinctive memory structures”, and distinctive brand assets” more frequently. The question is, how are they using some of this newly accrued knowledge to build better brands?

Our journey into the marketing sciences has led to the creation of a few new innovative methodologies that can be used to evaluate and identify distinctive associations and brand assets. There are 3 specific insights that we believe are relevant to how you might leverage a better understanding of your brand identity to grow your brand.

1) There is more to a brand asset than just recognition. High recognition is important for a brand element to be considered an asset, but you must also consider the associations it creates within the minds of your consumers. Implicit measurement of the associations from a brand element will indicate whether it is truly an asset for your brand. Ultimately a brand element should build and reinforce your brand’s distinctive memory structures and align to its brand promise. To get at this, psychometric measures can really get at whether or not your asset is reinforcing your brand’s promise.

2) There is more to a brand identity than just Distinctive Brand Assets. Building on the first learning, when you evaluate a brand element against recognition and the associations that come with it, you may discover that there are certain associations which may have a neutral or negative impact on your brand and act as an obstacle to consumers choosing your brand at the first moment of truth. In most cases, brands have at least some elements within their identity that should be removed, either because they create negative associations or cognitive dissonance or because they are not adding value to the brand and are taking up valuable and limited real estate on packaging or in advertising, which is becoming shorter in duration. Maybe it is time for marketers to start identifying their “Distinct Brand Liabilities”?

3) Your brand identity should drive coherency across omni-channel touch points. Once you have completed an audit of your brand identity, you can start to understand which of your brand elements are easily recognized and attributed to your brand and what associations they are reinforcing within the minds of consumers. Collectively these assets should build and reinforce distinct associations that make it easy for your consumers to recognize and behave in a way that makes them consider and ultimately choose your brand. One of the most important lessons from behavioral science is the power of context and this is critical to building a winning brand identity. Marketers need to understand that their brand identity can be used very differently across different omni-channel touch points. The very brief interaction with a brand will be vastly different in a shopping environment in the store, versus online, versus the first few milliseconds of a digital ad. This is where some of the most valuable creative and design agency partners we have worked with truly shine and provide expertise to build brands that have long-term success.

How well do you understand your brand identity and how it should be leveraged to drive ROI?

There are several use cases for you to develop a better understanding of your brand’s identity.

In one case, it could be that you are launching a new line extension and trying to determine which of the equities from your master brand should be used versus the new assets you may need to create.

In another case, you may be in the process of trying to renovate a brand to re-establish its relevance among consumers and need to understand which of your assets you should not tamper with, which ones need to be evolved, and which ones need to be removed entirely.

Either way, front loading the learning can have a valuable impact on your brand building journey. If you are curious about what you might learn from what other marketers have done, we conducted a substantial internal study across 30 different brands and several different asset types to test a variety of hypotheses related to brand identity. Just send me a note.

Also, if you interested in learning more about how we develop insight from brand identity learning, here is a quick video overview.

The question is no longer, do you know what your brand’s assets are, but instead is do you know the strengths and weaknesses of your brand identity and are you leveraging that identity to build a distinctive and coherent brand across your omni-channel touch points to drive long-term growth?