5 things marketers still get wrong about brand assets

In light of Coca-Cola’s global branding design strategy announced last year, we thought we would offer our view, based on our work within academia and in the field, on the 5 things marketers still get wrong about brand assets (or, ‘Codes’ as Mark Ritson refers to them).

1. You shouldn’t ever change brand assets – ever stopped recognising a friend because they grew a beard, dyed their hair or bought new clothes? Thought not. The brain processes brand assets in the same way, so there is always scope for a bit of a freshen-up or a re-styling to fit in as the world around us changes (if needed). Think the new Google coloured ‘G’ – perfect for the small screen of a smartphone.


2. A brand assets’ only real role is to create distinctiveness and enable recognition – Distinctiveness is helpful, but conveying meaning is more important. Meaning determines relevance and relevance determines if the brain bothers to notice something - or not. Brand assets need to be implicitly loaded with relevant meaning or communications need to ensure that meaning is strongly connected to brand assets in the brain. ThinkInnocent or the Nationwide animations that tell short stories about events that happen around their home logo.


3. Showing the logo during an advert or at the end is enough – In today’s multiscreen world attention is at a premium. Make sure connections to the brand can be made through other cues like advertising style or, sonic signatures such as music, actor’s voices, phrases, key words and jingles. This way you do not fully rely on visual attention for the short moment the logo is displayed. Think Boots No.7, Carlsberg or Intel. You know it’s probably a good idea.


4. Having several good brand assets is all that is needed – It can be helpful to have some that can work in different types of media or, at different levels of attention. But it is better to have one brand asset that is superior to the competition’s and that can cut through-the-line at the moment when the shopper is faced with a choice at the shop shelf. Think Nurofen and the power of the target symbol to connect meaning from the advert to the point-of-purchase – you don’t need to (consciously) think about the one that targets pain fast, do you?


5. Subjective judgement is good enough to manage brand assets – Brand assets are locked away in the System1, subconscious memory of your consumers. You need different techniques to traditional research and a better understanding of how the brain works to identify the brand stimuli stored in that part of the brain. You also need to know what they do for the brand – recognition, relevance or authentication. Think British Airways in 1997, Tropicana in 2009 and GAP in 2010 – all changes that were thoroughly researched but failed horribly!

Mr Spock had the benefit of mixed-heritage DNA that allowed him to look dispassionately and rationally at circumstances he encountered, but we are not Vulcan. Human decision-making is guided more by implicit, rapid, System 1 reactions to brands and the marketing stimuli they create. Walton Barker offers research methodologies to help understand what elements of a brand’s stimuli drive this process and how they can be developed for strategic advantage. In essence, we help your brands to live long and prosper.

Fran Walton is a Founding Partner of Walton Barker Ltd – a brand insights agency that specialises in the optimisation of brand assets using the latest understanding of how the brain works. For more information mail fran.walton@waltonbarker.com or ring +44 (0) 3302 230 543.


Fran Walton has worked in brand insight and consultancy for over 25 years for both agencies and clients alike. Fran has always held a keen interest in the human decision-making sciences. He has applied this knowledge to help brands communicate more effectively in retail environments and across new media, and to drive diffusion of disruptive innovations.