Distinctive assets, orange juice, and chewing gum

by Guest Contributor Scott Megginson | October 03, 2018

Author: Scott Megginson

Scott Megginson
President, Insights Division
Kantar Canada

A recent article in Adweek told stories of brand logo redesigns that had negative consumer repercussions, and asked the rarely-answered question, "What were they thinking?". This reminded me of some of the experiences I had in my years at CPG companies.


A beverage brand on which I worked dodged a bullet when we decided not to immediately follow a U.S. packaging change that moved from an iconic and colourful package design to a different ‘modern’ design. Luckily, that design was thrown out in short order, due to poor in-market results, and we continued with the brand icons that we knew were important to our valued consumers.

Much has been written about the importance of distinctive brand assets, but marketers keep defaulting to package graphic changes as a misguided short-cut to make their brand more relevant, or attempt to gain new users. Unfortunately, the opposite is often true; you run the risk of alienating consumers like Adweek said, or more often it can just confuse the consumer at shelf. When I worked in confectionery, we measured the amount of time that shoppers scanned each gum package on shelf at approximately 1/200th of a second. Let’s face it, brand recognition is extremely important when there are many interchangeable brands from which to choose. Changing elements of branding (like logos and colours) is welcoming a consumer to reconsider their choices by disrupting unconscious purchase routines.

Further validation of the importance of distinctive brand assets comes from Kantar Millward Brown’s recent BrandZ analysis of over 10,000 interviews, in eight countries, looking at hundreds of brands in 28 categories. It found that brands with a recognized suite of assets — mental shortcuts to cue a brand and activate existing memories related to communications or previous brand experience — were more likely to have stronger perceptions of advertising quality, value perceptions, and growth prospects. The three key principles of strong brand assets by delivering Clarity, Consistency and Communication to consumers within their full brand Imprint:

  • Assets with Clarity are the most effective – connecting simple colours, design, and phrasing,
  • Consistency of deployment over time, across media channels and products is another critical pillar and brands with a clear asset heritage should also draw on it freely,
  • And finally, brands able to reinforce relevant Communication with their assets gain another advantage in influencing consumers at key decision windows.

To evaluate how well a brand has defined and projected its brand imprint, we focus on three dimensions:

  • Fame – how many people actually associate the asset with your brand,
  • Distinctiveness/uniqueness – how uniquely the asset is associated with your brand (important because some cues are simply triggering category rather than brand),
  • Intuitiveness – how quickly and easily the cue triggers branded memory structures (important because the opportunity for the cue to work is pretty fleeting –whether in an ad or at the shelf).

The learning in all of this is that from chewing gum to OJ and everything in-between, brand assets are a powerful communication tool to consumers, and changes to these assets should not be made lightly without a full evaluation of the inherent downside risks. Do you agree? Please share your thoughts.


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  1. Scott, October 15, 2018

    Hi Stephen. Thanks, and you raise a couple of other issues.

    In terms of clutter, Category Management practices in retail can certainly make the situation worse by blocking products differently in different banners (i.e. by brand, by size, by consumer 'need'). Shoppers will often need to start their search fresh at any given store, which is what makes brand recognition even more important.

    You are also right to call out the importance of recognition vs. stated (TOM) awareness. Distinctive assets, like discussed above, are often measured best through system one exercises as they determine the speed of association.

    The key is to have packaging that is quickly and easily recognized in a shopping environment, and not to change it without understanding the potential consequences.

  2. stephen, October 04, 2018
    Scott - Interesting.  Sounds to me like "clutter" at the shelf has made recognition memory more important than recall, which begs the question is TOM awareness still the most important kind of awareness?  

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