Distinctiveness & Distinctive Assets


  • Distinctive Assets are non-brand name elements that uniquely signal the brand for the majority of consumers. They are the elements that make it easier for consumers to identify the brand.
  • Distinctive Assets are a large part of a brand’s identity, indirectly signalling the brand, i.e. without explicitly involving the brand name.
  • They typically feature on packaging and in communications.

Key Findings

  • Key purpose: Enable consumers to identify or recognise brands on shelf / in advertising. To distinguish between competing offerings.
  • Distinctive Assets are Heuristics; mental short cuts for identifying brands. Making it easier for customers to know who is advertising and what to look out for on shelf…so they don’t have to think too much (always a bonus).
  • Distinctive Assets can be:
    • shapes – Coke bottle, Toblerone, Mini
    • colours – Cadbury purple, McDonald’s Golden arches, Coke red can
    • logos – BP, Apple
    • Slogans – Just Do It, zoom zoom zoom
    • Typefaces – IBM, Mars
    • Characters – Colonel Sanders, M&Ms, Michelin Man
    • Ad styles – Absolut Vodka, iPod dancers
    • Celebrities – Probably weakest of all, because they’re often temporary, not ‘owned’ and unique and therefore hard to build
  • Distinctive Assets characteristics:
    • Unique: You are the only brand linked to the cue
    • Famous: Everybody knows of it
    • Consumers evoke your brand to it without prompting with the brand
    • Judged by consumers, not marketers

Best Practice

  • Avoid making similar choices to competitors. Check if a potentially Distinctive Asset has any existing link to competitors. If YES then it is better to select something else.
  • Avoid things that are overly representative of the category as a whole. These will not be distinctive of you alone.
  • Choose assets that are flexible across media and over time.
  • Consider where you plan to use a Distinctive Asset. Different media, packaging, retail etc may affect the choice.
  • Retain and build upon elements that have been used in the past; leveraging past investments rather than discarding them.