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Marketers- be conservative!

Marketers: be conservative!

Erzsi Eleveld

Team & Client Lead Brand



I often catch myself on it that I’m singing a brand jingle out of the eighties: “Oeh oeh, ah ah, we maken Domo vla,” “Yogo Yogooo,” “Miauw, miauw, miauw, miauw, ”“C&A, is toch voordeeeliger”…. We’re over 30 years ahead now, and I still know them, because they were so simple, and they seemed to be used for years!

Douwe Egberts must have recognized the same – that consumers still know their old commercial song, “Je bent thuis waar je Douwe Egberts drinkt..” – because the brand has reused its old jingle in their newest commercial recently. This is smart.

The power of brand assets

We are talking about brand assets. In this world, in which we are bombarded with brands and messages, it is challenging for a brand to be noticed and to stand apart, all while conveying why they are the right choice for the consumer. The language of instant recognition and meaning is vital for brands to understand, embrace and mobilize to their advantage. It’s about providing consumers with mental shortcuts to ensure a brand is top of mind at the time when purchase decisions are made. Mental shortcuts are the linking pin between “mental availability” (coming to mind easily) and “physical availability” (being visible on different touchpoints and point of sale). In fact, they are one of the fundamentals of a brand, and should be treasured by marketers.

It seems so logical, but there are plenty examples in which we see that marketers forget to exploit a powerful brand asset – as well as examples in which marketers think they’ve created a new strong brand asset that is actually not recognized by consumers at all. That’s why we say that when it comes to brand assets, marketers are better off being conservative, because brand assets need to become imprinted in consumers’ brains for a long time to be effective.

The 3Cs of brand assets

Brand assets may include, but are not limited to: logos (think Apple), colors (think Andrélon purple), fonts (Disney), packaging (Coca-Cola bottle), the shape of a product (Sonos speakers), mascots (Robijn teddy bear), shop designs (McDonalds restaurants), slogans (Kruidvat, steeds verrassend altijd voordelig), music (Hornbachs “Kama-jaja-jippie-jippie-jeey”), and celebrities (George Clooney for Nespresso).  

There are 3 principles around the good use of brand assets:

1) Clarity: Think simple shapes – i.e., those that are easy to draw yourself – short taglines, and a clear connection with the brand. The connection of top fashion models to the brand L’Oréal is very clear. In contrast, the connection between the old Philips tagline “Sense and simplicity” and the Philips brand was way too abstract.

2) Consistency: Being consistent over time seems easy to accomplish, but too often a marketer on a brand gets rid of a strong brand asset because he wants to ‘’renew” the brand and make a personal mark. Now, freshening up a brand logo is fine – we call it “keeping up with the times, conservatively.”  Ultimately, consistency is also about using your brand assets smartly across different touchpoints. It is better to have multiple strong brand assets, so that you can use the most effective ones suitable given the type of touchpoint.  Longer slogans are not effective on billboards, for instance (a large logo would be better), but may be used effectively in radio commercials.

3) Communication: This is about reinforcing relevant brand purpose, principles, and messaging. Think of your brand assets as mini opportunities to invoke reminders of key messages. In the wintertime, Chocomel has single letters on its packs, and in the Sinterklaas period the packs are used to make nice words and phrases on billboards, posters, and POS material. That’s a powerful way to make use of a single brand asset.

Not all brand assets are as evocative

Research on brand assets has pointed out that not all brand assets are as evocative. Shapes and colors can combine to act as a powerful cue to consumers. Think of how the blue ellipse is clearly recognized as a part of the Samsung logo. Logos are also easily recognized, especially logos that are built of the initial letter(s), like the G of Google and YSL for Yves Saint Laurent, or logos that have a clear shape directly linked to the brand, like the apple for Apple.

Slogans are not as comparatively strong in instantly evoking a brand. That’s because many slogans don’t follow the rule of being clear or being consistent over time. A slogan should clearly reflect who you are or in which category you are acting – like “Nokia, connecting people” or Lipton’s “Be more tea.” They should not involve an (often abstract) mission, such as “In search of incredible” for Asus or “Life’s Good” for LG. After having used many different slogans, Bavaria found that - of all times - their most powerful slogan was “Zo, nu eerst een….”, and they reused it in their newest ads.

Celebrities generally perform poorly, especially over the long term. They can generate PR and buzz in the short term, like Sara Jessica Parker did for Blokker, but that does not necessarily enhance a brand’s strength. The personal values of the celebrity should perfectly match the values of the brand. George Clooney is ideal for Nespresso thanks to his sophistication. What’s more, a celebrity should be used over a long period of time in order to be properly linked to a brand. Otherwise endorsements are simply an expensive short-term marketing execution.

Marketers: be conservative!

In summary, marketers should keep in mind that brand assets are the foundation of a brand, and should be treasured. Here are five recommendations to that end:

  1. Investigate which assets are strong. Do consumers recognize AND assign your brand asset correctly to your brand?
  2. Change is fine: keep up with the times, because the market context may change as well. But be as conservative as possible.
  3. Use your brand assets wisely on different touchpoints. Make sure you have a set of assets that are suitable for different touchpoints.
  4. Focus on the 3 Cs of Clarity, Consistency, and Communication.
  5. Anchor your assets within the organization. Protocolize it in your creative briefs and design briefs to stick to your most powerful brand assets.