Creative drives half of all incremental sales. Distinctive assets and strong brand cues are critical in delivering that pay off. Yet there are so many examples of brands and agencies not considering how brand assets are used across each platform, and even different formats. Atomic 212° boss Claire Fenner unpacks a handy channel-specific checklist.

Before we begin, let’s do a bit of word association.

Should have gone to…

A hard-earned thirst needs…


In each of the above examples, after reading just five or fewer words, I’m guessing your brain jumped straight to Specsavers, VB and McDonald’s.

Distinctive brand assets are some of the most memorable creations in not only marketing but all of human history.

From Coke’s red ribbon to Nike’s Swoosh; from Toyota’s “Oh what a feeling” jingle to Toohey’s asking us “How do you feel?”; from Compare the Market’s Aleksandr Orlov to Bundaberg Rum’s Bundy Bear, distinctive brand assets are a critical driver of marketing recall, and therefore success.

But so many brands aren’t using these assets to their full potential or considering how they work within the context of a media placement and format.

According to a 2023 NCSolutions study of some 450 campaigns, creative “drives nearly half (49 per cent) of incremental sales”.

Half your incremental sales. Creative is such an important aspect of marketing – and distinctive brand assets are what drives the association between a strong creative campaign and your brand. These assets help to grow the mental availability of your brand when consumers are considering which brand to buy because they create shortcuts in the minds of consumers.

Just reading a few carefully selected words or even hearing a bar of music can activate a consumer’s mental link to your brand’s physical assets, such as your store, website or product, with research by Kantar finding that “having strong brand cues increases your brand saliency by 52 per cent”.

However, creating and enjoying the fruits of a distinctive brand asset isn’t as simple as covering your brand in a distinctive colour palette, having an ear-worm at the end of your ad, or putting someone in a cute, cuddly critter outfit at your activations.

As Byron Sharp wrote in his 2010 book How Brands Grow, “Distinctive assets are not inherent; they need to be learned by consumers. Until the links between distinctive elements and the brand are learned they cannot function as a substitute of the brand.”

A brand asset is only valuable if it can be seen, heard or recognised by the target audience, yet there are so many examples of brands and agencies not considering how brand assets are used across each platform, and even different formats.

The following considerations can help enhance the effectiveness of your marketing, as well as help guide decisions about which brand assets are going to be most powerful and universally impactful.

OOH: Make two seconds count

The dynamic nature of out of home media – the side of a bus is constantly on the move and while a billboard may be stationary, the people looking up at it rarely are – can be what makes having distinct brand assets so effective in this format.  A recent study commissioned by JC Decaux identified that brands have on average two seconds to capture the attention of their audience, which makes the distinctive brand assets even more critical in this environment.

Nevertheless, basic physical considerations need to be at the front of mind, such as the ad’s required viewing distance, audience dwell time, and its size and focal point.

Are there potential obstructions that will stop your audience from actually seeing your assets? For example, the top of a bus back is going to be most visible to more cars when stuck in traffic, whereas the lower part is only visible to the few vehicles with an unobstructed view.

Having a powerful neural link can be critical in creating association when your audience may only catch a glimpse of your creative, but you need to ensure that the glimpse is enough to activate the link.

Audio: Upfront investment pays

Considerations such as whether the asset is pre-recorded, its position in the ad and the prominence and placement of background audio are all important when it comes to an audio asset.

What’s worth exploring a little deeper is talent, with many brands likely to argue that any pleasant-sounding person will do – I mean, Macca’s have been wheeling out “Ba-da-ba-ba-baaa” by various disembodied voices for two decades.

But this ubiquitous jingle started its life in 2003 as a hit song written by Pharrell (or maybe Pusha T), produced by The Neptunes and sung by Justin Timberlake – who pocketed $US6 million for his vocals – which illustrates just how important the initial, learning phase is for consumers when creating links to brand assets.

In short, “Ba-da-ba-ba-baaa” is an audio brand asset that has deep roots, sowed with enormous talent at a huge cost. Just getting Michael Caton to warmly utter five syllables without that history and context isn’t going to sell hamburgers.

Search: Think word association

How many times have you tried to Google the name of a song when all you know are three words from the chorus and two of them are “love” and “baby”?

This issue can lie at the heart of creating a distinctive brand asset in a search environment, because many consumers know where they want to get to, but don’t have the right combination of words to find the way there.

However, this is yet another way a distinct brand asset can come in handy. Google “ice cream lion” and the first result that comes up is an image of Max the Paddle Pop Lion. That bit of basic word association based on a distinct brand asset takes you straight to where Streets wants you to be. 

Taking that a step further, simply consider if your brand assets can be leveraged in search within the keyword limits – this could be the difference with consumers clicking on your text ad over a competitor’s ad.

TV / Video: Watchouts (and listen outs)

The audio-visual combination of this medium means it presents the most opportunities for you to hero your distinctive brand assets, but it also means there are added considerations to ensure cut-through.

What device will the viewer be using: is it a connected TV? Laptop? Tablet? Mobile? The size and resolution of the screen in use is going to play a significant role in your asset being effective.

Will sound on your creative automatically play or is the sound user-initiated sound? If the answer is the latter, don’t despair – silence can be every bit as effective in grabbing attention in our noisy world (especially if your audience is wearing headphones), so maybe that’s a chance to really push a visual aspect of your asset.

Is the video skippable or not? If it is, how can you use your brand assets feature in the non-skippable portion of the ad, and then also throughout for those who don’t skip?

And – honesty time – will your audience actively be watching the ads or are they likely to be distractedly ‘putting up’ with it? If they are looking at something else to pass the time while the mandatory advertising rolls, audio becomes more powerful.

This is just a small portion of the considerations that need to be factored in when determining how brand assets should be used to maximise impact. A lot of these considerations should be common sense – or, as Aleksandr Orlov might say, “Simples!” – but unfortunately they are not commonly given enough time or consideration in the creative process.

Your media agency partner should be a valuable guide when reviewing creative assets for each placement to ensure the best practice has been followed to ensure your brand assets aren’t just distinctive, they are effective.

Article originally published on Mi3