Measuring distinctive brand assets

A distinctive brand asset is usually an image (but can also be a sound or other sensory stimulus) that is a recognizable cue for your brand. It is almost like your brand logo, in the sense that it quickly and intuitively triggers your brand’s identity in the mind of the consumer. Ideally, it should be distinctive to your brand and not become confused with those of your competitors. At the more sophisticated end, brand assets can include all kinds of touchpoints that reinforce your brand, from way your staff, spokespersons and influencers communicate, the tone of voice of your social media, and the music, uniforms and other aspects of ambience of your stores or other physical locations.

Owning distinctive visual assets (or sensory assets) can be advantageous for your brand for several reasons. First, your assets can act as a form of advertising. The more consumers become familiar with your assets, and the more that they see them, the more likely that your brand will be top of mind when they are ready to make a purchase. They will also make your brand feel more familiar when consumers are presented with an array of choices, and will make your brand feel like an easy and more comfortable choice. Next, distinctive assets can help make your brand simpler to find. If a consumer is shopping and considering their purchase choices, your brand is more likely to be quickly and effortlessly identified when you have distinctive visual assets.

CloudArmy offer both a suite of tests to audit your existing assets or assess any new asset concepts. In addition to testing, we can also help advise on ideas for creating and optimizing brand assets.

We are able to test the potential strength of brand assets to answer three key business questions: (1) how recognizable are they, (2) how findable are they when someone is looking for your brand, and (3) what kinds of associations and feelings do they trigger in the minds of consumers? Our tests use response speed and implicit measures to provide a more scientific and quantified view of your brand assets.

How recognizable are your assets?

A highly recognizable brand asset needs only to be shown and people will think of your brand. Imagine, for example, seeing a bright red billboard with the ‘swoosh’ tick image and you immediately think of Nike. Or another billboard featuring only a large curvy yellow ‘M’ and you instantly know a McDonald’s is nearby. In both these cases, the visuals are part of their respective brands’ logos. But this doesn’t need to be the case. McDonalds, for example, also has the image of Ronald McDonald, or the red, and distinctively shaped cardboard fries container.

The recognizability of a visual asset helps advertise your brand; both directly when used in advertisements, but also in the way it will reinforce your brand’s familiarity whenever seen.

We can test the strength of recognition for your brand assets through one of our online brand attribution tests. In the test, participants are prompted with a quick look at one of your assets, and then they see a grid of brand names. Their task is to, as quickly as possible, select the brand they think the asset belongs to. The key outputs are the percentage who correctly identify each asset and how quickly they are able to do so (as an additional measure of the strength of recognition of the asset). An additional metric is a table showing the percentages who incorrectly identified each asset. If they thought that another brand owns your asset it can be useful to see which brand(s) were mistakenly chosen.

How findable are your assets?

A similar yet different question is how findable are your assets if someone is specifically looking for your brand. This is particularly important for retail, where assets used on packaging can help make your products easier to locate.

Similar to our tests for the recognition of brand assets, in this module we prompt participants with the name of the brand then we show them a grid of brand visual assets. Their task is to select the asset that signifies the brand as quickly as they can. And, as before, the results comprise the speed and accuracy of matching each asset to their correct brand, and also the percentages of respondents who ‘mis-attribute’ each asset to an incorrect brand.

Alternatively we can use visual saliency and/or eye-tracking to see how much consumers look at a particular visual asset when viewing your packaging or print ad. This inherent ability to stand out and catch people’s attention is helpful for increasing brand awareness but also increasing the chance that a shopper will try your product when browsing the store.

What associations and feelings do your assets trigger?

A question that is applicable to all brand assets is: what kinds of associations and feelings do they trigger? This is relevant no matter if the asset is used on packaging, or in advertising and other forms of consumer communication.

To answer this question, we have two tests that can measure the inherent ability of different assets to trigger different associations.

First, our ‘Fast Choice’ test presents each asset while participants are asked a simple question about it. This question could be several words, such as ‘Good value for money?’ or just one word, such as ‘Tasty?’. Their task is to respond, as quickly as possible, whether they think the visual asset matches or creates the feeling of the association they are being asked about. The responses available to them are either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.

The outputs are both the percentage of participants who thought each asset did match each attribute, but also their average time to make their choice. This timed measure acts as a signal of the strength or certainty of their association. While this measure involves participants having their own volition on how to respond, the fact that they are obliged to respond quickly (within 1.75 seconds typically) and the fact that we are analysing their time-to-respond, means that we are capturing a more intuitive response than a traditional style survey question might yield and we are also able to get an indication of the strength and certainty of their response.

Second, we can also test visual asset associations with a fully implicit association test. Unlike the fast choice test, the implicit association test is usually constrained to attributes that are one or two words in length (rather than sentence length). Also, unlike the Fast Choice test, it doesn’t involve giving respondents a free choice to a question. Instead it involves a sorting task in which stimuli are combined in specific ways that participants' response times reveal their non-conscious associations. As these associations are automatic, they are hard or impossible for us to control. They are our gut reactions, our immediately triggered responses and our underlying desires and fears. By measuring at this level we can be more certain that we are capturing consumers' true associations with a brand’s distinctive assets. As the implicit exercises involve a sorting task with objectively right and wrong responses, it is impossible for participants to randomly or inattentively speed their way through the task. This means that it inherently has a high level of quality control, unlike, for example, traditional survey questionnaires.

Sub-brand names

Another type of asset a brand can own is the name of a sub-brand. Sometimes called ‘brands within brands’, examples include Samsung’s Galaxy phone brand, Philips Sonicare toothbrush brand range or Google’s Android phone operating system. While most of a brand’s advertising may have focused on your main brand name, it can also be important to build familiarity among consumers with the names of your sub-brands.

Here we can test the inherent recognition strength of a sub-brand name in a dedicated response-speed task. A range of brand or sub-brand names are included in the task, along with strings of letters that are apparently random and are not real words (we say ‘apparently’ random because they are matched in length to each one of the real brand names and they are phonetically correct in the sense that they can be pronounced). The respondent then sees - in random order - either a real brand name or one of the ‘nonsense’ words in the center of their screen. Their task is to, as quickly as possible, determine whether they are seeing a real brand name or one that is made-up. If it is a real brand name they select ‘Yes’, if not, ‘No’. We then capture the percentage of respondents who accurately identify each brand name in this quick and intuitive way, and how long it takes them, on average, to do so. This allows us to really differentiate between the strength of recognition of different brand and sub-brand names.

Audio assets

As mentioned at the beginning, distinctive brand assets don’t always need to be visual, they can be created with other sensory stimuli. The most frequently used of these is sound. For example, the familiar sound when a Mac boots up, the five-notes used in Intel commercials, or the extended vibrating note that accompanies the THX sound logo in front of a movie. These are all basic examples of branded sounds. However, there are many more opportunities for brands to leverage sonics. For example, the voices used in your advertising or automated phone systems, the sounds your products make (e.g. increasingly devices, such as cars, are able to play digital recorded sounds, but also the engineering of products to produce specific sounds), or the sounds played in a branded digital app can all be used to reinforce the feelings and values of your brand.

We are able to test the strengths and weaknesses of different sonic options for your brand. As with visual assets we can test both the inherent fit to your brand and the associations that each sonic option triggers.


Distinctive assets are a valuable yet often overlooked aspect of branding. Even many large brands often have few genuinely distinctive assets. And, over-time, as more brands are launched, the fight to genuinely ‘own’ or trademark specific visual assets, such as combinations of colors or colors and shapes, becomes harder. Therefore, the sooner you can start to develop them the better.

By testing both your existing assets and new potential options for assets you can learn more about how recognizable they are or have the potential to be, and know which ones to invest in to become a more distinctive brand.