Getting the Blues – The Importance of Being “Easily” Recognised

Published by: Richard Colwell


It’s surprising how often we test adverts for brands, that simply don’t make it easy for consumers to know which brand it is that they are advertising.  The ads bear little resemblance to the brand that consumers know, and often spend is wasted as the communication does little to help build easier shortcuts to brand choice.

Being able to stand out has been a cornerstone of advertising impact since the practice was first established.  But equally as important is the need to make it easy for consumers to link the message quickly with the brand.  If it isn’t, then the money spent is wasted, as even if its communicating a great message, it’s not linking that message to the brand behind it.

The importance of brand recognition as one of the key heuristics (mental shortcuts) to brand choice has been the subject of many scholarly books, articles and papers over the last number of years.

Behavioural economist Gerd Gigerenzer found that people rarely make decisions after detailed consideration, but instead make “fast and frugal” decisions to arrive at “good enough” choices.

How do we know which choices are good enough? Not by careful comparison. Instead we use heuristics, or mental shortcuts. In 2003, Daniel Kahneman identified “baseline” heuristics involved in nearly every human decision. Of these, three baseline heuristics are particularly useful in explaining brand growth.

    1. The Availability heuristic.
      Much discussed in Byron Sharp’s “How Brands Grow”, mental availability is something most brands measure carefully. If a brand is easily recalled in context, it immediately becomes an easy and good choice to consumers
    2. The Affect heuristic.This is all about the impact of positive emotional brand connections. Much as it has been proved time and again by Binet and Filed that advertising that promotes long term emotional engagement with a brand delivers growth.  The fundamental truth is that if a brand has a better emotional connection with consumers, it becomes an easier choice for them.  Brands are beginning to understand the importance of this, and much advertising testing includes emotional reaction to copy at its core.  At RED C we also doing more to try and understand this basic brand emotional connection as a fundamental part of the brand evaluation we conduct.
    3. The Processing heuristic.
      The theory behind this mental shortcut, is that the most likely choices are those processed with minimum effort.  The easier a brand makes it to process choices, the more likely they are to choose that brand.  So, the more we can make a brand easily recognised, with clear and well defined and promoted brand collateral the better.

The processing heuristic seems obvious, but evidence from much of the communication that we test suggests that all too often brands forget the importance of promoting key collateral.

There are two stages for a brand to ensure that consumers easily recognise and identify it.  The first is to really understand what of their collateral is currently both distinctive and unique.   The second to make sure that they ruthlessly keep that collateral at the forefront of every interaction consumers have with the brand.

A brands collateral might include things such as colour, logo, strapline, music, celebrity connection, sponsorship, and it’s is not always clear how important each part of a brand collateral is. Surprisingly much brand collateral doesn’t appear to make choices easier, or certainly more needs to be done to ensure it is working harder.

Recent work we conducted for a client, testing brand collateral in the financial industry, saw us test 6 different shades of blue! As you might expect, consumers were very confused which colour belonged to which brand; and as such these colours are of low value in terms of signposting both the brand and communication for it.

At the same time often long held and established brand cues, are sometimes too quickly thrown to the wolves when a new marketing manager decides its time for a re-brand.

Measuring your brands and your competitor’s collateral is therefore crucial to truly understand which parts of it are both distinctive and unique.  Start with a review of what collateral you have. Make sure you throw it all in to the mix, even parts that may have been discarded in past re-brands.  That part you discarded years ago, may be more distinctive than any brand collateral you have now.

Hopefully you have some assets that are both distinctive and unique.  But even learning that you don’t is important, as it allows you to take stock and make sure you create collateral that does work harder for your brand.

Once you do have a clear picture of what is distinctive and unique about your brand, make sure you ruthlessly use these assets on every piece of communication.  Both the academic theory, and years of our experience testing advertising and brand health, would suggest that the benefit to both brand consideration and communication impact will be exponential.

To find out more, or conduct your own Brand Collateral review and maximise your communications impact contact us