Building Mental Availability – Category Entry Points and Distinctive Brand Assets

We know from academic research that in the real world, people make “fast and frugal” decisions to arrive at “good enough” choices. To make choices easy consumers use three shortcuts or heuristics.

Availability heuristic: the name of the brand comes up when you think of a product or a problem.
Effect heuristic: you have a good feeling about the brand.
Fluent heuristics: the degree to which your brand is recognized.

According to Byron Sharp of the Ehrenberg Bass Institute, Mental Availability of a brand covers off two of those shortcuts, in that it refers to the probability that a buyer will notice, recognize and/or think of a brand in buying situations.  That is more than just brand awareness or fame, its actually coming to mind at the moments that matter and being easily chosen when the brand does come to mind.

While many brands will argue that they do measure brand fame through a tracked spontaneous brand awareness measure, this is really only half the job.  If the brand does not truly understand at what moments they need to come to mind – how can they prompt or drive this recall through advertising?

Likewise, how many brands truly understand what their distinctive assets are, so that they can double down on these assets in all communication?  Too often there are cases where past advertising routes or assets are thrown out when a new marketing manager wants to make their mark, without truly understanding how valuable those past assets are in driving fluency.

Distinctive Brand Assets

We work with our clients and their branding/advertising partners in order to evaluate and promote brand assets that are truly distinctive, in order to help maximise the impact of messaging and make brand choices easier.

The Theory*
Distinctive Brand Assets help to create shortcuts in consumers’ minds that make brands more memorable and impactful.

In order to maximise mental availability and advertising impact, we need to evaluate and ruthlessly promote our distinctive brand assets (outside of the brand name), in order to make it as easy as possible for people to recognise and have our brand come to mind at moments of choice.

There are different kinds of brand assets – colours, logos, slogans, music/sounds, characters, celebrities, pack shapes etc.

Distinctive Brand Assets get a brand noticed faster and improve the return on marketing investment. They help to create shortcuts in consumers’ minds that make brands more memorable and impactful.

How do elements become distinctive assets?

An element is only an asset if it fulfils the following criteria:

  • Unique The element evokes the brand, and not competitors.
  • Famous Most, if not all consumers should know the element represents the brand name.

We use an online survey approach to test and map all brand assets for you and competitors on these metric, and compare these against norms in Ireland across industries.

Our Process

Step 1. Audit
Audit of all brand comms materials in conjunction with the marketing team, to produces a shortlist of elements to be tested.

Step 2. Review
Robust survey collecting each elements linkage to the brand, and how aware they are of each element.

Step 3. Interpretation
By mapping uniqueness of assets against their fame, we can provide a clear indication of which elements should be retained and promoted

Category Entry Points

This analysis identifies all the possible CEP’s where a brand might come to mind, establishes which are most important for growth, and identifies the key competitor set for each.


The Theory*
If we can grow the “Mental Availability” of our brand in/at key purchase moments, occasions and locations, that really matter; then we can unlock more growth for the brand. 

Mental availability is more then just top of mind awareness. Category entry points (CEPs) are the building blocks of Mental Availability — they capture the thoughts that category buyers have as they transition into making a category purchase.

If we understand and identify what key “Category Entry Points” are for a brand – we can then measure the effectiveness of brand marketing activity in growing/ strengthening the saliency of our Brand against our agreed set of CEP’s. 


Our Process

Review of existing research.  What do consumers mention when they talk about the category and buying the category?

½ day workshop with key stakeholders:   On what occasions/ at what moments in consumers’ lives could the category be thought of / be relevant? 

Online survey with target market.  To identify CEP’s that are already strongly associated with the brand and those which present opportunities

Speaking to consumers about these CEPs.  Understanding the thought process buyers have and where the brand fits in. 

Monitoring success at driving relevance.  To what extent is our marketing activity driving mental availability of the brand at key CEP’s. 

Learn more about both processes from our recent Breakfast Club webinar, with contributions from both Paul Dervan, CMO, National Lottery and  Karl Symes, Head of Brand, Irish Life, by clicking on the image below.



Contact us and we can help you to work smarter by targeting relevant Distinctive Brand Assets and Category Entry Points to help drive brand growth.


* Source: Ehrenburg Bass Institute