Brand misattribution, distinctive brand assets and creative ads

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In the marketing mix, investment behind media buying is perhaps the most expensive, especially when it comes to high value media properties such as the Super Bowl in the US or the IPL in India. So it is understandable if brand teams are anxious to ensure the correct brand attribution. When the viewer associates an ad with that of a competitor, referred to as brand misattribution, it is as if all the effort was to sell a competitive brand. It could be happen for various reasons – either way, it is not an optimal situation to be in. A variation of brand misattribution is when views cannot remember the brand name but recall bits & pieces of the ad elements. Sometimes, key attributes of ad are recalled correctly but the brand name is forgotten, as is common in ads featuring celebrities.

A major reason for such a situation is the lack of distinctive assets which the brand call its own. As I have said earlier, it could be in the form of a logo, a memorable tag line, an audio or visual mnemonic. Some great examples include: Nike’s ‘Just Do It’, the ‘Intel Inside’ audio mnemonic (called sonic branding nowadays), the signature music of Titan Watches ads in India, Kodak yellow, Yahoo’s purple, the ‘Have a break, have a KitKat’ property and the McDonald’s arch. Creating such ownable assets takes time, effort, smarts and money. It also calls for consistency if the idea has the potential to deliver a competitive edge. Using the distinct brand assets in the right medium is also a critical aspect of the approach. As part of the brand’s 85th anniversary, KitKat gave the famous slogan ‘Have a break, have a KitKat’ a break. Distinct brand assets aid in brand recall and when executed well, drive home the brand associations (as with KitKat and a ‘break’) every time.

Dan White, Author of The Smart Marketing Book summarises how such assets help grow brands:


A great example of such an asset which worked wonders for the brand is the ‘Priceless’ property of Mastercard. It has become part of popular culture and memes. It makes every piece of brand communication unmistakably associated with Mastercard. A recent campaign (from October this year) brings alive another aspect of the brand’s asset: its logo. The ads smartly combine the logo elements into unique experiences.

Agency: McCann, Colombia.

In the context of ‘distinctiveness’ it is usually the advertising which is expected to deliver – bit unfairly so. The agencies are often tasked with creating ads for parity products with little or no differentiation. The pressure is then entirely on the advertising idea and the execution to create a brand preference through ‘likeable’ advertising.

Aside from this, here are a few more ads which caught my eye this week: match made in hell

Is there anything actor Ryan Reynolds cannot do in marketing and advertising? He created some wonderful work for Aviation Gin (which he bought and sold to Diageo) and Mint Mobile, through his agency Maximum Effort (which also produced this cheeky ad for R.M.Williams). The team has now created a charming ad for which has got the media talking and created buzz in social media too. The idea (satan gets paired with the year 2020), will surely resonate how we all feel about the calendar year and cleverly weaves in the idea of ‘anyone can get a match’. Loved it. Hell, yeah!

Agency: Maximum Effort

American Red Cross: piano

Seeking donations is the objective of ads from charity organizations involved in humanitarian efforts such as disaster relief. A new ad from American Red Cross aims to convey ‘the only thing a disaster can’t destroy is hope’ and does so in simple, yet powerful manner.

Agency: BBDO

Doc Morris: so you can take care

Pharmacy chain Doc Morris from Germany has created a Christmas themed ad which tells an intriguing story. The build up leaves the viewer wondering as to why the old man spends time doing some odd exercises until the penny drops a minute to two later.

Agency: Jung von Matt

ITV: million minutes

A print ad highlights the problem of loneliness faced by senior citizens in UK. What I found interesting was that the ad is from the TV channel iTV which tells people ‘we shouldn’t be your only company’. The ad urges people to pledge at least one hour of their time for the 1 Million Minutes initiative to get Britain talking.

Agency: Uncommon

Uber: Grateful UK

Print ads which call for interaction from the reader aren’t new. Here’s an ad from Uber which asks readers to send in their ‘Thank you’ notes to the team at NHS.

Which one was your favourite? Do comment in.

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