In his book, Eating the Big Fish, Adam Morgan speaks of some of the fundamentals of success for Challenger brands. He states, “Since a Challenger has fewer resources at its disposal than the Brand Leader it is at least indirectly taking on, it needs to make sure everything it does is communicating that identity as strongly as possible.” He goes on to encourage Challengers to ask “What are the equities that have been created over time – either visual equities or equities of any other form? What are the ownable brand assets to rebuild this brand from?”

Whether you’re a marketer or a brand owner, there is one thing that you are aware of – reaching your consumers is becoming increasingly difficult. We’ve all been talking about media fragmentation for at least a decade and with the growth of social media this continues to become a more exaggerated problem.

Place on top of this reduced marketing budgets and everything that you do for your brand definitely needs to be working harder and smarter.

This is why creating ownable visual equities for your brand is critical for success. It allows your brand to work harder at every single touch point to ensure resonance with consumers. As specialists in creating and building Challenger Brands, creating ownable visual equities is at the top of our priority list every time we look at a project – whether it be creating a new visual identity for a brand or developing a shopper activation or brand communication campaign.

Ownable visual equities or ‘Distinctive Assets’ as Ehernberg-Bass* would refer to them as, can be made up of any of the following; colour, logo, symbol, characters, pack shapes, typography, or even slogans. Beyond the visual space these can also extend into music, sounds or jingles, and styles of advertising.

When most people see the colour purple they will no doubt think of Cadbury, when they see a set of golden arches they instantly know that they’re looking at McDonalds and the M&M characters work to ensure that you know exactly what brand they are representing.

Colour is the most common visual equity that brands will develop and adopt. While colours are not always easy to own, they can get you a long way with consumers depending on the colour that you pick. Take the colour red for example – if you ask ten different people what brand they associate with the colour red, you’re likely to get at least five different answers – Coca Cola, Kellogg’s Special K, Johnnie Walker, Sara Lee, KFC. For this reason when you use colour, you should couple this with other elements as well. Using colour alone is difficult to own.

It is for this reason that when we developed the new masterbrand visual identity for George Weston Food’s iconic Tip Top Bakery range, we adopted a strategy of creating more than just one visual equity. Here we created 3 key visual equities for the brand; 1) the colour red, 2) the core brandmark, and 3) the unique on pack swoosh.

When addressing colour, we focused on increasing the strength of the colour red that was already in the Tip Top brandmark. In order to modernise the brand and ensure it was seen as less artificial, we shifted the colour pallet, deepening the red.

This was coupled with the new brandmark. Keeping key elements from the previous version (the colours red and blue, plus the Australian map) was essential to maintaining the brand’s history, so each element was refined to ensure that it was a more modern interpretation of where they had previously been. The typography was also addressed and credentials for the brand with the ‘Est. 1958’ inclusion.

Finally, we developed a striking on pack swoosh that allowed a visual system of shape and colour to guide shoppers through the Tip Top range in the overwhelming bread aisle. The swoosh allows for additional red colour to assist with masterbrand blocking and also acts as a frame for a clear window where we can show off the deliciously wholesome bread inside.

This is a great example of how important it is to find the optimal combination of visual equities to ensure that it is truly ownable for your brand. It is difficult to create ownability through one element alone, however the more unique and distinctive the element is, the stronger the ownability. This is where symbols and characters can work incredibly well to build equity for brands. The Nike swoosh and the Apple symbol are both extremely strong visual equities that do not require accompanying brand names, and characters like the M&M characters and Colonel Sanders also share a similar position. Successfully cracking a symbol or character is without a doubt the hardest to get right. Expect a lot of investment in time in this area for the right result. The symbol or character needs to have both meaning for the brand and appeal to your target market. With characters especially, getting them right is often a very considered process.

When Saltmine created the visual identity for a new Challenger brand for Australasian beverage company, Lion, developing a set of ownable brand equities was a specific objective of the brief. This Challenger brand, Roam is a flavoured beer brand created for the emerging generation of adult beer drinkers. To best appeal to this younger adult target who are looking for new experiences, an ‘urban jungle’ was brought to life on pack. This was a representation of the world that they are today living in. Consisting of a white brick wall, distinctive jungle made of both foliage and buildings this created the backdrop for the key symbol for the brand – a chameleon. The chameleon was chosen as the symbol for the brand as a metaphor of positive and proactive change. Further visual equities were created with the introduction of bespoke graffiti-style typography. All of these key equities will be carried across multiple touch points for the brand.

So, you’ve created your key brand equities, they’re distinctive, unique, and in the right combination they are certainly ownable. Your job now is to use them successfully. Single mindedness and consistency in your approach will serve your brand well. Ownable visual equities allow your brand to work harder at every single touch point to ensure resonance with consumers and in turn, drive success.

* Based at the University of South Australia, Ehernberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science is the world’s largest centre for research into marketing.