A strong brand identity must comprise unique identity elements such as logos, colours or characters that distinguish it from competitors and facilitate recognition and purchase. A critical marketing function is therefore deciding which elements to invest in, to protect and build this identity. Within this paper, a new measure, Competitive Intensity, is proposed as a means to critically evaluate brand identity elements on their uniqueness potential. Results of testing 1281 in-market elements from 13 consumer packaged goods categories in 19 countries show that character, logo and logotypes have the greatest potential for unique brand ownership. Colour, however, is more challenging to develop as a unique brand identifier due to high levels of competitive sharing. Competitive intensity varies for elements of the same type, suggesting that practitioner execution plays a critical role in successful ownership. Being the first empirical comparison of eight element types, this paper provides comprehensive guidance to practitioner decision-making.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Within this paper uniqueness is used in two separate contexts, as a general concept and also to describe a specific metric. Where referring to the metric, Uniqueness has been capitalised and italicised for clarity.
Aaker, D.A. 1991. Managing brand equity: Capitalizing on the value of a brand name. New York: The Free Press.
Aaker, D.A. 2001. Strategic market management. New York: Wiley.
Anderson, J.R. 1983. A spreading activation theory of memory. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 22: 261–295.
Anderson, J.R., and G.H. Bower. 1972. Recognition and retrieval processes in free recall. Psychological Review 79 (2): 97.
Anderson, J.R., and G.H. Bower. 1979. Human associative memory. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Aslam, M.M. 2006. Are you selling the right colour? A cross-cultural review of colour as a marketing cue. Journal of Marketing Communications 12 (1): 15–30.
Azrights Solicitors 2013. Trademark protection of pantone 2685c not wrapped up by Cadbury. AZRights.
Bellizzi, J.A., and R.E. Hite. 1992. Environmental color, consumer feelings, and purchase likelihood. Psychology and Marketing 9 (5): 347–363.
Booker, J. 2012. Making the famous “coke red” color [Online]. United States: Coca Cola Company. Available: http://www.coca-colacompany.com/stories/making-the-famous-coke-red-color [Accessed 13th December 2017].
Bottomley, P., and J. Doyle. 2006. The interactive effects of colors and products on perceptions of brand logo appropriateness. Marketing Theory 6 (1): 63–83.
Bouton, M.E. 1993. Context, time, and memory retrieval in the interference paradigms of pavlovian learning. Psychological Bulletin 114 (1): 80–99.
Bresciani, S., and P. Del Ponte. 2017. New brand logo design: Customers’ preference for brand name and icon. Journal of Brand Management 24 (5): 375–390.
Bruce, V. 1982. Changing faces: Visual and non-visual coding processes in face recognition. British Journal of Psychology 73 (1): 105–116.
Childers, T.L., S.E. Heckler, and M.J. Houston. 1986. Memory for the visual and verbal components of print advertisements. Psychology & Marketing 3 (3): 137–149.
Childers, T.L., and M.J. Houston. 1984. Conditions for a picture-superioritye effect on consumer memory. Journal of Consumer Research 11 (September): 643–654.
Collins, A.M., and E.F. Loftus. 1975. A spreading activation theory of semantic processing. Psychological Review 82 (6): 407–428.
Dahlén, M., and S. Rosengren. 2005. Brands affect slogans affect brands? Competitive interference, brand equity and the brand-slogan link. Brand Management 12 (3): 151–164.
De Haan, M., O. Pascalis, and M.H. Johnson. 2002. Specialization of neural mechanisms underlying face recognition in human infants. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 14 (2): 199–209.
Deephouse, D.L., and M. Suchman. 2008. Legitimacy in organizational institutionalism. In The sage handbook of organizational institutionalism, ed. R. Greenwood, C. Oliver, K. Sahlin, and R. Suddaby. London: SAGE.
Doyle, J.R., and P.A. Bottomley. 2004. Font appropriateness and brand choice. Journal of Business Research 57 (8): 873–880.
Edell, J.A., and R. Staelin. 1983. The information processing of pictures in print advertisements. Journal of Consumer Research 10 (June): 45–61.
Ellis, H.D. 1975. Recognizing faces. British Journal of Psychology 66 (4): 409–426.
Esterl, M. 2011. A frosty reception for coca-cola’s white christmas cans. Available: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970204012004577070521211375302 [Accessed December 01].
Gaillard, E. (2007) How brand distinctiveness is communicated, from a consumer’s perspective. Masters by Research, University of South Australia.
Gaillard, E., Romaniuk, J. & Sharp, A. (2005) Exploring consumer perceptions of visual distinctiveness. In: ANZMAC, The University of Western Australia, Fremantle, WA.
Garber, L.L., R.R. Burke, and J.M. Jones. 2000a. The role of package color in consumer purchase consideration and choice. Cambridge, MA: Marketing Science Institute.
Garber, L.L., E.M. Hyatt, and R.G. Starr. 2000b. The effects of food color on perceived flavor. Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice 8 (4): 59–72.
Garretson, J., and R. Niedrich. 2004. Spokes-characters: Creating character trust and positive brand attitudes. Journal of Advertising 33 (2): 25–36.
Garretson, J.A., and S. Burton. 2005. The role of spokescharacters as advertisement and package cues in integrated marketing communications. Journal of Marketing 69 (4): 118–132.
Hartnett, N., J. Romaniuk, and R. Kennedy. 2016. Comparing direct and indirect branding in advertising. Australasian Marketing Journal 24 (1): 20–28.
Heil, M., F. Rösler, and E. Hennighausen. 1994. Dynamics of activation in long-term memory: The retrieval of verbal, pictorial, spatial, and color information. Journal of Experimental Psychology. Learning, Memory, and Cognition 20 (1): 185–200.
Henderson, P.W., and J.A. Cote. 1998. Guidelines for selecting or modifying logos. Journal of Marketing 62 (April): 14–30.
Henderson, P.W., J.A. Cote, and B. Schmitt. 2003. Building strong brands in Asia: Selecting the visual components of image to maximize brand strength. International Journal of Research in Marketing 20 (December): 297–313.
Herfindahl, O. C. (1950) Concentration in the steel industry. Doctoral dissertation, Columbia University.
Hirschman, A. 1945. National power and the structure of foreign trade. London: University of California Press.
Hirschman, A. 1980. National power and the structure of foreign trade (expanded edition). London: University of California Press.
Hoek, J., and P. Gendall. 2010. Colors, brands, and trademarks: The marketing (and legal) problem of establishing distinctiveness. Journal of Advertising Research 50 (3): 316–322.
Hynes, N. 2009. Colour and meaning in corporate logos: An empirical study. The Journal of Brand Management 16 (8): 545–555.
Janiszewski, C., and T. Meyvis. 2001. Effects of brand logo complexity, repetition, and spacing on processing fluency and judgment. Journal of Consumer Research 28 (1): 18–32.
Kapferer, J.-N. 2012. The new strategic brand management: Advanced insights and strategic thinking. London: Kogan Page.
Kauppinen-Räisänen, H., and H.T. Luomala. 2010. Exploring consumers’ product-specific colour meanings. Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal 13 (3): 287–308.
Keller, K.L. 1993. Conceptualizing, measuring, and managing customer-based brand equity. Journal of Marketing 57 (1): 1–22.
Keller, K.L. 2001. Building customer-based brand equity: A blueprint for creating strong brands. Cambridge, MA: Marketing Science Institute.
Keller, K.L. 2003. Brand synthesis: The multidimensionality of brand knowledge. Journal of Consumer Research 29 (4): 595–601.
Keller, L.K., T. Aperia, and M. Georgson. 2008. Choosing brand elements to build brand equity. In: Strategic brand management: A European perspective. Harlow, New York: Prentice Hall Financial Times.
Koch, C., and E.C. Koch. 2003. Preconceptions of taste based on color. The Journal of Psychology 137 (3): 233–242.
Kohli, C., L. Leuthesser, and R. Suri. 2007. Got slogan? Guidelines for creating effective slogans. Business Horizons 50 (5): 415–422.
Kohli, C., S. Thomas, and R. Suri. 2013. Are you in good hands? Slogan recall: What really matters. Journal of Advertising Research 53 (3): 31–42.
Kotler, P. 1991. Marketing management: Analysis, planning implementation, and control. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Labrecque, L.I., V.M. Patrick, and G.R. Milne. 2013. The marketers’ prismatic palette: A review of color research and future directions. Psychology & Marketing 30 (2): 187–202.
Lomax, W., E. Sherski, and S. Todd. 1999. Assessing the risk of consumer confusion: Some practical test results. The Journal of Brand Management 7 (2): 119–132.
Luo, Y., J. Sun, and S.L. Wang. 2011. Emerging economy copycats: Capability, environment, and strategy. The Academy of Management Perspectives 25 (2): 37–56.
Lutz, K., and R. Lutz. 1978. Imagery-eliciting strategies: Review and implications of research. Advances in Consumer Research 5 (1): 611–620.
Luxton, S., M. Reid, and F. Mavondo. 2015. Integrated marketing communication capability and brand performance. Journal of Advertising 44 (1): 37–46.
Major, J. (2014) Drawing the spotlight? Investigating the attention grabbing potential of distinctive assets. Masters by Research, University of South Australia.
Major, J., A. Tanaka, and J. Romaniuk. 2014. The competitive battleground of colours, logos and taglines in brand identity. In Design for business, ed. G. Muratovski. Bristol: Intellect Ltd.
Nandan, S. 2005. An exploration of the brand identity-brand image linkage: A communications perspective. Journal of Brand Management 12 (4): 264–278.
Nelson, D.L., V.S. Reed, and J.R. Walling. 1976. Pictorial superiority effect. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory 2 (5): 523–528.
Novagraaf. 2019. The colour purple: Cadbury drops bid to enforce trademark in the uk [Online]. Loxology. Available: https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=aa483ce4-835e-48bc-ad50-373f571eacec. Accessed 1 May 2019.
Olson, C. 2004. Maximizing brand recognition. Information Outlook 8 (1): 43.
Orth, U.R., and K. Malkewitz. 2008. Holistic package design and consumer brand impressions. Journal of Marketing 72 (3): 64–81.
Orth, U.R., Ohlhoff, J., Naber, C. & Cornwell, T.B. 2014. Putting a face to the brand: How wishful seeing enhances brand liking. In Academy of wine business research 8th international conference, Geisenheim, Germany.
Paivio, A. 1969. Mental imagery in associative learning and memory. Psychological Review 76 (3): 241–263.
Paivio, A. 1971. Imagery and verbal processes. New York: Rineheart & Winston.
Perry, A., and D. Wisnom. 2003. Before the brand: Creating the unique DNA of an enduring brand identity. New York: McGraw Hill Professional.
Piqueras-Fiszman, B., C. Velasco, and C. Spence. 2012. Exploring implicit and explicit crossmodal colour-flavour correspondences in product packaging. Food Quality and Preference 25 (2): 148–155.
Romaniuk, J. 2018a. Building colour-based distinctive assets. In Building distinctive brand assets, ed. J. Romaniuk. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
Romaniuk, J. 2018b. Why distinctive assets matter. In Building distinctive brand assets, ed. J. Romaniuk. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
Romaniuk, J., and E. Gaillard. 2007. The relationship between unique brand associations, brand usage and brand performance: Analysis across eight categories. Journal of Marketing Management 23 (3): 267–284.
Romaniuk, J., and M. Nenycz-Thiel. 2014. Measuring the strength of color brand-name links: The comparative efficacy of measurement approaches. Journal of Advertising Research 54 (3): 313–319.
Romaniuk, J., and B. Sharp. 2016. How brands grow: Part 2. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
Samal, A., and P.A. Iyengar. 1992. Automatic recognition and analysis of human faces and facial expressions: A survey. Pattern Recognition 25 (1): 65–77.
Shayon, S. 2011. Bad news, bears: Coke pulls back on white cans in holiday campaign to save polar bear [Online]. Brand channel. Available: https://www.brandchannel.com/2011/12/01/bad-news-bears-coke-pulls-back-on-white-cans-in-holiday-campaign-to-save-polar-bear-updated/. Accessed 12 Dec 2017.
Shenkar, O. 2010. Copycats: How smart companies use imitation to gain a strategic edge. Strategic Direction 26 (10): 3–5.
Smith, S.M., A. Glenberg, and R.A. Bjork. 1978. Environmental context and human memory. Memory & Cognition 6 (4): 342–353.
Snyder, A. 1993. Branding: Coming up for more air. Brandweek 34 (6): 24–28.
Tsao, D.Y., and M.S. Livingstone. 2008. Mechanisms of face perception. Annual Review of Neuroscience 31: 411–437.
Tulving, E., S. Kapur, F.I. Craik, M. Moscovitch, and S. Houle. 1994. Hemispheric encoding/retrieval asymmetry in episodic memory: Positron emission tomography findings. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 91 (6): 2016–2020.
Underwood, R.L. 2003. The communicative power of product packaging: Creating brand identity via lived and mediated experience. Journal of Marketing Theory & Practice 11 (1): 62–76.
Van den Bosch, A.L., M.D. de Jong, and W.J. Elving. 2005. How corporate visual identity supports reputation. Corporate Communications: An International Journal 10 (2): 108–116.
Van der Lans, R., J.A. Cote, C.A. Cole, S.M. Leong, A. Smidts, P.W. Henderson, C. Bluemelhuber, P.A. Bottomley, J.R. Doyle, A. Fedorikhin, J. Moorthy, B. Ramaseshan, and B.H. Schmitt. 2009. Cross-national logo evaluation analysis: An individual-level approach. Marketing Science 28 (5): 968–985.
Van Horen, F., and R. Pieters. 2012. Consumer evaluation of copycat brands: The effect of imitation type. International Journal of Research in Marketing 29 (3): 246–255.
Veryzer Jr., R.W., and J.W. Hutchinson. 1998. The influence of unity and prototypicality on aesthetic responses to new product designs. Journal of Consumer Research 24 (4): 374–385.
Wallis, G. 2013. Toward a unified model of face and object recognition in the human visual system. Frontiers in Psychology 4 (August): 1–25.
Watkins, T. 1986. The economics of the brand: A marketing analysis. New York City, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.
Wilke, R., and J.L. Zaichkowsky. 1999. Brand imitation and its effects on innovation, competition, and brand equity. Business Horizons 42 (6): 9–18.
Zaichkowsky, J.L. 2010. Strategies for distinctive brands. Journal of Brand Management 17 (8): 548–560.
Zampini, M., E. Wantling, N. Phillips, and C. Spence. 2008. Multisensory flavor perception: Assessing the influence of fruit acids and color cues on the perception of fruit-flavored beverages. Food Quality and Preference 19 (3): 335–343.
On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Appendix A: Description of data sets
|Consumables: food or drinks|
|Collection period||Category||Category screener. Purchased at least once in the past:||Sub-category||Country||Respondents (n)|
|July 2015||Bottled Beverages||3 months||Carbonated Soft Drinks||Norway||602|
|Breakfast Foods||6 months||
|February 2015||Coffee||3 months||NA||France||512|
|September 2015||Chocolate||3 months||NA||Australia||402|
|July 2015||Dairy Products||6 months||Chilled||Australia||617|
|August 2015||Snacks||6 months||Cookies||USA||407|
Purchased at least once in the past:
|March 2015||Air Freshener||12 months||NA||USA||409|
|February 2015||Dishwashing Detergent||Dishwasher in household||NA||France||607|
|April 2015||Food Storage||12 months||NA||USA||411|
|December 2014||Hair-care||6 months||NA||China||627|
Brazil and UK: June 2014|
All other countries:
|Household Cleaners||12 months||Drain Cleaner||USA||412|
|Insect Sprays||12 months||Insecticide||Italy||402|
|March 2015||Laundry Detergent||12 months||NA||USA||409|
Appendix B: Example of within survey element presentation
Appendix C: Asset type inclusion at category level
|B-fast foods||Chocolate||Snacks||HH cleaner||Insect Spray||Coffee||Dish Detergent||Bottled Beverage||Laundry Detergent||Food Storage||Dairy||Hair-care|
About this article
Cite this article
Ward, E., Yang, S., Romaniuk, J. et al. Building a unique brand identity: measuring the relative ownership potential of brand identity element types. J Brand Manag 27, 393–407 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41262-020-00187-6
- Brand identity
- Herfindahl–Hirschman Index