It seems obvious, right?  The most important thing a brand needs to do is to get noticed and come to mind easily in a buying situation.  Or in current Ehrenberg Bass marketing terms …build Mental Availability.

Advertising looks after brand fame, but if you are advertising and your brand isn’t easily recognised, your spend is essentially wasted. Furthermore, if your brand isn’t remembered in a relevant purchasing situation, you haven’t joined the dots from the consumer to your brand.

Two brands that are putting Mental Availability at the centre of their marketing strategies are Irish Life and the National Lottery.  Karl Symes at Irish Life, and Paul Dervan at the National Lottery joined RED C on a webinar held just before Christmas to explain how they were using and interpreting information on Distinctive Brand Assets (DBA’s) and Category Entry Points (CEP’s).

Mental availability, as defined by Byron Sharp, encompasses the shortcuts that help consumers to choose brands, 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, it’s 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 effectively prompt or drive this recall through advertising?

In very basic terms, the purpose of CEPs is to grow the number of buying occasions that your brand / service comes into the mind of consumers (mental availability).  The more occasions that your brand/service might come to mind, the higher the probability that on one of those occasions, your brand will be really considered and ultimately bought.

So understanding which CEPs are most frequently occurring and have greatest potential amongst your target is vital.  Once you have identified them, your next step is to get creative!  As CEPs are all purchasing occasions, you can start to weave these into your marketing communications and create content which features these.  The more you feature these, the greater the likelihood that consumers will start to associate your brand with this buying occasion and then build this into their mental availability.

The great thing about CEPs is that they can give you a very clear direction of how to move forward with your next creative campaign and provide greater focus for your brand.

A good example of a CEP for the National Lottery is dreaming of changing your life.  When people dream of changing their lives, they sometimes think about the lottery. They think of other things too – going to the gym, getting a new job, even buying new clothes. They key here is to drive up the linkages between the National Lottery and Dream of Changing your life so it is thought of on more ‘buying occasions’ than competing categories or brands.  Using this example, you can see how they might weave ‘dream of changing your life’ into marketing communications.

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 brand saliency and ease of choice.

Distinctive brand assets create shortcuts in consumers’ minds when the brand itself is not being used.  They could be anything from logos, straplines, pack shapes, colours, music and fluent devices used in comms.  They all make it easier for people to bring the brand to mind.

They are so important, that it is absolute madness that every brand doesn’t know exactly what assets they have which are truly distinctive.  That means the assets which they have that are not just famous or well known, but also unique to the brand.    It’s not good enough to have fame and not be unique – as that just helps drive competitors’ recall.

The distinctive brand asset crown jewels should be protected at all costs and used ruthlessly by the business over the long term (that means across multiple marketing managers!).  It’s quite hard and takes rigour and discipline.

Paul Dervan at National Lottery gives the example of regularly having to resist the frequent calls to replace the music for the next ad with something new to change it up a bit.  He resists, because he has tested the brand’s assets and is aware how powerful the music is in bringing the National Lottery brand to mind.

Likewise, Karl Symes at Irish Life, used his understanding of the brand’s distinctive assets to successfully drive through a new master brand campaign, ensuring consistency of brand look and feel across campaign, and leave behind some assets from old collateral that simply weren’t as impactful as expected.

The clear message from all of this, is that if brands are in the memory making business, they need to truly understand what triggers those memories and what moments matter to bring the brand to mind.  A clear and regularly updated independent assessment of a brand’s assets, and a detailed understanding of category entry points is vital to achieve this.

If you don’t measure them  – you can’t grow them.


Find out more about how RED C measure Category Entry Points and Distractive Brand Assets  here