Measuring brand properties – research part 2

This is the second post on the research we have done on the power of brand properties. In the first post we saw how most companies lack a proper system for measuring brand properties. As a result, changes happen based on organisational changes or judgement, running the risk of destroying valuable brand equity.

In this second post we look at an ‘Iconic Asset Tracker’ (IcAT) study that we ran in partnership with decode marketing consultancy, to show how to effectively measure brand properties. The study covered ice cream, beer and cosmetics amongst a representative panel of 1,000 UK consumers. Highlights for Magnum ice cream are shown here (full results from all three categories available on request.)

Importantly, the study uses an ‘implicit thinking’ approach, where people react to brand properties in less than a second. This highlights the iconic assets that are truly embedded in memory structure, as opposed to those recalled only after having thought about it.

The shape of success 

The IcAT study allows you to measure the activation’ score (prompts recall of the brand) of different properties. This makes decisions on whether to change or ditch a property more data based.

In the case of Magnum, the brand’s most iconic asset is the product shape (see below): the brand’s distinctiveness is ‘baked in’ to the product itself. The Gold core extension also has strong activation. In contrast, the brand’s slogan, ‘For pleasure seekers’, is less strong (41%), with 1⁄3 of people linking this to Häagen Dazs. Celebrities score much lower, with the most recent endorser, Benicio del Toro, scoring a lowly 21%.

Screen Shot 2014-09-19 at 10.11.42

Product as hero

The importance of product linkage to brand properties is shown by results from the Magnum’s communication visuals. Many brands could learn from Magnum’s success in creating a distinctive shape and product ritual..

Screen Shot 2014-09-19 at 10.12.54The left image has a much higher activation score for Magnum, as the product shape and ‘cracking’ is featured. In contrast, the right image has a low activation score, with 1⁄2 of people mistaking it for Cornetto.

In this second pair of Magnum images, stronger product link activates the brand much better than a generic ‘sensual indulgence’ image.

Chopping and changing 

Screen Shot 2014-09-19 at 10.13.54Results on Magnum’s celebrities show the risk of changing properties, as highlighted earlier in the paper. Eva Longoria was used in 2008, six years ago. However, she has more than twice the brand activation than Benicio del Toro, who the brand switched to in 2010. Del Toro was actually more linked with Häagen-Dazs, with a 34% activation score!


The important role played by brand properties in building strong brands is confirmed by the survey. The survey also has some clear recommendations on how to best measure and manage these valuable business assets:

  • Harness more properties: whilst brand identity properties are used by most companies, there appears to be an opportunity to use other properties to boost distinctiveness, including activation and especially sonic properties, such as music and jingles.
  • Proper property management: too many changes in brand property are caused by organisational changes, especially a change of marketing director. This risks changing properties prematurely, thus destroying valuable memory structure.
  • What gets measured gets done: most companies still lack a proper quantitative process for tracking the recall and meaning of brand properties, to allow better management of these assets. When putting in place a tracking system, this needs to use ‘implicit’ research, as highlighted in the example in
    this paper.