Distinctive Brand Assets and Category Entry Points (CEPs)


The following post is nothing more than a collection of notes from my reading of Building Distinctive Brand Assets, by Jenni Romaniuk. It has helped me (and it might help you) to recall all definitions and logic links.


Branding is about making the brand name memorable. Correct branding is a measure of how many people exposed to the marketing activity are able to name the brand being advertised. 

Human Memory

The idea of human memory is referred to as the collective associative network theories of memory by Anderson & Bower, 1979. This process of building a network also describes how a brand is created in your memory (Keller, 1993).

Distinctive Assets

We rarely remember for the sake of remembering; we usually remember for a specific purpose. And for most categories that purpose is to buy something to satisfy an open objective. We store memories for utilitarian reasons, such as to remember that specific restaurant with excellent Thai Food. The key benefit of remembering Distinctive Assets is often utilitarian.

My note: We don’t need to think. DAs are shortcuts to facilitate our decisional process.

For Distinctive Assets to form, the brand name has to be already in memory. If your brand doesn’t have widespread recognition, then it is advisable to work on building brand awareness before building Distinctive Assets. Once links with a brand name are formed, DAs sits in the brand’s network of associations, along with other linked attributes. 


To have the best chance of being retrieved, a brand needs to be more accessible – fresher – than competitive options. Distinctive Assets give the brand more pathways to retrieval but, while a brand could gather a large number of Distinctive Assets, the need to keep assets fresh or accessible puts a limit on the sustainable number of assets. 

Freshness matter but also does the number of other memories fighting for retrieval. The greater the number of other memories linked to the Distinctive Asset, the lower the chance the brand will be retrieved.

The brand not only has to fight to keep fresher than competitors’ brand, but also fresher than any memories linked to its Distinctive Assets. This is key reason why it is riskier for a brand to try to cultivate DAs with rich meaning. A measure of the level of mental competition that exist is Uniqueness.

The power of a DA is that it can act as a proxy for the brand, and so, can achieve the same ownership, anchor and bridge roles.

Mental Availability, Brand Salience, Touch Points

Mental Availability (also referred to as brand salience) is a brand propensity to come to mind in buying situations. When a brand becomes mentally available in a buying situation, it take that first crucial step toward being bought.

My note: mental availability / category entry point connection direction matters. Eg. it doesn’t help if your brand creates a connection with breakfast. You need breakfast to create a connection with your brand.

When incorporated into the branding strategy of any consumer touch point, DAs can increase the presence of the brand.

Touch points can range from advertising to social media to point of sales in-store.

Category Entry Points (CEPs)

A known brand is a node in memory with other linked attributes and associations. To access our memories we need a point of entry or cue.

Our brain limits the energy devoted to accessing memories in any specific circumstances so we don’t exhaust our mental resources. Only a few items make the mental leap from long-term memory into working memory.

Advertising build up key mental structures to increase a brand chance of being mentally available in buying situations. To build mental availability (salience) in buying situation the messages in advertising need to draw from the cues that category buyers use to access possible brands to buy in that situation. By refreshing the link to those memories, the brand becomes more mentally available.

Those cues are referred as Category Entry Points (CEPs). CEPs represent myriad of thoughts that can become cues to access options from memory. A brand attached to these cues has the chance to become mentally available, making CEPs valuable mental structures for the brand to build. While CEPs can be associated with the brand, they are not associations about the brand.

The more CEPs the brand is attached to, the greater the number of retrieval pathways available to the brand. For brand strategy this means that setting a goal of broadening the brand’s CEP network is more effective than a traditional strategy of trying to own a single attribute. 

If you’re a brand strategist

Also, super-interesting article by Claire Stickett, here. As a brand strategist, this means that the questions you need to ask are, in this order:

  • On what occasions in our consumers’ lives do we want our brand to come to mind? What chances are we currently missing? Where are our competitors beating us in the battle for mental availability? Do we have competitors in those moments (from products in other market categories) that we hadn’t realised we were in direct competition with?
  • What are the memory structures associated with those moments? 
  • How can our comms create links to those? — through memorable, distinctive, consistently branded creative that generating long-term powerfully embedded conscious and unconscious connections.
  • How does the way we (inter)act combined with the reality of the products we create give people a good reason to choose us once they’ve thought of us? (This is the traditional brand positioning work, combined with a focus on customer experience.)

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