Guide to Building a Better Brand Map
June 20, 2018

It is every marketer’s dream to be the Coca-Cola of their world.

But what does that mean? Marketers have time and time again struggled with trying to meet conflicting goals. They want to be the go-to central brand in their respective category while also being uniquely distinctive.

(Central brands are the ones that come to mind when you think of a specific category. Distinctive are the ones that stand out. The goal is to be both.)

Coca-Cola does that in the soft drink category and McDonald’s dominates this idea in the fast food class.


Two Richard Ivey Business School professors have come up with an idea

Two Richard Ivey Business School professors have come up with an idea that can help marketers and businesses reach that level of both centrality and distinctiveness with their centrality and distinctiveness (C-D) map. It goes against the usual perceptual mapping that marketers have always used. Perceptual mapping is as it sounds; it attempts to visually display the perceptions of customers and potential customers. It positions the product or brand relative to the competition.

But professors Niraj Dawar’s and Charan Bagga’s mapping system goes further to connect what customers want with business performance. Centrality (the x-axis) shows how much the product/brand meets the generic needs of customers. Distinctiveness (the y-axis) outlines the uniqueness of a brand and how much it stands out.


This type of information gives the C-D Map an edge over perceptual maps because

This type of information gives the C-D Map an edge over perceptual maps because it doesn’t just show the brand’s positioning but helps to show where the brand can go and how a shift on the map could produce greater results. It shows both possibilities and competitive threats.

“Traditional perceptual maps might identify gaps in the market, but they don’t identify whether there is a market in the gap,” said Dawar, noting that even a small shift toward centrality can prominently increase a business’ sales. Brands may start out distinctive and make their way towards centrality and vice versa.


To see where brands fall, Dawar and Bagga used a four-quadrant mapping system:

Brands that fall in either quadrant can be successful. “Not all brands have to be Coca-Cola,” said Dawar. “We found we could also link a brand’s position on the map to marketplace performance.”

The mapping system is able to correlate unit volumes and price premiums. For example, the map, though not always the case, generally indicates that a product may have higher dollar profits but fewer sales than a competitor if it is unique and costly. Also, the sales value seems to increase with centrality, while prices drop.

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