C-D Mapping: A Different Approach to Brand Mapping

Marketers have come to rely on brand maps to visually gauge a brand’s position in a given market against that of their competitors.  These traditional maps provide companies with a visual depiction of where a brand sits in the competitive landscape – informing companies on how their brand is perceived in general within the market compared to competitors, depicting which brands “own” certain brand attributes, and identifying opportunities for differentiation. However, while perceptual maps are useful for these quick overviews, they do not account for value-positioning (e.g. premium versus low cost).

In an effort to combine these, Charan K. Bagga and Niraj Dawar developed a tool that enables companies to plan their strategy with value positioning and brand positioning in mind. Using the Centrality-Distinctiveness (C-D) Map approach, Bagga and Dawar argue that companies can identify desired market positions for their brands, improve allocation of resources and optimize brand strategy. They can also track their brands’ performance against competitors over time.

In recognition of the challenge brands face in striking the right balance between being central to its product category (i.e. the first brand to come to mind) and distinct (i.e. a popular unique brand), the C-D Map approach measures a brand’s centrality and distinctiveness and plots this on an X-Y axis.  The C-D Map can be split into 4 quadrants to aid companies in interpreting their brand’s position:

Business data points such as sales volumes or pricing are used to inform the brand’s circle size on the C-D Map.  These business data points can help companies make informed decisions on the price that they can charge for their product and sales volumes.  Generally, increased distinctiveness in the market drives a more premium price while increased centrality drives higher sales volumes.

However, Bagga and Dawar argue that there are viable strategies for brands to be successful in any of these four quadrants.  For example, brands who find themselves in the aspirational quadrant (central and distinct) need to justify their price premiums through investment in research and development and innovation. By contrast, brands in the unconventional quadrant (not central but distinct) require more niche strategies and need to be profitable with lower sales volume.

Incorporating a C-D map into your company’s research toolbox can help plan and track the success of marketing strategies.

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