Mapping Brand Strategy: Leveraging Distinctiveness and Centrality

by | Jun 5, 2017 | Brand Development & Strategy

When creating a new company or product, it must be representative of others in its category, but unique enough to differentiate itself from competitors. To address this contradictory goal, Professors Niraj Dawar and Charan K. Bagga created the central-distinctiveness (C-D) map to analyze business performance against brand positioning.



The map is organized into four quadrants. Mainstream brands have a large appeal, but lack a distinctive quality, ultimately reducing the pricing power. This section is filled with popular brands like Ford and McDonalds. Peripheral brands also lack distinguishing features and do not hold favorable views among consumers. Despite the unattractive placement, companies like Kia and Pabst claim a competitive portion of sales in their respective industries.



Unique characteristics set unconventional brands apart from classic products in its industry. However, these brands, like Tesla, attract a small niche market, resulting in a low share of sales. Finally, aspirational brands are successful in both their widespread appeal and distinguishing features. Products like Mercedes and BMW claim a high percentage of sales and do so at a higher price.


Their research found the distinctiveness and centrality should be viewed together to further benefit the company rather than solely pursuing one. Below are three findings from the C-D map research to elevate and grow your small business.


1. Map Your Strategy

Through the C-D map, how consumers view a brand’s distinctiveness is directly linked to market performance, providing immediate feedback on your current marketing or brand strategy’s effectiveness. A regression analysis of Dawar and Bagga’s data found increasing one-point on the centrality scale also corresponds to an increase in sales. For unconventional products, this can be a key strategic goal to gain market traction while still maintaining their distinctive traits. However, mainstream products already high in centrality would suffer in adopting this change. Utilize the map to ensure the proposed strategy transformation would result in improved brand performance or perception.


Brand Strategy1

2. Consider Competitors

Typical business competition maps only examine a select number of characteristics about the brand. However, because your business shares certain qualities with another does not make you direct competitors. A C-D map examines customer perceptions, allowing brands to examine true competitors instead of perceived ones. Incorporating a C-D map allows for a better understanding of your market and what you need to emphasize or change to increase sales or brand perception.

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A simplified C-D for car manufacturers

3. Acknowledge Your Target Market

In their research, Dawar and Bagga found large differences between national and regional survey results. Rather than initially attempting to please the entire global market, focus marketing on your core customers. For example, when viewed through a national lens, Subaru cars scored low in both categories on the C-D map. However, its all-weather features make it incredibly popular in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest, earning the company a place in the aspirational section instead. Placement on the map should align with your business model and target demographic.

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