A Map of Modern Brand Building

David J Carr
7 min readNov 7, 2016
Download the Map of Modern Brand Building PDF to zoom in

In a connected world where new forces and technologies promise to “change everything” at least twice daily, our oldest concept remains the most important: the brand.

Are brands still relevant when anyone can become one? Are they just totems or fetishes we cling to, exhibiting what Tainter called “diminishing returns”, as large groups of people craft that perfect positioning statement?

I’d argue that brands are more important than ever. But what actually makes a brand? How do they create value for businesses?

Battles are being fought about this in books, research papers, blogs and keynotes. When you listen in on the arguments between the “geeks of big data”, the “cultists of digital engagement” and the “recidivists of the big (TV) idea”, it often seems that they are saying the same thing with different words (and different agendas).

Perhaps George Box can have the last word on this?

“All models are wrong but some are useful” — George E. P. Box

In the spirit of Box, and after a few chats with some colleagues at DigitasLBi and others (accompained by my scribbling of flows and diagrams), I thought I’d try to bring some of this debate — and more importantly evidence — together in a concept map.

The first draft is above. The PDF is here. The sources are below.

It’s a complex map of a simple truth: Distinctive, emotionally-powerful work that cuts-through with more buyers than your competition, consistently and in the long-term, builds great brands and revenue.

The gut feelings of the classic creative directors and planners — the Trotts and AdContrarians — were right. They were also wrong.

We shouldn’t hide from complexity but embrace it and make it work. Simple in its most ideal form, is the product of a concerted process that begins with embracing complexity.

Hunting for a single guaranteed formula for success is a fool’s errand. Rosenzweig wrote in The Halo Effect: “Anyone who claims to have found laws of business physics either understands little about business, little about physics or little about both.” (source)

The new data and empirical evidence we have for brand building can help us with clients and their boards (see Sharp, Field & others) beyond “trust me” and a couple of “selectively edited” case studies. The recent research and analysis that has gone on into effectiveness has also helped us better understand “HOW” the work works. But we must remember that we are complex people and businesses are complex systems that are forever evolving.

To paraphrase some great strategists: “Your brand doesn’t survive contact with the (consumer) enemy” or “everyone has a brand until you get punched in the face”.

Going forward brand data should be an inspiration and a support, but also we must be mindful that all data is contaminated and biased (even/especially IPA datasets drawn from Effectiveness Papers). Until the AIs take over next tuesday we need to be able to use our judgement and the evidence to our advantage and “support the irrational, risky, outlandish decisions that our heart is telling us to make”. This way we can build the brands and brand experiences with positive impact that will be relevant in the future.

This concept map is only a quick survey of some of the great thinking that is going on in our industry. It is not exhaustive. You could explode any one of the nodes and go deeper. You could wire some of it differently. It’s not right. It’s not (all) wrong.

I hope it is of some use to you.

Why a Concept Map?

Concept Mapping is a technique borrowed from Dubberly that we use in our Digital Innovation Group as part of the Immersion stage of Service Design. We start by grounding the map with a sentence that contains some of the most important terms and outlines the overarching challenge. This first sentence sets the context; then secondary sentences help define some of the main areas branching out at 90 degrees from the first sentence.

Then around the sentence we build out webs of terms (nodes) related by verbs (links) to other terms (nodes). The purpose of a concept map is to represent (on a single visual plane) a model of the relationships between ideas and concepts. Concept maps provide a useful contrast with essays and powerpoint decks. With a concept map, a viewer can see both the forest and individual trees. The big picture is clear because all the ideas are presented on one surface. At the same time, it’s easy to dive in and see details and how they relate.

Printed out very large and put up in the work space, they’re good for transferring knowledge between strategy/research and the rest of the team esp. design/creative (i.e. stops it all the information being locked up in powerpoint decks and people’s heads). This is used in service design projects where there might be a lot of information that teams need to know or access in order to just do the job (beyond a simple brief). If you’re going to meet an oncologist and a patient undergoing Immuno-therapy and you don’t know your CTLA4 from your PDL1 and how they work then you’re going to look stupid very quickly. Admittedly researching and drawing the one on the left below almost drove me mad, but that’s the US health insurance & pharmacoeconomic evidence system for you ;-)

A couple of concept maps we’ve used in DIG

The “Map of Modern Brand Building” concept map is split in two: the bottom is “How Brands shift demand and contribute to profit”, the top is about “Designing and managing a brand”.


Sources & thanks:

First Impressions Count: The power of instant meaning for brand decisions — Dr Sarah Walker with Graham Page

A new measure of consideration set size: The average number of salient brands — Lara Stocchi, Melissa Banelis and Malcolm Wright

Point of view: Brand-washed — Byron Sharp

How Brands Grow 1 — Byron Sharp

How Brands Grow 2 — Jenni Romaniuk and Byron Sharp

The Long and the Short of It — Balancing Short and Long-Term Marketing Strategies — Les Binet & Peter Field

Loyalty is not the Holy Grail — Byron Sharp and Kate Newstead

Differentiation or Salience — John Scriven, Niel Barnard and Andrew Ehrenberg

Achieving Reach in a Multi-Media Environment: How a Marketer’s First Step Provides the Direction for the Second — Jenni Romaniuk, Virginia Beal, and Mark Uncles

Redefining Brand Salience Using Memory Theory and Implications for Measurement — Julian Vieceli, Deakin University and Frank Alpert, Griffith University

Brand and Advertising Awareness: A Replication and Extension of a Known Empirical Generalisation — Jenni Romaniuk, Byron Sharp, Samantha Paech & Carl Driesener

Conceptualizing and measuring brand salience — Jenni Romaniuk and Byron Sharp

Repetitive Advertising and the Consumer — Andrew Ehrenberg

Brands must beware the lure of firework fame — Jeremy Bullmore

Evidence concerning the importance of perceived brand differentiation — Jenni Romaniuk, Byron Sharp & Andrew Ehrenberg

What will brands look like in 2030? — Nick Liddell

Brand strategy that shifts demand: Less buzz, more economics — Eric Almquist and Tamar Dane Dor-Ner, Bain

Brand building: the different approaches — Andrew Perkins, VCCP @ Open Strategy School of Planning

Why We Should Stop Worrying So Much About Loyalty And Relationships, And Focus On Getting A Lot Of Penetration — Martin Weigel

Channel planning: Effectiveness lies in channel integration — Tim Broadbent

Exploding the Legend of Television Advertising and Price Promotions: The Proper Mix of Price, InStore, and TV for Maximum Short- and Long-Term ROI — Bill Harvey, Terese Herbig, Matthew Keylock, Ritesh Aggarwal and Nina Lerner

In search of digital ROI: Best practices for including digital data in marketing mix modeling — Eric Schmidt

Is the Multi-Platform Whole More Powerful Than Its Separate Parts? Measuring the Sales Effects of Cross-Media Advertising — Jennifer Taylor, Rachel Kennedy, Colin McDonald, Laurent Larguinat, Yassine El Ouarzazi, and Nassim Haddad

Planning for synergy: Harnessing the power of multi-platform media — Ehrenberg-Bass Institute

Why share of voice matters — Robert Whiteford, Nikki Clarke and Peter Field

Media Strategy in the Era of Accountability (Plus the rest of the Era of Accountability study) — Les Binet and Peter Field

Short Term sales, Long term profit: How to get the balance right — Les Binet and Peter Field

The liberation of magic: How marketing science opens up creative opportunity — Martin Weigel

‘What Brand Loyalty Can Tell Us’, Admap, October 2004, Issue 45–4—Andrew Ehrenberg

How to Define Your Purpose, Vision, Mission, Values, and Key Measures — Nobl

Brand Leadership: The Next Level of the Brand Revolution — David A. Aaker

Brand Relevance: Making Competitors Irrelevant — David A. Aaker

Building Strong Brands — David A. Aaker

From Brand Platform to Brand as a Platform—John Winsor

Strategic Brand Management — Kevin Lane Keller

The Anatomy of Humbug — Paul Feldwick

The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes — Margaret Mark and Carol Pearson

How great leaders inspire action — Simon Sinek

Winning in consumer packaged goods through data and analytics—Kari Alldredge, Jen Henry, Julie Lowrie, and Antonio Rocha

Know Your Customers’ “Jobs to Be Done”—Clayton M. Christensen, Taddy Hall, Karen Dillon, David S. Duncan

“Exploiting The Implicit” IPA Excellence Diploma — Pete Buckley

What is a brand? — Stephen King

A Master Class in Brand Planning: The Timeless Works of Stephen King — Judie Lannon (Editor), Merry Baskin (Editor)

Advertising and packaging recommendations for Packaged cakes, 1965 — Stephen King (otherwise known as the Mr Kipling proposal)

Plus research, blog posts, and conversations (real & Twitter) with…

Millward Brown, Neilsen, Open Strategy, Google, Facebook, Temkin, Deloitte, Bain, Unilever, Kantar, APG, IPA, Decoded, Richard Huntingdon, Richard Shotton, Guy Murphy, Shekhar Deshpande, Tom Goodwin, Tracey Follows, Faris Yakob, Ed Beard, Lise Pinnell, Mobbie Nazir, Nic Howell, Fern Miller, Paul Dalton, Mark Earls, Rob Alexander, Tony Quinn and others…

Any good stuff is their fault, any bad is mine.



David J Carr

Strategy Director. ex-CD, Planning Director & Head of UX @ Digitas, DIG, Publicis, Chemistry & JWT. APG Gold & Google Planning Innovator of Year.