Since the 1970’s marketers have analyzed supermarket scanner data to get insights into brands that compete for the same purchase decision, and brands that get purchased together. Sadly, the range of brands appearing in such shopping baskets is limited to those found on supermarket shelves. However, consumer choice of which top brands to mention in Twitter tweets, part of what is called user-generated content, encodes a broader perspective on brand relationships.
Such relationships are usually portrayed as a map where brands are plotted in a coordinate system such as Figure 1. However, when applied to Twitter mentions such mapping failed to depict brand relationships that made sense. The problem is that mapping techniques place equal emphasis on brands that are seldom mentioned as they do on brands that are often mentioned, creating a distorted map.
A much better rendering of brand proximities occurs when you emphasize relationships between the brands most frequently mentioned by the same people as shown in Figure 2. Note how brands like Microsoft and Bank of America emerged as centers around which their competitors were organized. Marketers can use these insights as brand-building feedback. For example, Bank of America should be very happy that consumers organize the banking industry around them – that’s valuable brand awareness. It may seem odd that Red Bull is connected to the automotive brands instead of the food and beverage brands, until you Google “red bull racing” and see the investment Red Bull has made in associating its brand with Formula One racing under both the Red Bull brand and its Italian monicker Scuderia Torro Rosso. Figure 2 shows that investment has had the desired effect.
Figure 3 shows a true map of brand mentions where brands are positioned based on their location being triangulated from the three brands most mentioned by the same people. The heavy connections are the same as those in Figure 2. Marketers can use this map as a source of ideas to take advantage of unexpectedly finding brands close together in consumer perceptions. For example, note the close proximity between Red Bull and Smirnoff indicative of Red Bull’s widespread use as a vodka mixer. Even though controversy has surrounded the pairing since abuse has led to serious injury, it may be that collaboration between Red Bull and Smirnoff could lead to a pre-mixed product with less potential for harm that corners consumer demand.