Taste Maps for Brands

For brands to stay relevant and successful, learning the tastes of customers is imperative. Taste influences how people see and act in the world. Taste is a reflection of our selves and a way to see what other people value. This idea led Stephen Bayley to describe taste as “a window and a mirror.”

The Taste Map,”a recent article by Ana Andjelic, charts four main areas where taste exists. It was commonplace to rely on the distinction between good and bad taste only, but this article seeks to expand that twofold division for four quadrants of taste. Picture a vertical axis. This line represents “taste flex” or cultural savvy. And then, a horizontal line represents price. These lines form a “+” and create the four quadrants, which we will now unpack.

Taste connects the symbolic and the commercial, and links aesthetics to consumer behavior. It reveals consumers values, identity and their desired status.

Brands are in the business of taste. 

Ana Andjelic, “The Taste Map.”

Quadrant 1 (top right) and quadrant 4 (top left), according to Andjelic, indicates “status signaling through showing off one’s cultural savvy and plugged in-ness.” The main idea here is not money, though that may be useful, but it is primarily about having an aesthetic sensibility and knowledge, which is further aided by having as solid network or community that helps push your knowledge and aesthetic sensibilities in a good direction.

The bottom two quadrants (2 and 3) are the realm of the traditional economy, where price determines everything else. The focus on this bottom half is “imitation and distinction.”

The New Taste Map. Ana Andjelic

To get more specific about the each of the four quadrants, we can begin with the first one (upper right). Andjelic avers that this is the realm of collectibles, in that things here are not merely bought but collected. “This taste space is responsible for setting the cultural mood, propagating aesthetic trends and shaping the aspiration.”

Quadrant 2 (lower right) is the domain of big luxury, big art, and big real estate. Frequently, one finds here what we call expensive kitsch. Sometime items here can move into quadrant 1, but this realm also involves quickly changing trends, which can also move them into quadrant 3.

The third quadrant (lower left) represents, for Andjelic, the land of faux-taste and lack of irony. The need for social approval among folks living in this quadrant is quite high. They want to live the life of big luxury, but the price tag is a major hindrance.

The fourth and final quadrant (upper left) is the land of experimentation, creativity, and aesthetic innovation. New trends are born here, and they are governed by spontaneity, anti-fashion, and counter culture.

Here, we presented merely a summary of Ana Andlejic’s ideas about taste. Whether she is wholly correct or not, it could be time to move beyond the traditional binary notions of good and bad taste and expand our understanding. You can read the full article by clicking the link above, or follow the link in the next sentence for another article about taste communities. Ana Andjelic also wrote this article: “Targeting Taste Communities.”

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