bcg matrix

What is the BCG matrix?

The BCG matrix (aka Boston Matrix) is a tool which uses the relative market share and growth rate of the various product lines of an organization to assess the relative strength of products in a brand’s portfolio. The BCG model assigns products into four categories – Stars, Cash Cows, Question Marks, and Dogs – quickly identifying which products need attention and helps to inform their investment strategy.

This growth vs share model provides an indication of which products an organization should invest in, those they should develop, and the ones they should get rid of. The model advocates that a company milks their cows, doesn’t waste money on the dogs, invests in the stars and applies some resources to the question marks to identify if they can become stars.

The BCG matrix was developed by the Boston Consulting Group and is also known as the BCG growth-share matrixBoston matrixproduct portfolio matrixBoston boxBoston Consulting Group analysis, or a portfolio diagram.

Why use the BCG matrix?

The BCG matrix is a simple, easy to use tool that:

  • Identifies products that are profitable now, those with potential, and those which are, or could be, a drain on resources
  • Informs resource allocation across a product portfolio

Who should use the BCG matrix?

The BGG matrix is mainly used in organizations that have more than one product competing for resources. It can inform a number of different business functions including marketing, strategy, and portfolio planning.

Tips for facilitating an effective BCG analysis

BCG matrix template

The BCG matrix template plots products or product categories against two variables:

  • Relative Market Share (horizontal axis) – the higher the market share, the more cash likely being generated. This measurement reflects a brand’s competitive position and is usually expressed as their market share relative to their closest competitor.
  • Relative Market Growth (vertical axis) – products with high market growth rate usually have higher earnings but also consume lots of cash and require investment to pursue and maintain that growth. Market growth is a good indicator of industry attractiveness and gives an indication of a product’s future potential, overall market strength, and attractiveness to future competitors.

Question Marks

High Growth, Low Share
Products with low market share but in high growth industries. Often associated with emerging markets. These products:
  • have the potential to gain market share and become stars
  • may eventually become cash cows when market growth slows
  • can become dogs if they don’t succeed in becoming a market leader after a period of investment or the market growth declines.
Suggested actions: Carefully analyze to see if they’re worth investing in to increase market share. Consider investing for market penetration, market development, or product development; or divesting.


Low Growth, Low Share
Products with low market share in a mature, slow-growing market. These products:
  • usually generate minimal profit
  • are sometimes maintained for strategic purposes e.g., they provide jobs, have synergies with other business units, or are a defense against competitors.
Suggested action: Consider eliminating these products by retrenching, divesting, or liquidating. Maintain (in special circumstances)


High Growth, High Share
These products have a high market share and are in a fast-growing industry. They bring in good profits and have an opportunity to expand further in a growing market. Stars help to assure the future of a company. These products:
  • are question marks that have gained market share and are improving.
  • can become cash cows as the market stabilizes.
  • may become dogs if they lose their competitive edge, and the market becomes obsolete (not uncommon in technology fields).
Suggested action: Resource to maintain market position and growth. Consider vertical or horizontal integration options, investing for market penetration, market development, or product development.

Cash Cows

Low Growth, High Share
Products with high market share but low growth. These products:
  • generate good profits and supply funds for future growth
  • were often stars in market which has now matured and slowed
  • don’t have many opportunities to expand as the market is growing too slowly for investment to be worthwhile.
  • might become stars with further product development.
Suggested action: Support to maintain their current market share. “Milk” while investing as little as possible. Consider investing in product development, diversifying, divesting or retrenching.

How to do a BCG analysis

The BCG matrix is based on the theory that in a natural business cycle products usually start as question marks, then become stars as the market grows. When that growth slows they become cash cows and eventually dogs. A diversified company will have products across the spectrum to ensure future growth and funding.

Market share – Estimate your market share by comparing your brand’s revenue with that of your largest competitor in the industry to get a ratio. If you are stronger, your share is greater than 1. If they are stronger, the number is less than 1. Even without exact figures, this process can still trigger valuable conversations.

Market Growth – Expressed in percentage terms. Found in industry reports or by analyzing revenue growth of leading firms

Identify Products

Identify products in the portfolio you’d like to consider.


Position the products on the matrix.

Action Plan

Identify actions based on the strategic options for the BCG categorization.


Share the outcomes of the session, including the action plan, with stakeholders.

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