A perceptual map is a chart used to illustrate where a product or brand and its competitors are positioned according to consumer perception. Learn how your brand can unlock industry insights through perceptual maps and identify paths into new marketplaces.
When it comes to positioning your brand or product in the marketplace, consumer perception is king. But for marketers, it can be difficult to distinguish between your actual position and where you perceive yourself to be.
A perceptual map is a popular market research framework that can help you visualize your market positioning in the eyes of consumers. When done correctly, your perceptual map should illustrate not only where your brand currently sits according to consumers but also where it can go. You can use these graphs to map the customer journey and identify gaps in the marketplace.
Below, we’ll explain each step involved in creating your map, why it’s important, and how you can use this tool to take your marketing strategy to the next level.
A perceptual map is a diagram used for visualizing consumer perceptions of different brands or products.
A standard perceptual positioning map is presented on a two-axis scatter chart, where each axis represents a relevant industry attribute. This chart should not only include your brand’s position relative to the two attributes you’re measuring against, but also the position of your competitors. That way, you can get an at-a-glance understanding of how the consumer perceives each brand—individually and relative to one another.
Every brand positioning map represents two attributes measured on a scale. For example, on the X-axis, you might measure price against its competing value (e.g. high price vs. low price). On the Y-axis, you might measure exclusivity against its competing value (e.g. least exclusive vs. most exclusive). Using opposing values reveals your brand’s competitive positioning relative to other brands in your industry.
In its final form, the perceptual map should accurately depict exactly where people perceive you and your competitors in relation to the selected attributes. However, like a flowchart, mind map, or any good creative strategy, some legwork is required upfront. Keep reading as we outline the four steps necessary to create your own map and walk through some perceptual map examples.Free perceptual map template
Perceptual maps provide a better understanding of customer perceptions and market positioning. When crafting a perceptual map, marketing teams often rely on two main types: two-dimensional and multi-dimensional maps.
Both types of perceptual maps can play a significant role in shaping effective marketing strategies. By leveraging these tools, businesses can gain critical insights into customer experiences and tailor their offerings to better meet the needs of their target audience.
One frequently used tool in marketing campaigns is the two-dimensional perceptual map, also known as a two-axis map. It provides a real-time visual representation of customer feedback and perceptions based on two determining attributes. This type of map is particularly effective for highlighting market gaps and offering a better understanding of competing products.
A common use case in perceptual map marketing is when a brand uses two dimensions, such as price and quality, to position their product category against competitor products.
Example: In the automobile industry, brands could be positioned based on fuel efficiency and price. A two-dimensional map would clearly illustrate where each car brand stands in terms of affordability and eco-friendliness, helping customers make informed purchase decisions.
When market dynamics are more complex, multi-dimensional perceptual maps come into play. These maps can include several determining attributes, offering a more nuanced view of customer surveys and survey data.
Example: In the smartphone market, a multi-dimensional map might consider factors like battery life, camera quality, price, and screen size. This approach improves project management strategies, helps teams identify market gaps, and helps them better understand complex customer feedback about competing products.
By analyzing multiple aspects of customer experience and product features in real-time, this type of perceptual map offers a nuanced view of the market, which is invaluable for developing targeted marketing campaigns.
Creating an accurate perceptual map requires a detailed understanding of how consumers perceive your brand or product and the brand or product of your competitors. As a result, you’ll need to conduct some thorough market research before diving into the actual construction of the map.
Follow our four-step plan to get the best results from your perceptual map.
The first step in creating your perceptual map is to pick the parameters that best represent what a customer might consider when choosing between you and your competitors.
When selecting parameters, you should focus on your own business objectives and what attributes are most relevant to your market. If you’re not sure, consider conducting research or putting together focus groups to help you select the appropriate parameters.
Some parameters may include:
Quality and price
Modernity and complexity
Coolness and practicality
Convenience and choice
In your perceptual map, these will turn into four different opposing values:
Low-quality v.s. high quality and low price v.s. high price
Modern v.s. traditional and complex v.s. basic
Uncool v.s. very cool and indulgent v.s. practical
Convenient v.s. inconvenient and extensive v.s. limited
Think about customer pain points when laying out your parameters. Ask yourself about the attributes that lead to success in your industry and what factors might sway someone away from your brand or product. Considering all these elements will be pivotal in putting together the most accurate perceptual map.
The second step in creating your perceptual map is defining your competitors. The more competitors you include, the better—aim for at least 10 competitors. Having a large sample size will give you the most accurate visualization of your position relative to competitors.
The best way to accomplish this is by running a competitive analysis. A competitive analysis will reveal your direct and indirect competitors, as well as your strengths and weaknesses in relation to them.
When running your competitive analysis, consider:
A description of your target market
Insights into your target audience
Details about your product or service
Differences between your current marketing strategies
Differences in customer ratings
While this may be the most time-intensive step in the process, it’s also the most important. If you don’t assess your competitors correctly, then you won’t be able to build the most accurate perceptual map.
In this phase of the process, try to get as much information from your competitors and audience as you can. Consider the many types of marketing and utilize surveys or interviews to get consumer feedback.
If you get as much competitor data as you can upfront, the map creation process itself will be much easier.
Once you’ve established your industry’s parameters and determined who your competitors are, it’s time to create your map.
Using insights from your competitive analysis, draw out your map and add your competitors where you think they belong. For example, if you’re trying to figure out where to position your new fashion brand, add ten or more competitors in the fashion industry before positioning yourself.
Adding your brand last allows you to view the competitive landscape first so you can most accurately determine where you fit.
If you’re trying to gauge consumer perception of a new product or crafting a GTM strategy, you can format your perceptual map the same way. Looking closely at individual product positioning can be very helpful in understanding different success metrics and why consumers choose one product over another. See an example of a product positioning map below.
Finally, share your perceptual map with your marketing stakeholders and shareholders to figure out if you’re on the right track in positioning your brand or product. What changes can you make?
Some insights that can come from these brainstorms may include:
Your business model is too similar to that of competitors and you need to differentiate your brand.
Consumer attitudes toward your brand aren’t accurate and you need to change your advertising.
You have an opportunity to take advantage of a gap in your industry.
You could benefit from a promotional campaign to change consumer attitudes.
You’re right where you need to be. Congrats!
Sharing your map should spark conversations about the current perception of your brand or product. Use these insights to determine the next step in your strategic plan.Free perceptual map template
Knowing how perceptual mapping is used in real-world situations can greatly improve strategic decision-making in a variety of business contexts. Below are perceptual map examples across three key areas: marketing, customer service, and product management.
For marketers and brands, perceptual maps help identify market positions and customer preferences. For example, perception mapping could depict respondents’ perceptions of snack brands based on healthiness and taste. This visual representation helps marketers understand where their brand stands in comparison to competitors and can guide the development of targeted advertising strategies.
By analyzing where gaps exist in the market, businesses can use perceptual maps to tailor their marketing campaigns to either fill these gaps or capitalize on their strengths.
By plotting customer feedback on aspects such as service quality and product value, perceptual maps offer companies insights into areas needing improvement. For instance, a hotel chain might use a perceptual map to assess guest perceptions of room comfort versus price.
Such an analysis can reveal opportunities for enhancing customer satisfaction and lead to repeat business and positive word-of-mouth. Implementing changes based on perceptual mapping makes certain that a business evolves in line with customer expectations.Read: How empathy maps help you understand your customer
When launching a new product, perceptual maps can provide a strategic overview of how the product might be received in the current market. For example, a tech company launching a new smartwatch might use a perceptual map to position their product based on innovation and price. This helps to better understand how potential customers might perceive the new product in relation to existing offerings.Modello gratuito per il lancio del marketing
Using a perceptual map early in a product launch can guide product development to meet target market needs.
Marketing and advertising teams primarily use perceptual maps to evaluate current strategies; however, these maps have functionality outside of internal brainstorms.
You can use perceptual maps to impress clients with your expertise in competitive landscapes and industry trends. Showing perceptual maps to clients can help them easily visualize their brand’s baseline and potential avenues or roadblocks into new markets.
You can also employ perceptual mapping as a highly-rewarding market segmentation exercise for team members looking to expand their skill set. These maps can help junior marketers or new hires learn more about the company, their competitors, and the industry landscape.
Below, you can download our blank perceptual map template and put it into practice with your own brand. If you’re part of a team, show this perceptual map maker to your teammates to get their initial thoughts and feedback.
This free template is not only adaptable for digital use with Windows or MacOS, but it's also perfect for brainstorming sessions on a whiteboard in your workspace. You can incorporate this perceptual map seamlessly into Asana, Word documents, PowerPoint templates (PPT), Excel sheets, Google Slides, and more.
Whether you're using it digitally or physically, our free perceptual map template is designed to streamline your workflow and enhance your presentations and documents in a professional and efficient manner.Free perceptual map template
Additionally, for those involved in detailed project planning, consider using our Gantt chart template. This diagram template is particularly beneficial for mapping out project timelines and tasks, making it a must-have tool in your project management arsenal.
To know where you’re going, you first need to know where you are. Perceptual mapping shows you where you currently stand in the market landscape and reveals the path forward.