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 perception 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
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 ownbusiness objectivesand 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 themany 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 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
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.
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.