Perceptual Mapping In A Nutshell

Perceptual mapping is the visual representation of consumer perceptions of brands, products, services, and organizations as a whole. Indeed, perceptual mapping asks consumers to place competing products relative to one another on a graph to assess how they perform with respect to each other in terms of perception.

Understanding perceptual mapping

For businesses, a clear understanding of how they are perceived by consumers is crucial to their success. So too is the perception of a business relative to its main competitors. These insights help businesses understand their target consumers and create useful products accordingly. These insights can also extend to identifying gaps in the market and staying ahead of market trends.

Perceptual mapping asks consumers to place competing products relative to one another on a graph. Examples of metrics that may be analyzed include:

  • Price vs quality.
  • Price vs functionality.
  • Tastiness vs health rating.
  • Safety vs price.
  • Performance vs price.

Creating a perceptual map

Most perceptual maps are two-dimensional charts displaying two axes – with each axis serving as a scale from low to high and representing one metric. Let’s assume for this example that the two metrics being analyzed are price and quality.

Once the metrics have been determined, the following steps include:

  1. Brainstorming a list of products in a market. This allows businesses to identify the most common products and avoids bias.
  2. Placing each product on the map according to its price and quality values. In other words, a low quality, low price product will occupy a vastly different position than a higher quality, higher-priced product.
  3. Having marketers prepare a report on the outcomes to share with relevant stakeholders. Ideally, some products and companies will be judged on various attributes over multiple conceptual maps. This gives a more comprehensive view of the market and is of particular importance in highly fluid and dynamic market environments.

Perceptual mapping using qualitative and quantitative data

Perceptual maps may represent either qualitative or quantitative data, with each serving a different purpose.


Qualitative performance maps illustrate consumer perceptions of a brand, product, or service. Indeed, the attributes chosen for appraisal must come directly from individuals in the form of interviews and surveys.

If, for example, WordPress customers were interviewed about the attributes they valued most, they might consider user-friendliness and support to be the most important. A map could then be created to show how WordPress is positioned for these attributes when compared to main competitors Squarespace and Weebly.


Quantitative performance mapping deals with objective and measurable statistics. Here, attributes are based on empirical evidence and not on the subjective thoughts, feelings, and emotions seen in qualitative research.

Consider the example of a gas station trying to increase market share. It might determine that in-store discretionary purchase amount and average distribution cost per gallon are important competitive metrics. 

In both qualitative and quantitative analyses, the business must understand the why of its positioning on the map. A business that ranks highly in certain attributes should double down on the strategies that got it there. Conversely, a business that ranks lowly should devise a strategy for improvement by looking at the strategies of relevant competitors.

Key takeaways:

  • Perceptual mapping is a graphic illustration of where a brand, product, or company is positioned with respect to its competitors.
  • Perceptual mapping makes value judgments about certain attributes that a business deems relevant to market competitiveness.
  • Perceptual mapping may analyze qualitative consumer sentiment over a product, or it may also utilize the empirical hard data found in quantitative market research.

Connected Strategy Frameworks

Porter’s Five Forces

Porter’s Five Forces is a model that helps organizations to gain a better understanding of their industries and competition. Published for the first time by Professor Michael Porter in his book “Competitive Strategy” in the 1980s. The model breaks down industries and markets by analyzing them through five forces

Ansoff Matrix

You can use the Ansoff Matrix as a strategic framework to understand what growth strategy is more suited based on the market context. Developed by mathematician and business manager Igor Ansoff, it assumes a growth strategy can be derived by whether the market is new or existing, and the product is new or existing.

Blitzscaling Canvas

The Blitzscaling business model canvas is a model based on the concept of Blitzscaling, which is a particular process of massive growth under uncertainty, and that prioritizes speed over efficiency and focuses on market domination to create a first-scaler advantage in a scenario of uncertainty.

Business Analysis Framework

Business analysis is a research discipline that helps driving change within an organization by identifying the key elements and processes that drive value. Business analysis can also be used in Identifying new business opportunities or how to take advantage of existing business opportunities to grow your business in the marketplace.

Gap Analysis

A gap analysis helps an organization assess its alignment with strategic objectives to determine whether the current execution is in line with the company’s mission and long-term vision. Gap analyses then help reach a target performance by assisting organizations to use their resources better. A good gap analysis is a powerful tool to improve execution.

Business Model Canvas

The business model canvas is a framework proposed by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur in Busines Model Generation enabling the design of business models through nine building blocks comprising: key partners, key activities, value propositions, customer relationships, customer segments, critical resources, channels, cost structure, and revenue streams.

Lean Startup Canvas

The lean startup canvas is an adaptation by Ash Maurya of the business model canvas by Alexander Osterwalder, which adds a layer that focuses on problems, solutions, key metrics, unfair advantage based, and a unique value proposition. Thus, starting from mastering the problem rather than the solution.

Digital Marketing Circle

digital channel is a marketing channel, part of a distribution strategy, helping an organization to reach its potential customers via electronic means. There are several digital marketing channels, usually divided into organic and paid channels. Some organic channels are SEO, SMO, email marketing. And some paid channels comprise SEM, SMM, and display advertising.

Blue Ocean Strategy

A blue ocean is a strategy where the boundaries of existing markets are redefined, and new uncontested markets are created. At its core, there is value innovation, for which uncontested markets are created, where competition is made irrelevant. And the cost-value trade-off is broken. Thus, companies following a blue ocean strategy offer much more value at a lower cost for the end customers.

Other strategy frameworks:

Additional resources:

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