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:
- Brainstorming a list of products in a market. This allows businesses to identify the most common products and avoids bias.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Other strategy frameworks:
- AIDA Model
- Ansoff Matrix
- Balanced Scorecard
- BCG Matrix
- Design Thinking
- Lean Startup Canvas
- Pestel Analysis
- Technology Adoption Curve
- Total Addressable Market