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A critical mission of your business's marketing team is to communicate the products and services, how they fit the target audience, the who/what/why/when, and How applies, as well as highlight the competitive advantages over the competition, and why your product and brand stands out. In communicating with the customer base, perceptual maps can assist in highlighting differentiation more effectively.
Perceptual Mapping - what is it?
It is the method of organizing, comparing, and contrasting public perception of the product and service being offered. The consumer impressions of your product or service are captured as a snapshot to create the perceptual map. This is not the other marketing tool called a "positioning map". Both use diagrams to compare product features, whereas "positioning maps" focus on an objective and analytical reality (like a side-by-side feature comparison). Perceptual Maps measure a focus on customers' perception, regardless of whether they reflect reality.
As an example, an Android tablet vs. an IOS one of the same size and spec - the perception that the Apple variant is more sophisticated/easy to use is superior to the Android one can be mapped. Additionally, having to be more "techy" being a requirement with an Android device over IOS will leave the perception of "greater reliability" over Android to be demonstrated - even though the chips, chassis, boards, and battery are at the same level of reliability. Being able to value propose the perceptual map to your potential customers when your positioning map doesn't differentiate enough can give you the edge.
Perceptual mapping can cover gaps, track changes in consumer perceptions, and how your product is being used and perceived. You can use these perceptions to identify market segments and assist with your marketing strategies to better target your market.
5 Types of Perceptual Maps
2-Dimensional Perceptual Map - This is the most common one, where product and brand can be placed on 2 axes. You can map "Price" vs. "Style" for fashion items, and you can do the same between "Brand" vs. "Price".
Multi-dimensional Perceptual Map - The use of a bubble chart if you use an axis for a third perception, or a multi-dimensional chart (Like a SWOT layout) to show the perceived tenets of a product, service, or brand.
Spidergram Perceptual Map - Much like a multidimensional map, this can have multiple axes from the center representing different perceptual tenets. I can cover things like Convenience, Nutrition, Taste, Experience, and Affordability. You can superimpose your product vs. another competing product on the same diagram. This will show how your product stands out from your competition.
Joint Perceptual Map - These are good for behavioral segmentation onto a 2-dimensional perceptual map. You can do this with various types of market segmentation if you got customer data collected from some market research - having some data is important with this type of mapping. This is an excellent way to draft narratives and customer stories aimed at your target market.
Intuitive Perceptual Map - As opposed to having some market data, the Intuitive Perceptual Map is done with a 2D Axis and uses the author of the map to plot the chart. This may have bias, and a non-statistical reflection of the perception and may not line up well with the target audience. However, in some cases where products are non-consumer such as weapons (from military guns to missiles and ships) where the marketing team can only extrapolate from non-factual competitive data, the marketing plan covers the intuitive perceptual map with their reflection of their superiority over other products.
How to go about creating a Perceptual Map
This applies to all versions of Perceptual maps - these are the 4 steps to go about creating one:
- Define your goal: To better understand your target customer, a new marketing strategy, or a new marketing messaging, or improve an existing product or a new product being introduced. This helps to align the attributes and what message you are looking to communicate.
- Establish attributes and hypothesis: Attributes are a core building block for your perceptual map, they are your axis or dimensions to your map. Price, convenience, flavor, size, color, etc. are the attributes. Types of attributes depending on the map type you are looking to capture the perceptual attributes. Creating hypotheses about your attributes helps to expand and elaborate on the narrative and messaging. Generating the hypothesis can begin with your own perceptions all the way to getting focus groups to give theirs when examining the product. They can also be acute as being the "most expensive" or "the most durable".
- Conduct market research: Consumer surveys, post-purchase surveys, customer feedback interviews, and 3rd party market data, of course, focus groups are the most used feedback-gathering tools to define your attributes, use your attributes to get feedback, and generate those hypotheses. Getting the market perception of your product, brand, and positioning of your product vs. competitors are all valuable feedback.
- Quantify your results and map them: Plot your perceptual map by quantifying your feedback. If the surveys are Amazing at 10, and Poor at 1 - your 10-point scale for each respondent will give your an average perception of that attribute. The focus groups can give you great qualitative narratives on their perceptions and hypothesis on products, prototypes, or services.
Perceptual maps are visual tools - while accuracy is aimed to have a correct depiction of the sentiment, it doesn't have to be exact. It has to convey the sentiment, especially when comparing products - when superimposing the products and what perception they convey, then the direction the message, the research, or the design needs to take can then be extrapolated and refined. Quantifying your attributes helps you get your averages and your axis plotted. Bubble charts can demonstrate your product vs competitive products well, but not everyone is good at reading those plots. If you have questions on how to go about your perceptual map, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org