Geoff Fripp

Lecturer at the University of Sydney, textbook author, entrepreneur, business speaker, corporate marketing background in financial services

Feb 232018

Brand Association Maps

A brand association map is designed to visually shown the connections to a particular brand. Generally we look at the attributes, attitudes and images that the brand is associated with, but we are also able to consider non-associated aspects and even review how our competitors sit relative to these same associations.

Brand Association Map for Apple

The following brand association map for Apple demonstrates the concept. As you can see from below, a brand association map is a variation of a perceptual map. (Note: This brand map was created using the brand association map Excel template that is available for free download on this website.)

brand association map for Apple

As you can see from the above brand map, Apple is strongly associated with “innovation” and “high-tech” as they are the closest to the Apple circle, whereas (in this example), they are these directly associated with terms further away, such as “fun” and “young”.

But this does not mean that Apple is NOT associated with this aspects – instead they are MORE strongly associated with the attributes and attitude statements that are closer to them on the brand map.

You can also see that “Easy to Use” is positioned away from Apple and slightly closer to Samsung. To make sense of this on the brand map, we need to understand what the map is designed to do. In this case, Samsung is less directly associated with (as compared to Apple) with many of the attributes on the map. Both brands have products that are easy to use, but Samsung (being weaker on some of the other statements) has “easy to use” as one of its stronger associations – as compared to Apple who is the strongest for “innovation” and “high-tech”.



Feb 232018

Brand associate maps can be a powerful tool in understanding how a brand is perceived in the market. There are two ways of constructing a brand association map: the first is to map the associations manually (using PowerPoint or Word) and the second is to use multi-dimensional scaling techniques to map consumer perceptions. Clearly this 2nd approach will be more effective, but is difficult to achieve in Excel. However, here is a free Excel template … brand association template

May 062017

Definition of under positioning

Under positioning is where consumers in the market do not have a clear understanding of the key benefits of your brand. This differs slightly from consumers being unaware of the brand, and highlights a problem with the overall marketing communication of the brand’s positioning in the marketplace.

Especially in a cluttered and competitive marketplace, clear positioning is critical to generate strong sales and a consistent market share. Being under positioned – that is lacking a clear position in the consumer’s mind – will result in reduced sales and profitability.

Identifying whether a brand is under positioned

Under positioned brands a usually identified through:

  • Inconsistent sales volumes
  • Reliance on sales promotions and deals
  • Fluctuating market shares
  • As well as through consumer image surveys

Consumer image survey results

When in under positioned brand is represented in a image survey to consumers, the brands ranking/ratings will consistently be towards the middle of the answer scale. For example, if consumers are asked to rate a brand on a scale of 1 to 9, where 9 = a highly effective product and 1 = a highly ineffective product (and so on for various other questions and attributes) – and under positioned brand will typically score in the mid-range of 4 – 6.

Because an under positioned brand scores in this middle range, the results of an image survey are sometimes misinterpreted. This is because an under positioned brand is likely to NOT be the worst rated brand in the competitive set. There will be other brands, where consumers have a stronger understanding of that brand’s positioning, where consumers will rate these better-known brands below and under positioned brand.

Basically when consumers are asked about a brand that they do not have a clear understanding of, they are more likely to pick a “safe” middle school as an acceptable answer.

Therefore, if a brand is consistently rated – across a range of attributes and benefits – in the middle range of the scale, then that brand is most likely well under positioned.

Please make use of the free perceptual map template on this website to help determine whether or not your brand is under positioned.

Improving the performance of the under positioned brand

If a brand is under positioned, then sales will be limited because consumers do not have a very clear understanding of the key competitive benefits of the brand. As highlighted above, this will also require the brand to be reliant upon expensive sales promotions (such as discounts) and will result in a fluctuating market share position.

Clearly this is not an acceptable situation for any brand. Therefore, it is necessary to establish a clearer positioning with the target market – most likely through:

  • More precise advertising communication and messages
  • Better use of packaging
  • A clearer slogan/tagline
  • Perhaps shorter communication messages
  • Perhaps competitive comparisons

Over-positioning of a brand

The counter situation to a brand being under positioned, is a brand being over positioned. This is where a brand promotes a very precise benefit that has limited appeal to the target market. This may happen in a very competitive and cluttered marketplace, but is not overly advantageous in a less competitive situation, or where the brand offers multiple benefits that have value to consumers.

Over-positioning of a brand is probably more likely to occur in the early stages of the brand’s life, but needs to be improved over time by highlighting a greater extent of benefits and attempting to appeal to a broader target market.

Jun 042016

Some students still prefer, or feel comfortable, in making their perceptual maps in PowerPoint. Although not as precise and as easy as using the free Excel perceptual map generator available on this website, it is still an effective approach, particularly for college assignments and reports.

There are two approaches to making a perceptual map with PowerPoint, these are:

  1. Use the free perceptual map template for PowerPoint, available for download below, or
  2. Make a perceptual map using PowerPoint, as described further below as well.

Free Perceptual Map Template for PowerPoint

This is the easiest approach of your two choices. Simply click the following link to download the PowerPoint slide that contains the perceptual map template – which should look like the following PowerPoint slide.

Click here to download the free perceptual map PowerPoint template.

perceptual map powerpoint template

The free perceptual map PowerPoint template

Steps to use the perceptual map template for PowerPoint as shown above:

  1. Click on “Perceptual Map Title” to type in your own map title
  2. Click on the four boxes on the ends of the attributes (e.g. “left title”, etc.) to type in the names of your attributes (note” resize all these boxes if necessary)
  3. Click on the ovals (e.g. “Brand A”, etc.) to rename the circles to the brands (or firms) that you are mapping
  4. Delete the ovals you don’t need, or copy/paste more ovals if required
  5. Move the ovals/brands around your perceptual map to reflect your data (or your market understanding)
  6. Click on all map elements and copy/paste to Word (or other program) for use in your report or presentation.

Making a Perceptual Map Using PowerPoint

Building a perceptual map from start to finish using PowerPoint is relatively easy. Your positioning map should look a lot like the above template map when you are finished. The general steps are as follows:

  1. Insert a square/rectangle as the outside border (click “insert/shapes”) – then go to “space fill” and select “no fill” – then use “shape outline/weight” to change the thickness of the border
  2. Insert a horizontal line and a vertical line for the axes – again use “shape outline/weight” to change their thickness (and there is a color option here too)
  3. You will then need to insert “text boxes” for the names of your perceptual map and its axis titles – just insert, type, resize (if necessary) and move – you should also center text and add a background color if required
  4. You also use the same system (as step 3) for your brand (and attributes if required) – that is, using a text box, which is then moved to the right position on the perceptual map.
  5. If you want to change the shape of any text box -say to a circle – then click on the text box, which should bring up “format” on the top menu – then click on “edit shape” and select whatever shape you want to use.

Other options to making a perceptual map

Probably the fastest and easiest way to make a perceptual map (or several maps quickly) is to use the free Excel template for perceptual maps available on this website.

Feb 242016

At the 2007 launch of the iPhone, Steve Jobs used a video to highlight the market gap that Apple had identified. This perceptual map used two axes of:

  1. easy to use and hard to use and
  2. smart and not so smart

Steve then showed the following perceptual map in the iPhone launch (and please see the launch video below). Please note that this perceptual map was created in one minute using the free Excel template available of this website.

iPhone perceptual map

May 082015

Using a radar chart as a perceptual map is sometimes a very suitable alternative to the traditional the traditional two axis perceptual map.

Generally this approach is NOT discussed in a marketing textbook, where the traditional discussion is on the more basic approach of a perceptual map. Please note that on this website, there are numerous resources for producing perceptual maps and how they should be constructed – please refer to the above menu.

Radar chart and image data

Radar charts look like spiderwebs. They are one of the “other charts” options in an Excel spreadsheet.

If you have positioning/image data that is quite complex will has not been analyzed previously, then a radar chart is a good place to start sorting through the data and is often a better approach than a traditional perceptual map.

image dataTake this summary of positioning/image survey results as an example. As you can see, there are 10 product attributes measured against 14 brands – that’s a total of 140 measures per year, for two years. That’s a lot of data the sort through to get a good sense of how the brands complete and how they are effectively positioned.

This is where radar chart comes in very handy to quickly summarize the data – note that there is a “how to” video at the end of this article to describe how to construct a radar chart.

radar chart perceptual mapThis first radar chart shows all 10 product attributes for the first three brands only . This allows you to quickly compare the brands on all attributes at once, in order to get a sense of where they stand out and how they compete against each other, as well as get a good understanding of what the brand is about.

For instance, you should see that Brand B is a very sweet tasting cookie that offers a wide choice, is considered to be of high quality and is a very trusted brand. This is opposed to Brand A that is a not sweet (savory) product that is reasonably healthy, but is considered to be a little bit old-fashioned.

Showing brand development over time

radar chart and positioningAnother advantage is called a radar chart is that can easily map how a brand is being developed over time and how the consumer’s perception of that product is changing.

This is shown in the second radar chart positioning map, where Brand A’s perceived product attributes and image elements are compared on a year-by-year basis. As you can see this brand has significantly added to its serving size and choices, and is now being seen as more high quality healthier and more of a trusted brand. It is also reversed its old-fashioned image.

Tips for using radar charts: Try not to use more than four or five brands at the one time, otherwise the radar chart becomes far too cluttered and too difficult to read.

Apr 032015

What to do if your positioning (image) data is not in a 9 point scale?

If you have downloaded and used the free Excel template available on website to make a perceptual map, you will see that the data needs to be input using a 1 to 9 scale.

However, there will be times when the market research questionnaire designed to capture the consumer’s perception of brands and products is NOT in a 9 point scale. For instance, a common approach to identifying positioning is to use a 5 point scale of strongly agree to strong disagree. In this situation it will be necessary to modify the data collected from a 5 point scale to a 9 point scale to effectively use the free perceptual map template.

Unfortunately it is not as simple as doubling the scores, as the smallest score (1/5) will be pushed to 2/9, when you really want it to stay at 1/9 in the new scaling scheme.

There are two ways to convert your market research data into a 9 point scale.

  1. You can download my scale-converter (which is a simple spreadsheet and recommended if you have lots of market research data to convert) or
  2. You can use the following formula (suitable for use to recalculate a few numbers only).

Formula to convert data to a 9 point scale:

((Actual Data Score – Minimum score) X 8/(Maximum Data Score – Minimum Score)) + 1

Example of converting data to a 9 point scale:

Say your data is in a 1 to 5 scale and you want to convert a score of 4 (that is, 4/5) to a score out of 9. Then the data conversion formula would be:

((4 – 1) X 8/(5 -1)) + 1 =

(3 X 8)/4 + 1 = 24/4 + 1 = 6 +1 = 7

Therefore 4 in a 5 point scale is the same as 7 in a 9 point scale.



Feb 092015

This this article follows on from initiatives undertaken by Pepsi in the 1970s and early 1980s that effectively repositioned the Coca-Cola brand during the period of the Cola Wars.

New Coke’s Repositioning of Pepsi

Leading up to 1985, Coca-Cola was facing numerous challenges as a result of Pepsi’s marketing initiatives, campaigns and successful repositioning of both the Pepsi and the Coke brands.

Of prime concern to the Coca-Cola management was that Pepsi was outselling Coke in the channels where consumers had a free choice – such as, supermarkets and drugstores. The Coke’s brand natural market leadership advantage over Pepsi was eroding as a result, with their market share falling 2.5 percentage points from 1980 to 1984.

Coca-Cola had tried numerous activities, such as dramatically increasing its promotional spend, the use of a high profile celebrity as their spokesperson, substantial sales promotions and discounting – all of which was supported by very strong brand equity, extensive retail distribution and highly efficient logistics.

However, despite all these activities, Coca-Cola was failing to reverse the trend of a declining market share, relative to their key competitor. As a consequence, Coca-Cola finally believed that the only marketing alternative left open to them was to introduce a new better tasting cola drink.

Eventually, in April 1985, Coca-Cola reformulated their existing Coke brand and relaunched it as “New” Coke. By reformulating it, they replace the existing Coca-Cola product and remained with a single cola offering in the marketplace (in addition to their Diet Coke product that was only three years old at the time).

Initially, prior to the public outcry, Coca-Cola’s management was very pleased with their decision and believes that this was a masterstroke strategy of strategy that would destroy Pepsi’s competitive position. Their intention, although not quite realized in the marketplace, is outlined in the following positioning map.

new coke positioning on a perceptual map

(This perceptual map has been produced using the free Excel template available on this website.)

As you can see, prior to the introduction of New Coke, Pepsi had successfully repositioned the Coke brand and had established themselves as the better tasting and more current/modern cola brand – this repositioning was the foundation of Pepsi’s success and they were threatening to become the number one cola brand in America as a result.

By introducing a “New” Coke to the marketplace, which Coca-Cola had determined through almost 200,000 taste tests was a better tasting product,and using a more youthful and exciting style of advertising, along with the word “new”; Coca-Cola truly believed that they had would successfully reposition the Coke brand as better tasting and modern as shown in the perceptual map above.

As you probably know, much of the market was unwilling to accept a new flavor of Coca-Cola, which the population regarded as an American icon (whether or not they were consumers of Coke or not). Regardless of this outcome, it does help illustrate how a perceptual map can be used to help determine a firm’s competitive market strategy.
Related topics

Also see of this article on How Pepsi Repositioned Coke



Feb 092015

A good way to understand the role of perceptual maps in competitive marketing strategy is to review the importance of positioning in the Cola Wars era that resulted in the launch of New Coke.

Pepsi’s Repositioning of the Coca-Cola Brand

Pepsi “the Choice of a New Generation” and the Pepsi Taste-test Challenge

There were three key marketing tactics that enabled Pepsi to effectively reposition Coke in the 1970’s and 1980’s during the Cola Wars era. These three repositioning tactics were:

  1. Pepsi’s “New Generation” image advertising primarily appealing to the youth market,
  2. Pepsi’s sponsorship of Michael Jackson at the height of his career, and
  3. Extensive use of Coke-Pepsi blind taste-tests and related advertising.

The “Pepsi Generation” advertising program was reinstated by Pepsi in the early 1970’s. This successful promotional campaign promoted the slogans of “The Pepsi Generation’ and “The Choice of a New Generation”. Their image focused TV commercials position the Pepsi as modern, young, innovation and energetic. At the same time, it was designed to reposition Coke in the minds of the consumers as old, tired and boring.

The Pepsi Challenge was built around a series of blind taste test with consumers, which means that consumers  didn’t know which soft drink they were tasting. These Pepsi Challenge taste tests were filmed and repackaged as a form of reality advertising, primarily focusing on loyal Coke drinkers suddenly realizing that Pepsi tasted better. Over time, Pepsi produced over 300 of these TV commercials for the American market.

The final component in Pepsi’s repositioning of the Coke brand was the signing of Michael Jackson to make, initially, two TV commercials promoting Pepsi. This was in the era when Michael had just released his Thriller album, which would go on to become the biggest selling album of all time. In other words, he was a superstar t the time with strong appeal to the youth market. This dovetailed beautifully with Pepsi’s desired brand image of a young, exciting, dynamic soft drink, as opposed to old boring Coke.

Pepsi’s repositioning of Coke is demonstrated in the following perceptual map, which has been produced using the free Excel template available on this site.

Pepsi repositions Coke in the Cola Wars

As you can see, Pepsi saw an opportunity to reposition both their Pepsi brand and to reposition Coca-Cola at the same time. Their promotional campaigns centered on image and taste demonstrated to the marketplace that they had a better tasting product and a brand that was more attuned to a younger, more modern consumer. Therefore, in the consumer’s mind, Coca-Cola becomes repositioned as having a poor taste and being seen as old people and outdated.

This successful repositioning of Pepsi versus Coca-Cola was one of the main reasons that Pepsi became the preferred brand in the “freedom of choice” retail channels (such as, supermarkets and grocery stores) and why they consistently closed the market share gap during the early 1980s.

Related topics

Please see the article on the New Coke product and how Coca-Cola attempted to reposition Pepsi through a new product introduction.