An overall similarities (OS) perceptual map is a very different type of positioning map, as compared to the traditional two-axis, four-quadrant structure that is typically taught in Marketing 101.
It is different because it only maps the positions of the brands products relative to each other. It does NOT include any product attributes.
More Reflective of the Consumer’s Purchase Decision Process
One of the major limitations of traditional perceptual (or positioning) map is that rely upon assessing the product/brand on an individual product attribute basis. For example, a perceptual map may rate brands on trustworthiness versus easy-to-use. In this case, the map has on these two supposedly determinant attributes to full reflect a consumer’s purchase decision process. This is highly unlikely, as products are essentially a sum of their individual attributes.
Even a multidimensional scaled perceptual map, which picks up multiple product attributes AND multiple brand positions on the same map, relies upon the consumer’s assessment of each brand against a set range of attributes.
In most cases, that is a too simplistic and unrealistic view of the marketplace. Many consumers do not assess brands on an individual attribute basis. They generally look at the overall package of benefits and features provided by that brand and then make an assessment based upon the synergetic value of that brand and its product features.
Because this is the manner in which many consumers make purchase decisions, an overall (OS) similarities perceptual map becomes very important to marketers, as it should produce a map that is more reflective of how consumers’ really see the competing brands.
In the market research process, the respondents assess each brand relative to every other brand in the market. (Please download the free Excel template to play around with an OS map and see how it works.)
When this data is mapped onto an overall similarities perceptual map, we can clearly see, without the influence of a set of product attribute statements, how consumers really see the market and the relative position of the competing brands.
When to Use an Overall Similarities (OS) Perceptual Map
Overall similarities maps are very effective when a firm:
- is wanting to have a fresh look at a market,
- needs a better understanding of how consumers make decisions,
- is looking to be more innovative and creative, and
- or is seeking to find a competitive gap in the market in order to create or position a new product.
Please see the article on how to interpret an overall similarities perceptual map. In this section you will also find the limitations for this mapping technique (that it relies upon a marketer to carefully evaluate the map and develop appropriate insights based upon the physical positioning of brands).