Limitations of Perceptual Maps

Risks and Concerns of Using Perceptual Maps

In this article, were are going to work through the limitations of using a perceptual map. Now, as you most likely know, a perceptual map maps how consumers see brands or product categories in the marketplace.

So let’s first have a look at the limitations (or the concerns) that you should consider when using perceptual maps in your marketing – here’s a quick list:

  • Perceptual maps need valid data
  • Extensive consumer surveys are usually required
  • Perceptual mapping invites guesses
  • Undermined as too simple
  • Relies upon two attributes to define positioning
  • Top-level analysis results in poor outcomes
  • More effective for low-involvement purchase decisions
  • Most commonly used maps utilized two attributes only

What are the benefits and limitations of using perceptual maps? Please review the video or scroll down for the full article.

1 = Perceptual maps need valid data

Perceptual maps measure and show consumer perceptions of brand positioning. They are NOT based upon management views – even though they are incorrectly used that way at times.

Therefore, to be effective for the purpose, perceptual maps need to have valid consumer data on them. This is a limitation for smaller companies that may not have access to image and brand positioning data.

Without the use of real consumer data, as discussed below, perceptual maps become management guesses of positioning – which is a very dangerous approach when managing a valuable brand and designing its overall positioning strategy.

2 = Extensive consumer surveys are usually required

Following on from the above point, usually the only way to obtain suitable consumer data is by using large-scale consumer surveys.

Typically, we are looking to map the perceptions of both customers and non-customers. This means that we CANNOT simply ask existing customers about their perceptions of our brand and our competitors and expect valuable outcomes.

Existing customers will generally have a positive and clear understanding of positioning, because they are customers. What we are probably more interested in is the perceptions of non-customers because they create growth opportunities for our brand.

This means that the surveys will become quite cost prohibitive in most cases for smaller companies. And they would also be a need for marketing to justify the investment in this research as well. What are we getting out of it?

While online surveys may be a cheaper option, they often suffer from self-selection, where more interested consumers are more likely to become respondents – which has the impact of limiting the validity of of the information obtained.

3 = Perceptual mapping invites guesses

Because many perceptual are presented in a two dimensional chart, and because management and marketers believe that they have a good understanding of how the brand is positioned – this leads to a number of people in the company wanting to “guess” perception, rather than using customer data.

In fact, it is possible to see data-based perceptual maps being discredited inside a company because the positioning presented is inconsistent with how management and marketers believe the brand is positioned.

This disconnect between positioning reality and positioning strategy happens because relevant management staff inside the company have worked towards a specific positioning outcome – which may or may not be effectively executed in the marketplace.

Therefore, at times valid perceptual may be “overruled” by management alterations of the map, based upon their viewpoints of “real positioning”.

4 = Undermined as too simple

We live in a marketing world of data and sophisticated analytical techniques and tools. As a result, the basic two-attribute perceptual map is sometimes perceived as overly simplistic – and is discredited as having any valuable marketing insight.

Although this presents a valid argument, this is on the basis that perceptual maps have not being used effectively. To use them effectively, we would typically review potentially 100s of different perceptual maps – using this tool – and the analytical effort would be quite substantial.

Perceptual map analysis can be quite in-depth if undertaken correctly and it is a disappointing outcome that a summary map (or a few maps) as an executive summary of the brand’s positioning is not considered to be an analytical finding or a market insight.

5 = Relies upon two attributes to define positioning

Adding to the counterargument in the previous point, unless multiple perceptual maps are considered in the analysis, it is often difficult to define positioning based upon two single attributes.

While this may be possible with relatively simplistic products – such as products bought in supermarkets and convenience stores – many brands are positioned on multiple attributes.

That is why when trying to understand a brand positioning, it is helpful to get beyond a single mapping technique and look at other approaches to perceptual mapping – for more information please see: Different Types of Perceptual Maps

6 = Top-level analysis results in poor outcomes

One of the big limitations of perceptual maps and their analysis is the “reflex” approach of jumping at the first perceptual map constructed, without going through an analytical process.

The analysis of perception and positioning takes time and requires a substantial number of perceptual maps to be reviewed, along with the utilization of different perceptual mapping techniques.

If the analytical approach is limited, or is simply top-level = 1 map considered only, then the outcomes will be limited as well.

Perceptual mapping analysis is not something that can be “knocked over quickly”, and would most likely take days to do effectively.

7 = More effective for low-involvement purchase decisions

As suggested above, perceptual maps (especially the two attribute versions) are more suitable for low-involvement purchase decisions.

Whenever we buy a product in a supermarket convenience store setting, often we may rely upon one or two product attributes only to guide our decision. In this case, the key attributes considered by the consumer can be presented on a relatively simple perceptual map.

However, for high-involvement purchase decisions, most consumers will consider a package of benefits and attributes – which we would refer to in marketing as the value proposition.

In this case, a brand may be positioned around quite a number of key attributes and product benefits. Mapping this on a simple perceptual map is quite difficult and lends itself to deeper analysis using different perceptual mapping tools.

8 = Most commonly used maps utilized two attributes only

Unfortunately, in most marketing textbooks, perceptual maps are presented as simple scatter or bubble charts with two attributes only.

Sure, that is a good introduction to the concept of perceptual maps, but ignore the aspect of deeper analysis (as suggested above), as well as the other variations of perceptual maps.

This creates a limitation because even trained marketers may be unaware of the need to undertake analysis – rather than presenting findings – and also be unaware of the need to consider perceptions using variations of perceptual maps.

Quick Summary: Benefits of Perceptual Maps

  • To help us better understand market segments
  • To see how the target market really perceives the brands in the marketplace
  • To evaluate the performance of recent marketing campaigns and other marketing mix changes
  • To confirm whether how consumers perceive us fits with our positioning goals
  • To check that our brand has a clear positioning space in the market
  • To track how successfully our new products have been positioned into the market
  • To monitor competitive brands and their changing market position
  • To help our organization identify gaps in the market
  • To monitor changes in consumer preferences over time

Quick Summary: Limitations of Perceptual Maps

  • Perceptual maps often simplify the consumer’s purchase decision down to two product attributes
  • They tend to be more beneficial for low-involvement purchase decisions
  • They are more relevant for individual brands, and less helpful for corporate brand image
  • The data is often difficult or expensive to obtain (via marketing research)
  • There is a often difference between consumer’s perception of the brand’s benefits versus reality

Limitations of Perceptual Maps FAQs

What is a perceptual map?

A perceptual map is a visual representation of how consumers perceive brands or product categories in the marketplace. It helps marketers understand the positioning of their brand relative to competitors and identify potential growth opportunities.

Why is valid data important for perceptual maps?

A2: Valid consumer data is essential for accurate perceptual maps because it represents the true perceptions of consumers, rather than management’s assumptions. Without valid data, perceptual maps may be misleading and negatively impact a brand’s positioning strategy.

What are some of the limitations of perceptual maps?

  • Need for valid data
  • Requirement of extensive consumer surveys
  • Inviting guesses from management
  • Being perceived as overly simplistic
  • Relying on two attributes to define positioning
  • Producing poor outcomes with top-level analysis
  • Being more effective for low-involvement purchase decisions
  • Commonly utilizing only two attributes

What is the problem with using only two attributes for perceptual maps?

Using only two attributes may not capture the full complexity of a brand’s positioning, especially for high-involvement purchase decisions.

Many brands are positioned on multiple attributes, making it essential to consider multiple perceptual maps and different mapping techniques to accurately analyze positioning.

Why is it important to analyze multiple perceptual maps?

Analyzing multiple perceptual maps allows for a deeper understanding of a brand’s positioning. It helps identify different attributes that consumers consider important and enables marketers to make more informed decisions about the brand’s positioning strategy.

Please see: Make 100s of Perceptual Maps Really Fast

How does perceptual mapping work for low-involvement purchase decisions?

For low-involvement purchase decisions, consumers often rely on one or two product attributes to guide their decision. In these cases, simple perceptual maps with two attributes can effectively represent the key attributes considered by consumers and provide valuable insights for marketers.

What are some alternatives to the basic two-attribute perceptual map?

Some alternatives include multi-dimensional scaling, correspondence analysis, and other advanced perceptual mapping techniques. These methods can help capture more complex brand positioning and provide a more accurate representation of consumer perceptions.

Related Articles and Information

Scroll to Top