This article outlines the key steps in creating perceptual maps using the free perceptual map template maker available for immediate download on this website.
Let’s start with working through the basics of how to construct and interpret a perceptual map.
What is the Role of a Perceptual Map?
The word perceptual is a variation of the word perception. A consumer’s perception is their understanding and interpretation of various marketing mix aspects, in particular their understanding of different brands.
In many industries, companies try to position their brands in particular ways. The key goal of positioning is to ensure that your brand is understood in a certain way and is able to demonstrate distinct benefits to the consumer.
Strongly positioned brands, where the consumer has a strong understanding of the key benefits, are more likely to be purchased and more likely to have stronger customer loyalty.
While a company has a clear positioning goals for their brands, they need to track and measure how effective their marketing mix elements have been in creating the desired positioning of the brand. This is where a perceptual map comes in – it is designed to measure how consumers (and different market segments) really understand their brand.
Therefore, the key role of perceptual map is to visually demonstrate how consumers perceive = understand the brand relative to competitors – in real marketplace.
What does a Perceptual Map look like?
There are various configurations of a perceptual map, but the most common approach is a simple two-dimensional graph – effectively a scatter-plot chart. Here is an example: perceptual map for Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and YouTube.
Note: This perceptual map was created using the Excel map template available on this site, and based upon information derived from this comparison site. Please click the image to enlarge the map if required.
As you can see, this perceptual map has two attributes – namely, wide choice to limited choice and high quality to mixed quality. Because we are after consumers perceptions of these brands, we typically obtain information from a consumer survey. In this case we would ask consumers to rank each of the entertainment brands on a scale, say 1 to 9, for each of these attributes.
We are likely to ask the consumer their opinion on multiple attributes, which allow us to create multiple perceptual maps. When constructing a perceptual map, ideally we are seeking “determinate” attributes. These are attributes that are quite important in the consumer’s decision-making process.
Therefore, the physical construction of perceptual map should include: a clear heading of the chart describing the market, on a scatter-plot graph, with the two axis being important (determinate) attributes, as shown above.
How many Maps can we create?
Because we are usually using consumer survey data as the basis of constructing the perceptual map, we are able to produce multiple maps using different attributes. This approach should give us a much clearer insight into the marketplace and how consumers perceive the subtle differences between brands.
We are also able to cluster the consumer data into various market segments. This will allow others to construct multiple perceptual maps based upon our different target markets. This is probably a far more valuable approach than constructing a single perceptual map for the overall marketplace.
How do we use a Perceptual Map?
There are multiple purposes for a perceptual map – which are discussed in this YouTube video – but the main reason is to ensure that the brand has been positioned in the minds of consumers as planned. While we have clear positioning goals, there is much noise in the marketplace from media, competitors, and various substitute products. Sometimes our communications programs are less effective than desired.
Therefore, a perceptual map based on a consumer survey, provides a reality check as to how well we have executed our positioning goals. For many brands our positioning goals are fairly static over time, but on occasions we need to reposition a brand or defend the positioning of our brand versus a competitor that is trying to reposition us.
Another key reason for using a perceptual map is to identify new product opportunities by highlighting perceived gaps in the marketplace. This is very important in very cluttered and competitive marketplaces, such as fast-moving consumer goods, where there is often only subtle differences perceived between competing brands by consumers.
A perceptual map also provides much greater market insight, particularly when we start looking at different competitive sets and looking at the same map that on a market segment basis. Not all consumers will perceive our brand the same way, and breaking the market up into smaller components and analysing by using a perceptual map, will often create market insights and identify exciting opportunities.
What is the Perceptual Map Template?
Unfortunately, although while appearing relatively straightforward, it is often difficult to create an effective perceptual map in Excel from scratch.
Therefore, this website provides a free download of a perceptual map template that will allow you to construct a perceptual map within a couple of minutes, even if you are not overly familiar with Excel (or similar compatible spreadsheet software).
How do I use the Template?
To download the free template, you can click on one of the above links or click on the icon on the right-hand side of this website. You will then go to the download page for the perceptual map template.
Then click OPEN when the Excel dialogue box appears and then click “enable editing” when the template opens. The perceptual map template looks like this when you open it and it is ready to use:
As you can see, the steps of how to use the map template are clearly outlined in bright yellow.
Step 1 = You enter the title of your map by typing over the preset title of “Fast Food Market” (which is just an example). Important note: you only need to enter data in the grey-colored cells.
Step 2 =Enter the names of the attributes for the horizontal (left-right) axis. Remember that the names/terms at each end should be virtually opposites.
Step 3 =Is the same as Step 2, except this time you enter the opposite terms for the attributes on the vertical (up-down) axis.
These three steps will set-up the structure of your map automatically.
This next image of the template highlights Steps 4 to 6.
Step 4 =In this step, you list the brands that you want to compare on the perceptual map. Again there is some example information there already that you can type over. You can add up to 25 brands on the template.
Step 5 =Is entering the data for each brand for each attribute. The template is expected data in the scale of 1 to 9. If your data in not in a 1 to 9 scale, please see how to re-scale your data.
Step 6 =The final step is optional in the template. It has been preset to 2 (in a range of 1 to 3). If you want to make a particular brand larger in the map, you can set it to 3 (or to 1 to make it smaller on the map).
And that’s it – the template has automatically produced your map – just scroll down on the template to view it and, of course, copy it into your report or presentation.