Overall Similarities (OS) Perceptual Maps Template

Scroll Down to Get the Free Template for the Overall Similarities (OS) Map – or keep reading to find out more about OS style perceptual maps

What are Overall Similarities (OS) Perceptual Maps?

Overall similarities (OS) perceptual maps (which are also sometimes referred to as gap maps, or even a proximity matrix or a distance matrix map) are another variation of producing a perceptual map.

OS perceptual maps can be a very insightful map because it makes us look at the market quite differently. Unlike most perceptual maps, there are no individual attributes.

By understanding the overall similarities between products and brands, marketers can make more informed decisions about their strategies, positioning, and messaging to effectively reach their target audience and compete in the marketplace.

Instead, we’re asking consumers to look at the sum of attributes by looking at the brand or the product category overall. As a result, these maps use a different form of data input – asking respondents how similar brands are, rather than asking consumers to rate attributes.

Please note: If you want to produce a standard two-axis perceptual map, then you should go to the download page. If you want to make and understand an Overall Similarities (OS) perceptual map, then stay on this page.

On this page you will find:

  • An Overview of Overall Similarity (OS) Maps
  • The Analytical Challenges of an Overall Similarities (OS) or Gap Map
  • A free download of the Excel Template to Make an OS Map, and
  • A video on how to use the template and interpret overall similarities (OS) perceptual maps.
  • You can download the free Overall Similarities (OS) Excel template here:

An Overview of Overall Similarity (OS) Maps

An Overall Similarities (OS) perceptual map is simply another method of building a perceptual map. It has a number of advantages over a “normal” two-axis map.

There are several key differences when using an overall similarity maps to consider (compared to a standard perceptual map), these are:

  1. Consumers are asked to compare how similar the brands/products are in their view (or their perception – hence it creates a perceptual map). For example, how similar are McDonald’s and Burger King? How similar are McDonald’s and Pizza Hut? And so on.
  2. The resulting OS map does NOT show any brand or product attributes – it just shows the brands. The closer together they are, the more that the consumers perceive they are similar to each other (like a normal distance map).
  3. The output perceptual map does NOT contain axes or axis labels. The brands/products are just plotted relative to each other – either close to or far away from competitors.
  4. A marketing analyst is required to interpret the OS map. The analyst will need to determine which factors and attributes the consumers are using to differentiate between the brands.
  5. The analysis (if undertaken correctly) will result in a deeper understanding of the market, as the map will demonstrate on what basis consumers perceived differences between competing brands (rather than relying upon two arbitrary attributes, as we often see on a standard two-axis perceptual map.)
  6. The map takes into account the “sum of brand and product attributes“, and has NO reliance upon individual product attributes.

Why Use an Overall Similarities (OS) Perceptual Map?

Overall similarity (OS) perceptual maps are helpful if you are unsure of how consumers think about and distinguish between the competing offerings. That is, you are not sure of what are the most appropriate product attributes to use on a standard perceptual map.

Whenever you provide consumers with set attributes to rate brands/products, you are limiting their choices and views to these specific attributes (note: attributes are benefits and product features and functions and even image statements).

However, by eliminating attributes in the survey you can see how consumers (across different market segments) connect and associate the competing brands and products.

Hopefully… you will uncover some new information and market insights about how consumers think and relate brands in this product category.

Overall Similarity or OS perceptual maps are quite valuable maps because they force us to look at the market quite differently. Overall similarities maps are very useful 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.

The Analytical Challenges of an Overall Similarities (OS) Maps

Challenge 1 = Getting the Input Data

One big challenge with OS maps is obtaining the data in the right form to use to construct the similarity map.

We will need a specially designed questionnaire, where we ask consumers (on some sort of scale, say 1 = being the same or identical and 7 = very different or the opposite)

  • How would you compare Brand A and Brand B = how similar are they in your view?

For each set of brands (or products) that we want to look at, we pair them. Every product or every brand is paired with Brand A, and we ask consumers how similar/different all the other brands are (pair by pair).

Now, the challenge of this is we can’t use too many brands because, at some point, there are too many pairs of brands to consider. And, of course, then the respondent gets a bit tired of it and wants the survey over, and starts selecting numbers randomly without really thinking about it. So, we’ve got to be conscious of that when we set up our research design and how we select the brands in the survey.

Challenge 2 =Getting the Right Software

After we have completed the survey and validated the data, we need to find appropriate software to use. I have a free template that runs OS maps – so this is a good starting point if you are new to OS mapping.

You can download the free Overall Similarities (OS) Excel template here:

Please have a bit of fun with the OS template and trial and error different brands to get a good sense of how OS mapping works.

Challenge 3 =Analyzing the OS Gap Map

As stated above – there are NO labels on the X and Y axis – in fact, there are no X or Y axes produced.

This means that by using this technique, you will need to work out HOW the consumers think, classify and different between the competitors.

Therefore, because OS perceptual maps only provide a series of points, you will need to identify the underlying driving factors – that is, what attributes and other factors are consumers using to help them make purchase decisions in real life.

Important Note: There are some examples of how to do this below, which are also explained in the video at the bottom.

Get the Free Template for the Overall Similarities (OS) Map

Here is the free Excel template for an OS perceptual map for download, plus an instructional video on how to use the template.

Key Points for Interpreting an Overall Similarities Perceptual Map

Note: Also refer to the video below

  • You need to determine the likely factors/influences that consumers have used in forming their view (perception) of how the different brands in the market are interrelated
  • These influences can run in any direction – that do NOT need to run up/down and left/right as found in a standard perceptual map – and the two factors do not need to run at right angles from each other
  • There WILL be more than one logical solution – you may need to consider the best version for your needs
  • You can have more than two factors on the same map
  • Because it aggregates all perceptions into one map – it needs to force some of the relationships – therefore, no every single brand position may make 100% sense (think of it like an average) – try to map out some brands on paper on a similar/dissimilar basis and you will see that challenge once you get to 5+ brands
  • It is a helpful technique because it forces you to think about the consumers and their thinking process
  • BUT… a poor interpretation of the map (that is, identifying the wrong factors) will result in a poor understanding of the market and subsequent poor marketing decisions as a result

Two Videos on Understanding Overall Similarity OS Perceptual Maps

Related Articles

List of All the Perceptual Map and Other Templates

  1. Perceptual map maker template (free)
  2. Multi-perceptual map maker (great for analysis, quickly makes multiple perceptual maps)
  3. Multi-dimensional (MDS) perceptual map template (free version)
  4. MDS perceptual mapping tool (small fee)
  5. Customer journey map maker template (free)
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