Why Use Perceptual Maps?

Using Perceptual Maps in Marketing

The Big Picture View of Perceptual Maps

In this article, I want to take a step back and give you a big picture view of why we using perceptual maps in marketing and what we’re trying to achieve. And along the way, I also want to connect mapping analysis to the overall marketing process.

Let’s get started…

What is the Purpose of Using Perceptual Maps?

The starting point in any marketing research or analytical approach is:

  • “What do we want to know?”

Sometimes, in marketing  research textbooks, this is called management objectives. What are we trying to figure out or what’s our research problem or management problem?

And in terms of using perceptual maps, there are four possibilities:

  1. Evaluating Branding Activities and Positioning Strategies
  2. Developing a Comprehensive Brand Picture (or Story)
  3. Identifying Product Gaps and Opportunities in the Market
  4. Building Market Insights and Understanding

Please review the following summary video, or scroll down for the full article…

Undertaking the Required Marketing Research

Once we know where we’re heading and why we’re doing perceptual maps, we obviously need to undertake some market research.

A perceptual map is based on consumers’ information, their perceptions, attitudes, opinions, and how they’re evaluating and choosing between brands.

Ideally, we would do some focus groups first, have open conversations and discussions with different target markets and segments. Ideally, we need to flesh out image attributes and statements that we can use to build into an  image or brand survey.

As part of the brand image questionnaire, we’re going to be asking consumers to rate brands on a range of suitable brand attributes, statements, product features, and brand values.

If we have undertaken brand image research before, then we would usually want to use the same set of attributes for consistency. This will enable us to produce time-based maps – which will provide tremendous insight to the market and the competitive positioning strategies.

If we are new to brand image mapping, then we will need to rely upon input from focus groups, or an experienced market research agency.

(As a starting point, please see this article on possible attributes to use in your perceptual mapping.)

Once we have our questionnaire ready with a suitable range of product attributes, we would execute the research and get the results – and now we are ready to analyze our perceptual maps and the brand positioning in the marketplace.

Analyzing the Perceptual Maps

Once we have the image survey results we need to run multiple perceptual maps.

We don’t just pick two attributes and say, “There we go, that’s our positioning.”

We have marketing objectives to achieve, business problems to solve – plus this research is expensive and takes time – so it’s important that we spend sufficient  time on the positioning analysis.

One approach to the analysis is to run all the possibilities of two-axis maps, looking at different combinations, segments, and competitors. In this case, you would produce potentially 100s of different perceptual maps, which would form the basis of your analysis and conclusions.

Obviously this is timely, that’s why I provide an Excel template that allows you to analyze many perceptual quickly and easily – please check it out at… Make 100s of Perceptual Maps Really Fast

Identifying Key Attributes and Telling the Brand Story

As you may know, there are more positioning and mapping tools to use than just two-axis perceptual maps. This means that we should use different types of perceptual maps in our analysis. In this way we will become quite analytical and invest considerable time analyzing the image data .

As we work through the data, we should be able to identify:

  • the key attributes where consumers make decisions,
  • where we’re distinctive as a brand, and
  • which ones really seem to matter.

And we can add our perceptual insights to the insights into that we may have gained from our focus group research and other survey results. In combination, we should be able to have a deep understanding and paint a very clear picture of the market, customer needs, competitive strategy, and overall positioning battles.

Evaluating Brand Position and Marketing Efforts

Once we have completed our analysis, we can present our brand story with a series of relevant perceptual maps.

As a marketing lecturer, I often see students put in one perceptual map and say:

  • “Well, there you go, that’s the story of our brand, and that’s how we’re positioned, and that’s everything you need to know.”

In reality, brands, especially valuable ones, are far deeper and richer than that. So, we need to produce and present multiple maps. And some of these maps are going to tell different stories about the marketplace. But in combination, they can paint a very detailed story.

This should mean that once we’ve finished our image research, we’ve got this beautiful and elegant explanation and understanding of our brand and its components, and how it fits in the marketplace.

Connecting Positioning and Marketing Mix Elements

After we’ve completed the analysis and crafted our brand story and position, the next step is to objectively evaluate our brand position, and ask: “Is this brand position where we want to be?”

We can evaluate our brand position (and our change in brand position) against our marketing and branding efforts. Some of the questions we might ask would include:

  • Have we achieved our positioning intention?
  • Have we delivered a positive return on investment?
  • What elements of the marketing mix have driven our brand position and execution?
  • Which competitors are encroaching on our positioning?
  • Which new players should we most concerned about?
  • Are consumer needs changing?
  • Our new market segments emerging with different needs?
  • Do we need to reposition the brand?
  • How successful have our marketing efforts been overall?
  • Do we need to change our branding and positioning strategy?

There are two outcomes of this questioning and analysis about our current positioning. The first is that we may have been quite successful in executing our objectives – and this will reinforce our current strategy. Alternatively, we may need to improve our positioning – and this will drive a rethink and redesign of our positioning approach.

Either way, it is a good outcome, because we have more knowledge and information to base our marketing actions upon. In this way we become a data-driven marketer who is constantly making informed decisions in order to improve the performance of the business.

Deeper Analysis May Be Required

Ideally, we want to get to identify relationships between our marketing mix actions and the outcomes in the marketplace.

For instance, we have a marketing mix that is likely to differ from the marketing mix of our competitors. And, as we know, when it comes to positioning, consumer perceptions are formed through the combination of marketing mix elements – not just advertising and communication.

In trying to “connect the dots” between our marketing mix, the competitors’ marketing mix, and marketplace outcomes, here are some of the questions we would need to ask:

  • What marketing actions create the best market share?
  • What marketing actions have driven changes in market share?
  • Which competitors are able to charge a price premium and why?
  • Are competitors relied upon one aspect of the marketing mix, or are they manipulating the entirety of their marketing mix?
  • Which marketing changes seem to drive/strengthen positioning?
  • Which consumer perceptions of positioning appear to be inconsistent with the marketing mix on offer?

Through a combination of these questions and others, hopefully we should be able to identify in-market relationships. For example: if we make these marketing mix changes then, this appears to have this impact on our positioning, which in turn, has this impact on sales and profitability.

Hopefully this combination of analysis and thinking about the market will allow us to construct some form of a marketing mix model.

And once we have some form of a basic marketing model (along with an understanding of all how it all connects), we can ask ourselves:

  • How do we use this information?
  • How do we keep growing this brand?
  • How do we strengthen the brand?
  • How can we strengthen our positioning (or reposition if required)?
  • And how do we make more profits for the business in the long term?

Related Information and Articles

Quick FAQ Recap

What is the purpose of using perceptual maps in marketing?

There are four main purposes of using perceptual maps in marketing:

  1. Evaluating branding activities and positioning strategies
  2. Developing a comprehensive brand picture (or story)
  3. Identifying product gaps and opportunities in the market
  4. Building market insights and understanding

What kind of research is needed for creating perceptual maps?

To create perceptual maps, you need to conduct market research using techniques like focus groups and surveys. These methods help gather consumer perceptions, attitudes, opinions, and brand evaluations, which are then used to build perceptual maps.

How should we analyze perceptual maps?

Analyze perceptual maps by creating multiple maps with various combinations of attributes, segments, and competitors. This will help you identify key attributes that drive consumer decisions, understand your brand’s distinctiveness, and gain insights into market positioning battles.

What should we do after completing the analysis of perceptual maps?

After analyzing perceptual maps, present your brand story using relevant maps, evaluate your brand position, and compare it against marketing and branding efforts.

This will help you determine whether your brand is positioned where you want it to be and guide you in making informed marketing decisions.

How can we connect marketing mix elements to brand positioning?

To connect marketing mix elements to brand positioning, analyze the relationships between your marketing mix, competitors’ marketing mixes, and marketplace outcomes.

This will help you identify which marketing actions drive market share, impact positioning, and affect sales and profitability.

How can perceptual maps help us make more profits for the business in the long term?

Perceptual maps provide valuable insights into consumer perceptions, brand positioning, and market opportunities. By analyzing these maps, marketers can make informed decisions to strengthen the brand, improve positioning, and ultimately drive long-term business growth and profitability.

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