Perceptual Map: Definition and How to Make One

Learn what a perceptual map is and how to use it in your business.

Understanding how your product, brand, and company are perceived is important, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. You also need to know how potential customers perceive your product in relation to those of your competitors. A great reputation only goes so far if your customers still prefer competitors’ products, services, branding, and companies over your own. Creating a perceptual map is a useful way to visualize how customers perceive you compared to others.

Read on to learn more about perceptual maps, how they’re used, and how to create your own.

What is a perceptual map?

Perceptual maps can help you get a better idea of how potential customers perceive your brand—but they also help you identify strengths, weaknesses, and how well your marketing and advertising is working.

A perceptual map is a visual tool. Typically, they use a four-square grid with X and Y axes. The axes represent two different and competing values, such as quality versus affordability. As you collect and aggregate customer data, you’ll be able to see where your company stacks up compared to competitors. This is your baseline. Future surveys and perceptual maps will enable you to see whether your company’s performance has increased or declined over time.

Keep in mind that perceptual maps measure what customers think—not actual facts. For example, you might know that your product is technically safer to use than those produced by competing brands, but consumers could have a completely different perception. This feedback enables companies to make appropriate changes in marketing, outreach, product design and development, and more.

It also helps you track how other brands are perceived over time. For example, if your top competitor recently rebranded their product and launched a new advertising campaign, you can create a perceptual map to visualize how that has affected your market placement.

There are two types of perceptual maps. First are standard perceptual maps, which have two axes to measure two values. There are also multi-dimensional scaled perceptual maps, which are useful in demonstrating overall market analysis. These are typically used for large-scale, complex research questions. Standard maps are more common, and you’re less likely to need an expert to interpret the data and plot the findings.

How to create your own perceptual map

Creating standard perceptual maps is easier than you might think. Here’s a step-by-step guide to visualizing your marketing data:

  1. Choose the attributes to measure: First, you’ll need to decide which two attributes you want to measure on each map. If you’re trying to find out whether your customers think a product is a good value, you’d measure their opinion of the quality or efficacy versus the cost. Similarly, if you’re launching a marketing campaign for a plant-based meat substitute, you might measure how customers perceive the health benefits versus their enjoyment of competing products.
  2. Find your main competitors: Next, you’ll want to identify your main competitors. For instance, if you’re a law firm who wants to know how trustworthy they appear, you’d choose local firms in similar areas of law. Divorce lawyers need to know how they compare to other divorce and family law firms, not estate planning or intellectual property lawyers. There’s no limit to how many competitors you can plot on the map, however.
  3. Collect consumer data: The next step is to collect consumer data to plot on the map. This is often done via survey. Use a quantitative approach to assign values to different competitors. Have your respondents rate each competitor on a 1 to 5 scale for each of the attributes you’re measuring, like health benefits versus flavor. Then average the ratings for each competitor: Company A might have a 3.7 rating for perceived health benefits, but a rating of 2 for flavor and texture.
  4. Plot the map: Create a four-square grid with X and Y axes. Each axis represents one quality. One end of the axis represents a score of 1, while the other end represents a score of 5. Using the averaged scores for each company, assign each company a point on the map corresponding to the scores.
  5. Review and analyze your map: Once you’ve plotted your map, it becomes easy to tell how your company is perceived compared to others. For instance, you might find that people perceive plant-based meat substitutes as very healthy, but no one scored high on consumer enjoyment. That would indicate that marketing your product as a healthy alternative is working, but every brand ranking low on enjoyment shows that there’s a gap in the market you can fill. In turn, you can use this data to refine the product itself, or your marketing.

Perceptual map tips and tricks

When you’re surveying consumers, you can collect data for several different perceptual maps at once. It can be helpful to find out how customers score each brand in a number of categories, then compare each category to the others in separate perceptual maps. This further highlights your company or product’s strengths, weaknesses, market position, and more.

Larger companies may opt for multi-dimensional perceptual maps, but for most purposes, there’s no need to hire your own research and data expert to produce these. Standard perceptual maps are easy to create and provide significant insights into brand and product perception. The key is to identify simple, clear, measurable attributes and get a representative sample size.

Collect data for your perceptual map with Voiceform

The usefulness of your perceptual map depends on the quality of your data. When you need to collect data at scale, using the right survey platform can make all the difference. Voiceform’s survey tools combine multimedia question types with AI technology, so you can efficiently collect data and enjoy the benefit of real-time reporting and analysis. Whether you’re conducting a general customer sentiment survey or specifically targeting data for perceptual maps, the flexible, feature-rich platform makes it fast and easy. Learn more about Voiceform by scheduling a product demonstration today.

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