Perceptual mapping represents consumer perceptions in two-dimensional space, so that a marketer or a manager can see and gauge where his own brand is positioned in the mind of a prospect and with respect to other brands, which may offer direct or indirect competition to his own brand. Consumers are asked to rate a brand along a given set of attributes or they may be asked to judge how similar or dissimilar two brands are. The former is used for Factor Analysis and the latter is used in Multi Dimensional Scaling (MDS). The MDS technique allows representation of consumer perceptions in two-dimensional space with the X and Y axes being treated as frames of reference along which brands are compared.
Perceptual maps are visual representations of competing brands or products plotted along dimensions which cover the most important attributes. A perceptual map reveals the position of brands (as per consumer perception) with respect to each other and in relation to ideal points.
In the diagram above, points X, Y and Z are ideal points with respect to the price-quality relation for 3 different segments. “You” represents your brand position in the mind of the consumer. Competitors 1 to 5 have their positions marked with an asterisk (*). The brand in consideration is likely to draw most revenues from the target segment which has “Y” as the ideal point and it has closest competition from Competitor 1.
The role of marketing and advertising now boils down to:
Ø Closing gaps between favourable positive objective realities and inaccurate customer perceptions
Ø Amplify perceived importance of attributes on which the brand is close to customers’ requirements
Ø Diminish the perceived importance of attributes on which the brand misses customers’ requirements
The brand must satisfy the customer’s question, “What’s in it for me?”. The consumer’s frame of reference requires that the manufacturer’s claims or brand attributes be translated into consumer benefits to map consumer perceptions.
Strategic decisions may follow from mapping of “ideal points” or preferred position of target segments:
Ø As revealed through mapping, a marketer can judge whether the perceived position of his own brand can be brought closer to the ideal point for the target segment. This may involve some change in physical features as well as advertising of the brand
Ø The marketer may decide to change the ideal point for the chosen target segment and bring it closer to the perceived position of his own brand
Ø An altogether new brand may be launched to satisfy consumer needs unfulfilled by existing brands