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What Is a Perception Map?

K.C. Bruning
K.C. Bruning

A perception map, also known as a perceptual map, is a graphical representation of how customers and prospects feel about a variety of brands, products, and ideas. It is a market research tool. Perception maps can be used to plan a new product or improve an existing offering. Multiple maps can be created for a variety of areas related to the subject at hand. For example, there may be one map that only shows information about the flavor of a product, while another may show how people feel about different competitors.

Before a perception map can be created, data must be collected from customers and prospects. The information can come from sources such as surveys, interviews, and focus groups. Typically the participants are asked for their opinions about a variety of things related to the product, company, and its competitors. The information is then compiled into categories that can be easily plotted on a chart.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Once the information has been compiled, the perception map can be pulled together. The base of a typical perception map is a cross with equidistant lines. Each line is labeled with a different description. By placing items on the map according to survey responses, the company can see where it stands on a variety of issues.

Circles, squares, or other shapes labeled with information from the research are placed in or across the four sections made by the cross. They display the different opinions the responders have about each product or company. For example, on a cross with a vertical line that says safety and a horizontal line that is labeled speed, a circle labeled with the name of a sports car might be positioned high for speed and low for safety.

Once the information has been laid out, other versions of the perception map can be generated. Another common type of map shows the responses as dots. Wherever there is a cluster of dots, the researcher can assume that those qualities would be appropriate to designate as a market segment. This enables a company to fine tune both product development and marketing efforts so that it reach its audience more effectively.

One of the benefits of the perception map is that it communicates its message clearly and simply. The graphic layout can be useful when making a presentation. It also makes ideas more immediately accessible to employees from other departments and executives in particular.

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