Perceptual mapping is a technique used by marketing professionals to visually demonstrate the ways in which the products of a company or industry are perceived by consumers. This can include current customers as well as consumers who could potentially be attracted to a product or company. Marketers use this technique when they are in the process of developing new product campaigns and also when they want to improve existing marketing. Visually representing consumer opinions can help marketers more clearly identify areas in which a company needs work or sectors of the market which are relatively free of competition and thus could be convenient niches.
To use perceptual mapping techniques, marketers use survey data which can include a number of questions which are designed to provide information about perception. For example, if marketers are working for an alcohol company, they might want to ask questions about price, smoothness, taste, and quality. They can gather data on a number of brands and products to see how consumers perceive the overall market.
These data points can be plotted along axes which also rate them by importance. For example, people may consider quality the most important attribute and smoothness the least. A series of plot points are generated, with each point representing a rival product or brand. Laying out this information with perceptual mapping will allow marketers to see areas of the market which it might be possible to target with a good campaign.
Perceptual mapping can be done with an existing product to see if there is a technique which might be used to distinguish it from competitors. This might include changing packaging, developing a new tagline for the product, or altering the thrust of an ad campaign. Companies developing new products can also utilize perceptual mapping for the purpose of studying overall consumer perceptions of the market for products like the one under development, so that a tailored advertising campaign can be developed.
This graphics technique to improve product positioning is most effective when the marketing research is conducted with care. For example, a company making a high end product might be most concerned with the perceptions of wealthy consumers in the high end market. The survey would have to be conducted in a way which would reach those consumers, as consumers at the low end of the market might have very different perceptions and very different views about what is important.