One of the key strategic decisions facing a firm in a competitive and cluttered marketplace is how to best position their brands and its associated product lines. The determination of the optimal product positioning is often a challenging decision, as there are usually multiple positions that may be viable and competitively advantageous.
As we know, product positioning is how the brand is understood by the target market, usually on the basis of key product benefits, on a relative comparison basis to me-too competitive products. Product positioning is mainly a consideration in the fast-moving consumer goods sector (that is, the type of products sold through supermarkets). It is more critical in this industry as competing products are lined up side-by-side for consumers to pick and choose the best product offering for their needs.
This easy comparison approach to consumers’ purchases is usually not as commonplace in other industry sectors, making product positioning less relevant outside fast-moving consumer goods.
An important consideration in determining the desired positioning of a new brand is to seek out an unoccupied space in the minds of the consumers in the target market. This will allow the brand to have a unique set of benefits or uses associated with it. And, as a consequence, the brand essentially constructs a “monopoly” in terms of offering that benefit.
In order to identify unoccupied spaces (which are generally referred to as market gaps), one or more perceptual maps for marketing purposes are constructed. As suggested by their name, perceptual maps are a visual device (a map) that shows the perceptions (that is, the knowledge and understanding) of consumers of all the relevant brands in the market.
When a firm is successfully able to make a perceptual map, gaps can be clearly identified, enabling a better understanding of the market and potential positioning options.
The simplest approach to a perceptual map is to use two product attributes that are relevant to the purchase decision of consumers. By trying to identify some innovative approaches to attributes for perceptual maps, the firm is more likely to find a strong competitive position to adopt.
Probably the easiest way to physically make a perceptual map is to use a free perceptual map template for an Excel spreadsheet. This will automate the process and enable perceptual maps to be constructed within minutes.
Author: Geoff Fripp, an adjunct lecturer in marketing at The University of Sydney, who has written university-level textbooks and has developed several websites on market segmentation, product positioning and perceptual maps.
How to Make a Perceptual Map