Create a perceptual map

1. Create a spreadsheet and label the first column as Competitors. List the competitors you want to include in the analysis, as well as your own brand.

Perceptual maps work best with direct competitors, which are easy for your audience to compare against. If you choose to compare indirect competitors, list them on a separate spreadsheet and map to avoid data noise. Include as many or few competitors in a single map as needed for thorough analysis. However, a list of ten or fewer competitors results in the most actionable map. If you are unsure about what competitors to analyze, create a separate initial survey in which you describe a type of product or service to your audience. Then ask them to list as many brands as possible fitting that description. The most frequently named options become the brands to map against each other.

2. Define the two determining attributes to compare your brand to your competitors, and add them to Attribute A and Attribute B columns in the spreadsheet.

Survey respondents should be able to rank each attribute on a scale of 0 to 10. Determinant attributes vary depending on the product category and audience: For food brands, it may be taste and nutritional value. For sports cars, it may be engine power and looks. For cloud storage, it may be storage space and data security. Some determinant attributes have objective values. The key, however, is to get your audience’s subjective perceptions to better understand your brand’s positioning within the competitive environment.

3. Survey your audience to determine how it would rank your brand and all listed competitors on the two attributes.

Choose an audience for your survey that adequately represents the demographic profile of your target audience. Then, ask the same two questions for all competitors you want to map: On a scale of 0 to 10, how would you rank [Brand A] on [Determinant Attribute 1]? On a scale of 0 to 10, how would you rank [Brand A] on [Determinant Attribute 2]? Remind your audience that two brands can receive the same ranking on one or both determinant attributes. Ask the same two questions about your own brand, but avoid asking about your own brand first to avoid unintentionally biased responses. If you are unsure whether the two attributes you are mapping are the most important decision factors for your audience, finish your survey asking whether any other factors they haven’t been asked about are more important in helping them make a purchase decision. If a significant number of respondents include the same alternative factor, consider a new perceptual map including the new attribute.

4. Add the average rating of each competitor in the column for each attribute in the spreadsheet.

5. Create a graph with Attribute A as the x-axis and Attribute B as the y-axis. The two axes should intersect at the 5 location.

You can create a custom map in any spreadsheet or word processing tool using simple lines. Alternatively, dedicated perceptual map tools like Miro allow you to quickly create more specific and visually engaging maps.

6. Plot your brand and each competitor on the graph according to average rankings on each attribute.

This step does not need to be automated. Simply take each competitor’s logo, and add it at the brand’s approximate ranking intersection. Repeat with each brand to finalize the map. On the finished map, you should now be able to see how each competitor compares on both determinant attributes. Name each quadrant or group of competitors clustered closely together for easier overview analysis.