When marketers and advertising professionals began to display their interest in the perceptions of target consumer segments, the next natural step was to measure those perceptions. This constituted an open invitation to mathematical psychologists to move in-which they did! Today, you cannot play the positioning game without perceptual mapping’.
What perceptual mapping does is to represent consumer perception-in (usually) two dimensional space so that the manager can readily see where his own brand is positioned in the mind of his prospect and in relation to other brands. The concept of the consumer’s perceptual space forms the theoretical basis of positioning. It is this concept which distinguishes positioning and sets it apart as a major contribution to marketing theories and practice. perceptual mapping helps to make this concept operational.
Although the judgements of managers, sales staff or the trade may be Used to plotting brand positions in the consumer’s perceptual space, it is not advisable to substitute them for consumer judgements, which can only be obtained through field research. Consumers are asked to rate a set of brands along given attributes or benefits or they may be asked merely to judge’ by pairs, how similar or dissimilar the brands are.
The former technique is used for Factor Analysis and the latter technique is used in multidimensional Scaling (MDS). Both conceptually and operationally, these two techniques are well suited for marketing management’s use in perceptual mapping‘ Developed by mathematical psychologists, the MDS technique provides a representation of consumers’ perceptions of brands as points in a geometric space whose axes (attributes/dimensions) can be described as frames of reference along which brands are compared by consumers.
We will explain perceptual mapping with examples in sometime. Today, the usp of such mapping in product positioning analysis and strategy development is observed wherever the concept of positioning plays an important part in the planning of marketing programmes.
Various other techniques are available for such perceptual mapping profile charts, for example , are fairly common in India. Further, research organizations offer hierarchical cluster analysis, multiple discriminant analysis and some application has also been reported of conjoint analysis. You will find an excellent discussion of MDS and other perceptual mapping techniques in Wind, Urban, Hauser and Dholakia, Green and Aaker and Day. Some lucid illustrations are provided by Wind and these are reported in Fig.1 & 2. Figure 2.3, for instance, is a two-dimensional configuration of 14 automobile brands. Obviously, the closer any two brands are, the more similar they are thought to be by consumers. Closeness thus donates a high degree of competition. Note that consumers were merely asked to indicate the extent of similarity or dissimilarity between the brands- Managerial judgement was used to interpret the dimensions-in this case, ‘sportiness’ and ‘economy’.
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A hierarchical cluster analysis was then done to refine this perceived similarity and the results were superimposed on the two-dimensional map giving clearer view of similarity and competitiveness among those brands.
The above figure alone could have led to clubbing the Mercedes along with the Cadillac and Continental, but the cluster analysis shows that it is perceived to have a unique position, as also the Corvette and Jaguar.