Perceptual mapping represents a geometric comparison of how competing products are perceived. One thing to note is that the closer products/brands are clustered together on a perceptual map, the greater the competition. The further apart the positions, the greater the opportunity for new brands to enter the market, simply because the competition is less intense.
Determining attribute importance and mapping the product across some attributes, we can discover how our brand and competing brands are perceived in the marketplace. Perceptual mapping can provide significant insight into how a market operates. For example, it provides marketers with an insight into how their brands are perceived and it also provides a view about how their competitors’ brands are perceived. In addition to this substitute products can be uncovered, based on their closeness to each other. All of the data reveal strengths and weaknesses that in turn can assist strategic decisions about how to differentiate on the attributes that matter to customers and how to compete more effectively in the target market.
Understanding how products are positioned provides important inputs not only to the way a product performs but also to the marketing communications used to support a product. Through communications, and especially advertising, information can be conveyed about each attribute and in doing so adjust the perceptions customers have of the product.
Marketing communications can be used in one of two main ways to position a product, namely to position a brand either functionally or expressively (symbolically). Functionally positioned brands emphasize the features and benefits, whilst expressive brands emphasize the ego, social, and hedonic satisfactions that a brand can bring. Both approaches make a promise: with regard to, for example, hair care, a promise to deliver cleaner, shinier, and healthier hair (functional) or hair that we are confident to wear because we want to be seen and admired, or because it is important that we feel more self-assured (expressive).
Markets change and some change quickly. Technology, customer tastes, and competitors’ new products are some of the reasons for these changes. If the position adopted by a brand is strong, if it was the first to claim the position and the position is being continually reinforced with clear, simple messages, then there may be little need to alter the position originally adopted. However, most
marketers need to be alert and be prepared to reposition their brands as the relative positions occupied by brands, in the minds of customers, will be challenged and shifted around on a frequent basis. However, repositioning is difficult to accomplish, often because of the entrenched perceptions and attitudes held by buyers towards brands and the vast (media) resources required to make the changes.
Repositioning is essentially a task that revolves around the product and the way it is communicated. There are four main ways to approach repositioning a product. The choice of approach depends on each individual situation facing a brand. In some cases the brand needs to be adapted before re launch.
• Change the tangible attributes and then communicate the new product to the same market.
• Change the target market and deliver the same product.
• Change both the product (attributes) and the target market.