Which brands come to your mind when you hear “fast food” and “smartphones”? McDonald’s and Apple, right? That’s what we call branding done right. It’s not like Burger King or Samsung are selling faulty products, but they certainly have failed to build a loyal fan base like McDonald’s and Apple.
Have you ever wondered how both of these industry giants made the strongest mark in the market? Simple: by creating a brand map.
A brand map is a framework that helps companies compete with industry leaders by analyzing their customer’s perceptions and brand position.
If you own a startup, you must understand the importance of a brand map, how to create one, and how to read the gathered data. This guide digs deeper into this strategy, so keep reading till the end.
What is a brand map?
A brand map is a visual framework that defines a business’s key elements and attributes such as brand image, values, customer loyalty and growth.
A brand map enables marketers to closely monitor their competitors, identify the gaps, and determine how they can position themselves better.
A brand map is also known as a correspondence or perceptual map. It is a data representation of what customers and prospects perceive of a brand compared to its competition.
What does a brand map look like?
Here are some examples to help you better understand how a brand map looks like:
Why is a brand map important?
Creating a brand map helps understand how your brand measures up to the competition and the way consumers perceive your brand with pinpoint precision, allowing you to keep pace with changing market dynamics and achieve success.
Brand maps bring data to life and give marketers deeper insights into complicated data. This information is then used to develop actionable strategies that strengthen the brand’s position in the market.
Businesses can create brand maps annually, bi-annually, or after a campaign to track the impact of certain activities on their operations. Simply put, brand maps give a clear view to a business about its market position relative to their competitors.
As a business owner or marketer, you can use the brand map to:
- Identify customers’ or prospects’ perceptions of your brand
- Assess where your business stands compared to the competition
- Find your closest competition
- Determine your unique selling point (USP)
- Spot gaps in the market and strategize how you can fill them and stand out from the competitors
- Gain deeper insights into data and take actionable steps
- See if your strategies are making the right impact on customers’ perception
How to create a brand map: Step-by-step guide
Creating a brand map doesn’t need to be a complex process, demanding costly consultants, or prolonged documents. Instead, you need to truly understand your product and empathize with the customer throughout the journey associated with you.
In the process of creating a brand map for your business, there will be a variance in what attributes to include (for instance, a SaaS brand will need different attributes than an eCommerce). However, the following is a standard and proven framework for developing a perfect brand map.
Step 1: Find your competitors
The first step is to find your competitors in the market.
Who are they? How long have they been in the industry? What is their customer acquisition process? What are their offerings? What’s their market proportion? etc. information must be assessed.
Why? You need to know who you are up against to create a brand map.
Of course, you will have a long list of businesses offering similar products as yours, but you don’t have to focus on all of them.
Instead, determine which companies are the closest and offer the exact products or services as yours. It will narrow down your list to only 5 to 10, helping you get an accurate analysis of your brand position in the market.
The more specific and relevant the list is, the more precise the brand map you can create.
While it may seem that you know your competition in and out (or very well), it may not be a true situation. You will want to use below preliminary methods below to identify your competitors:
- Online Research – Navigate through various search platforms like Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc and enter your products/services, and you will find which brands are in your line competing. You can follow the same process on video (YouTube) and social media platforms (Twitter, LinkedIn) to gain more accuracy. For example, a keyword search like “Top 10 Restaurant Billing Software in Vancouver” unveils the needed info.
- Market Research – Research companies and industry trade associations offer an extensive report in various sectors including market dynamics, key competitors, mergers and growth opportunities.
- Networking – Attending industry-related business events and conferences allows you to engage with industry experts, professionals and competitors. Such sessions often give a broad view of which competitor might just be on the brink of outranking you.
Through these ways, you can learn who truly is your competition which eventually leads to discovering opportunity aspects that your competitors aren’t currently capitalizing on, allowing you to craft better growth strategies.
Keep these things in mind when doing your competitor search:
- Prioritize the products and services they offer the most.
- Assess their strategies and see which ones are right or wrong.
- Determine which brands are market leaders. Compare the non-leading brands with market leaders based on performance.
- Stay ahead of your competitors’ social media pages, press releases, and websites to learn about their latest campaigns and find out what’s working for them and what’s not.
Step 2: List brand attributes
Once your competitors are sorted out, the next step is to choose brand attributes or variables.
These attributes will help in learning how ideal customers would perceive your product and compare it with different brands in the market and also what factors contribute to their purchase decision.
These details allow you to plot them on a graph and visually compare them to identify potential opportunities and make informed decisions.
The process is the same as segmenting in a library. You can use your market experience to find the correct variables for your business or take inspiration from a reputed market study.
The attributes usually vary from one niche to another and from one consumer segment to another. For example, features such as “Design, Page Speed, Content Management System (CMS), responsiveness, security, integration, etc.” which are the crucial attributes/value propositions that any website design company proudly boasts when promoting their service. Additionally, some brands position them as a cheap option and some as a high-end exclusivity.
When you know the right keywords for different products, you can categorize them perfectly. For example:
- For clothes, your variables can be stylish, comfortable, and soft.
- For electronic devices, you can choose durable, high-performing, and efficient.
- For edibles, you can pick delicious, healthy, and spicy.
Remember to include positive, negative, and neutral attributes relevant to the market or industry you’re operating in. The variables’ list should be longer than the chosen competitors, typically between 8 and 15.
Step 3: Collect Data
Now the crucial part of overall brand mapping – garnering accurate data about the competition’s attributes.
Here are some methods to source competitor data:
1. Surveys and questionnaires
Prepare and conduct well-structured surveys with clear and relevant questions to collect opinions from the target audience. Ensure to not collect user contact data to encourage unbiased responses.
It will give you insights into how your strategies are performing in the market and how you can transform your cons into pros.
All you have to do is send the questionnaire to your prospect or customers online or physically hand over the document to them. For your ease, keep your questions more or less like these:
- What do you think of our brand in a few words?
- Do you remember our brand when you hear about a specific product?
- What comes to your mind when you think of our brand?
- Will you recommend our brand to people in your circle?
- Do you find our brand reliable, trustworthy, and efficient?
- Is our brand affordable compared to competitors?
- Where do we need to improve?
- What’s unique about our brand?
- How did you learn about us?
- What is the one thing you want us to have from the competitors?
The more responses, the better. You should aim to gather 300 to 1,000 responses from customers.
Find out how the target audience is rating companies on Google Business profiles, social media, videos, forums, and other channels. It is also essential to check out reviews on websites like G2, Trustpilot, etc. for more accuracy.
3. Market Research
Make use of Industry analysis reports that provide crucial insights into customer preferences and brand overview.
4. Competitive Analysis
You can gather your competitor’s attributes by studying their website, pricing, branding strategies, message, customer support channels, etc to gain a more competitive advantage.
Besides these, marketers can also explore ways to connect with the decision-makers within the competition to collect more relevant and impactful attribute data.
Step 4: Create scores for ranking
This step involves evaluating the attributes of the chosen brands, including yours and then creating scores, visually plotting on the graph for analysis.
You can create scores to rank by numbering (0-10) or figuring percentage (0-100%), or even easier a descriptive grading (poor, better, excellent).
Step 5: Put the data in a tabular and visual form
The last step is to create scores for the selected competitors. Put the variables/attributes in a table and give your competitors scores based on them.
This analysis will allow you to understand the data deeply, turn it into actionable steps, and create an effective brand map.
The final step is to bring life to the collected data by visually plotting it on a graph, bubble chart, or spider diagram.
You can use easy and clear-to-read graphics such as colors, bars, or shapes to make your mapping more engaging and informative. Label the graph with used attributes which helps viewers understand the brand map better.
The types of data collected in brand mapping
Your collected data can be of two types: quantitative data and qualitative data. Knowing where your data lies helps you make the most of your brand mapping efforts and draw meaningful conclusions.
That’s the key to making the best decisions.
1. Quantitative data
Quantitative data includes figures, statistics, and facts, simply anything that’s in a number form. Businesses use these metrics to measure customer engagement, product adoption, service usage, and the effectiveness of their marketing and sales strategies.
With this information, you can evaluate the frequency of customers visiting your website and their time on a specific page. This way, you can design a website that ensures the best user experience (UX).
2. Qualitative data
Qualitative data refers to the emotional or non-tangible data collected from the brand map. This data helps brands understand customer perception and determine what made them buy their products.
For example, if most of the participants mentioned a specific attribute/variable in the questionnaire, it could mean that this is what customers think about your brand generally. You should dig into this variable and find ways to improve it.
Think of it as the data that captures consumer psychology, brand story, customer trust and loyalty, etc, enabling you with a transparent view of how people feel about your business.
For instance, imagine asking customers for feedback on your restaurant’s food and they share responses like:
“Food is great but the ambience could be improved”,
“The portion sizes are generous, value for the money I paid”,
“While the food was delicious, the wait time was unexpectedly long,” etc.
Simply put, qualitative data helps businesses understand the pros and challenges of their service/product from the customer’s perspective. And for a brand, these insights are valuable to better understand consumers and then elevate offerings.
Example of a brand map
A brand map example is the easiest way to understand better what a brand map looks like and what it can show you.
Suppose you own a clothing brand named XYZ, and you want to compare its market position with your competitors. You sit with your team and ask it to analyze the brand’s position as B2C sellers. It will enable your team members to find the closest competitors and the right brand attributes to assess them.
Your team then prepares a questionnaire about your chosen competitors and attributes/variables. These questions are then sent to the decision-makers for analysis and approval. Once approved, they are sent to the prospects to collect and analyze responses.
When you collect enough responses (minimum 300 and maximum 1,000), the professionals then clean the data and put them into a tabular form.
Here is an example:
|Value for money
|Corporate social responsibility (CSR)
|Easy to interact with
|Leading market experts
When collecting this data, you may not get sufficient responses from some competitors. It could be because they are not very popular, and their gathered base numbers are too little to include in the brand map.
The best part about brand maps is that they put the data against each other and compare them equally.
For instance, Brand XYZ, being a market leader, may have high percentages in most variables, as they are more popular and have a strong market reputation.
However, the brand map will give you a different perspective of this brand. It will let you analyze its performance and dominance alongside smaller brands. You may even find the smaller brand scoring a higher percentage than the larger one.
How to analyze a brand map based on different aspects
Creating a brand map is undoubtedly a lot of work. However, it will be of no use to your brand if you and your team don’t know how to analyze or read it. Here are some important metrics that can help you analyze your brand map easily:
Understanding an attribute’s importance in differentiating market offerings is crucial for businesses. You can identify it through the attribute line. The longer the line is, the greater its importance is.
Similarly, the attribute with the shortest line is not important, so you can ignore it. The above figure shows that “Leading market experts” has the shortest line, indicating that it’s not crucial.
The next thing to look at is the association of a brand with a factor by assessing its position along the line.
To determine the extent of the association, draw a perpendicular line from a brand to an attribute. For instance, in this figure, Brand 5 seems strongly associated with “value for money,” and Brand XYZ looks closely associated with “trustworthy.”
You can also assess the associations of a brand in the opposite direction. For example, if any competitor is present on the opposite side of an attribute line, it means it’s not associated with that variable. Brand XYZ is unassociated with “customer service” compared to its competitors.
3. Closeness to the center
The closeness of a brand to the map’s center indicates that it has only a few differentiating variables relative to the competition. In this figure, Brands 3 and 4 look the closest to the center.
4. Tough competition
The tightness of the brands shows that they are quite similar to each other. This means the competition between them is quite tough, and they might be the closest competitors in the market.
For instance, Brand XYZ and Brand 2 both seem “trustworthy” and “customer-centric” businesses in the above brand map.
5. Blank spaces
The blank spaces or clear air in the brand map indicate that no competitors have those characteristics. This usually happens when you choose a comprehensive list of brands for the brand map.
The above brand map shows no businesses are close to or strongly associated with “customer service.” This could mean that if a new brand enters the market focusing on this variable, it is more likely to succeed in differentiating itself from the competitors.
Note: It’s important to note that if a brand isn’t close or strongly related to a variable, it doesn’t mean it lacks that attribute. Instead, it’s just not their “differentiating” attribute, although they might be quite good at it.
A brand map is the statistical representation of a brand’s customer perception compared to its competitors in the market. It helps marketers understand what customers think about their offerings, identify the market gaps, and how to fill them to stay ahead of their competitors.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a small or large business owner, creating a brand map for better strategy-making and decision-making is important.
Simply narrow down your competitors, pick the right brand variables, gather data through a questionnaire, and transform the data into a table. Then, create a brand map and analyze it like we described to gain deeper insights into your competitors.
FAQ: Power of a Brand Map
1. Is a brand map effective for my startup business?
Whether you’re a startup, mid-level or an established venture, creating a brand map is an essential and effective strategy for understanding your target group and improving the customer experience.
Focusing on delivering a great customer experience will help achieve more sales and retain customers.
2. What is a brand map template?
A brand map template is a pre-filled visual representation of elements and attributes of single or multiple brands. This template comes with sample data that can be customizable to fit the specific goals of your business.
Using a template can be beneficial because you can create a brand map quickly and efficiently, without needing to start everything from scratch.
It is also important to note that there are many tools available in the market for creating a brand map.
3. Will the brand map help in improving my brand consistency?
Yes, a brand map significantly lifts your brand’s identity and maintains consistency throughout the branding efforts.
It ensures that every department in the organization is well coordinated per the brand’s value and mission, maintaining a consistent message in the market.
4. How can a brand map increase sales and customer satisfaction?
The key attribute of a brand map is having comprehensive info on the target group, including their preferences and purchase sentiments.
By gathering those insights, you can craft a well-resonated message to better empathize with consumers, and win their trust, making them more likely to associate with you.
5. Can a brand map expire?
Yes, it could. As industry trends evolve and consumer preferences shift, so should your brand. Marketers need to review their brand map periodically, ensuring it is relevant to the market overview and dynamics. It is recommended to review it once annually.
Conclusion – Impact of a brand map on your business
Imagine having a secret tool that positions your brand positively and uniquely in the market, contributing to your marketing and growth efforts. That’s exactly what a brand map and its analysis can do.
Creating a brand map can indeed contribute to your marketing efforts and is worth all the effort. It is also essential to note there are agencies and brand map tools that can step in to lighten your load, saving you time.
I hope with this knowledge, you are excited to embark on a journey of leveraging the brand map that will propel your business to new heights and leave a memorable mark in the minds of your customers. So, are you ready to map your business’s way to success?