- Student: Janice T
- Textbook: N/A
- Course: MKT 421 – 2014-15 Academic Year
Perceptual Maps in Marketing
Perceptual mapping can be defined as the process of comparing products based on the perception of potential customers. The goal of this practice is to allow product marketers to gain a stronger understanding of customer impressions to brands, advertising campaigns, and new market offerings. By mapping customer reactions and perceptions, a company can fine-tune their overall marketing strategy and position their image relative to competitors (Wiley 2011). The week four simulations provided a detailed example of how a motorcycle company can use perceptual mapping to make decisions related to their brand and products.
In the simulation, Thorr Motorcycles offers a variety of products to the motorcycle riding community. Products were placed on a graph and compared to similar products offered by their closest competitors, which provided a visual image of the product relationships. Each scenario required the choice a solution to improve sales of the product being analyzed.
The first scenario was centered on an existing motorcycle know as the Cruiser Thorr, which has been declining in sales. This would be considered an example of a product that has reached the end of the product life cycle. In the past, this product had been marketed towards an older demographic who is no longer purchasing in high volume. To solve this problem, the Cruiser Thorr is needs to be marketed to a more youthful group of customers. The younger customer base is most responsive to changes in affordable pricing, quality, and lifestyle image. This younger customer base is much more budget conscious, but also requires a strong image of quality engineering.
The second scenario deals with creation of a new motorcycle to add the Thorr Motorcycle’s product line, also targeted at the same youthful demographic. It is essential to consider price, place, promotion, and services when launching a new product. In this case, the goal is to attract youthful customers so it was important to keep prices low. When considering product placement, the young demographic prefers online shopping when compared to the traditional in-person dealership approach. Promotion must use symbols and celebrity endorsements that cater to this young crowd, while primarily being web based. Finally, offering reliable service through a membership plan was only of minor importance.
The third scenario picks up 1 year after the marketing plan has been in effect. Overall, the decisions made for marketing the new motorcycle were shown to be very successful. The lowest rating came with the decision to focus on quality engineering, as opposed to the cool factor. One year after the marketing plan went into effect, it became clear that this younger demographic is more interested in looking cool, rather then buying a high quality machine. Had this quality been picked up on the initial perceptual map, it is likely that greater success could have been achieved when launching this new product.
Relationship between Differentiation and Positioning
The two fundamental factors that can be understood through perceptual mapping are differentiation and positioning. Differentiation is the process of making product look different than a competitor with the goal of attracting a different niche in the market (Wiley 2011). For example, if two companies offered an identically branded motorcycle, it would be unlikely that both of the products survive over the long term.
Positioning refers to the way a brand appears relative to the competition. The simulation offered three separate scenarios that mapped the position Thorr Motorcycles relative to their main competitors. In each case, it could be seen as beneficial to differentiate the product offerings of the company to appeal a specific market niche, such as budget conscious younger consumers. It found that the repositioning of the product was more effective than I expected. The simulation highlighted the amount of power that customer perceptions can have on the overall success of a product. A few minor changes to product, price, promotion, and placement was all it took to have a major impact on the success of the product.
Effect on Product Life Cycle on Marketing
The product life cycle includes product, price, placement, and distribution. As with any new product, it is likely to be difficult to penetrate a new customer base. For example, Thorr Motorcycles benefited from offering a low price when the product was launched. Had the company priced the product higher, its unlikely that the young target customer would have been willing to pay top dollar for an unproven product.
Promotion is also a very important aspect of the product life cycle in the early stages of a product launch (Friesner 2012). It is important for the company to educate potential customers on the new product, while providing a compelling reason for them to buy the motorcycle over competitor offerings. It is this reason I recommended celebrity endorsements as a method of promotion, as it will take an exceptional effort grab the attention of the young audience. Thorr motorcycles had to take a significant risk by choosing a new method of distribution by offering the product on the Internet.
Effect of Product Life Cycle on Product
There were major differences between the old product with declining sales and the new motorcycle entering an unknown market. For example, the old motorcycle had reached the end of the product lifecycle and required new tactics to rejuvenate its image. By updating the image and changing the price, the company was able to salvage a product and offer it to a new segment of the market. Had the company failed to address the declining sales, the product would have most likely become an unprofitable burden on the Thorr Motorcycle product line.
On the other hand, the new product is designed with the product life cycle in mind at all times. The goal of launching the new motorcycle is to create a loyal customer base that will buy this product well into the future. The company must make a conscious effort to create a product image that appeals to the youthful demographic, while also hitting a price point that is affordable for lower income customers. As this customer base becomes stronger in the future, the company will have the ability to increase price and offer stronger customer service, such as membership plans.
Perceptual mapping can be extremely insightful into the inner workings of the product life cycle. The simulation showed me how a declining product can be rejuvenated by making changes to the marketing mix. It also showed how important these considerations are when launching a new product. By analyzing the desires of the target demographic, the company was able to successfully launch a new product. Understanding the perceptions of customers in advance prevented the company from wasting money on ineffective marketing strategies. As the product continues through its lifecycle, Thorr Motorcycles can use the same process to optimize the product and marketing strategy for its customers. Overall, this simulation emphasized the important of customer perceptions and provided a method to interpret these perceptions in a visual format.
What Is Perceptual Mapping in Product Development?.
Friesner, T. (2012). The Product Life Cycle (PLC). Retrieved from http://www.marketingteacher.com/lesson…/lesson-plc.html on April 4th, 2013.