One of the foundational principles of branding and marketing is positioning.
That is, defining a unique position in the market that’s both different from your competitors and valuable to your target market.
But competitive positions aren’t just sitting around waiting for the next company to come along and snap them up.
They’re hidden and require tools and deep, creative thinking to be found.
Market mapping is one of the most effective competitive positioning tools available and this article will give you a template to map a powerful brand position.
What Is Market Mapping? (Brand Positioning Map Tool)
One-click subscribe for video updates
What Is Market Mapping?
Market mapping refers to the mapping of your competitive landscape.
It’s the process of using a graph to visualise a given competitive environment by plotting individual competitors using a set of two criteria.
This mapping process brings the market to life visually helping to uncover gaps, opportunities for brands through the unmet needs of consumers.
The right set of criteria used to plot the map can help to uncover an untapped opportunity of a void in the market that the audience wants.
In other words, the market map in the right hands is a very valuable positioning tool.
Why Is Market Mapping Important?
When you hear the word market, you might think of traditional market stalls with vendors selling fresh produce such as vegetables, cured meats or cheese.
But most markets aren’t physical places and the landscape of competitors aren’t easily seen or visualised in a way that’s effective for comparison or analysis.
It’s also very easy for business leaders to make assumptions and to believe they have the full picture of their competitions strengths and weaknesses though this can result in costly missed opportunities.
PRO Brand Strategy BluePrint
Build Brands Like A Pro Brand Strategist
Market Mapping Pros & Cons
When it comes to brand positioning, there’s no magic key or silver bullet.
Like most industry tools, the positioning map has some advantages and disadvantages so let’s take a closer look at what these are.
Explore Brand Strategy
Programs & Tools
Advantages Of A Market Map
Market mapping has been used by business leaders and marketers for decades.
Although this tool isn’t on the cutting edge of science, it can still be used to great affect.
Here are some of the advantages:
Displays entire market
Easy to understand
Direct comparison with competitors
Unlimited Variable Combinations
Disadvantages Of A Market Map
Despite the many advantages to using a market map, it’s not a foolproof science and there are some disadvantages that should be considered which include:
Lack scientific accuracy
Can be subjective
Can be biased
No facts / statistics
Only based on two variables
Examples Of Market Mapping Variables
In reality, the positioning map (or perceptual map) used for market mapping is overly simplistic.
But there is power in that simplicity and the value of the map or the results it produces is largely dependant on the importance and creativity of the variables used.
You can plot pretty much any variable though the closer you are to the important buying decision factors, the more impactful and valuable with gaps and opportunities you find will be.
Here are a few examples of market mapping variables or dimensions.
High Price vs Low Price
Low Quality vs High Quality
Low Tech vs High Tech
Simple vs Complex
Short Turnaround vs Long Turnaround
Low Capability vs High Capability
Necessity vs Luxury
Unhealthy vs Healthy
Inconvenient vs Convenient
Best Market Mapping Process & Template
Like everything else in branding, achieving the best results comes down to robust processes that you can use time and again.
So here is a step-by-step template that you can use to position your brands or your client’s brands in their competitive landscape.
Best Market Mapping Template (Map A Powerful Brand Position)
One-click subscribe for video updates
Step 1: Segment Your Market
Before you go identifying variables and plotting competitors, you want to get crystal clear on the market segment you’re targeting.
Every market is full of segments that differ from each other in their desires, fears, challenges, motivations and of course their buying decisions.
A buying decision factor in one market segment might be super important while for another it might not be in their top 10 reasons to buy.
So don’t stop at defining your market, get clear on your target market segments.
Step 2: Define Your Variables
As I just covered in step one, buying decision factors differ from one market to the next and one market segment to the next.
The more intimately you understand the segment you want to target the more granular you can get with identifying the decision-making factors that are important to them.
These factors make for the most powerful market mapping variables.
If you can uncover a gap in the market based on two important decision making factors you have ingredients for a powerful positioning strategy.
Remember, the more variables and combinations of variables you map your market with, the more likely you are to unearth a unique opportunity.
Step 3: Score Your Competitors
Before you create any market maps, you need some plot points to work with.
The best way to do this is to gather the data you need in a spreadsheet.
In the first column, identify all of your market competitors and each proceeding column after that should contain the variables you’ve identified.
Each variable you use will have a high point and a low point so for example you might be plotting the price variable in which case you’d have a low price and a high price.
For each variable, you want to assign a value out of 10. An extreme low point should be scored at 1 while an extreme high point should be scored at 10.
Step 4: Plot Your Market Landscape
Once you have your variables scored for each competitors, mix and match the combinations across multiple maps.
For example, if you’ve identified “price” and “quality” as important variables, then you can use “price” on the y-axis and “quality” on the x-axis.
Obviously, the more variables you use, the more combinations there’ll be, the more maps you’ll need.
When you’ve created your maps using your variable combinations, begin plotting your competitors’ brands across each one of the maps.
If you’ve identified a laundry list of variables this may take some time but as long as your variables are buying decision considerations, it’s time well spent.
Step 5: Identify Gaps & Opportunities
After plotting a series of maps based on your combination of variables, you’ll be able to see your market visually, most likely for the first time.
Depending on the combination of variables you’ve used, you may find that some maps display your competitors spread evenly while others might have your competitors crowded together on one side or one quadrant.
The name came from the idea that red oceans are full of sharks (i.e. you competitors) while blue oceans represent opportunity.
The congested areas on your maps represent the red ocean while the free space represents the blue ocean and the gaps and opportunities that market mapping provides.
Market Mapping Tools
As I mentioned earlier, market mapping has been used for decades. In years past, most would be plotted with a pen, paper and a ruler.
Today, we tend to use software for pretty much everything bar brushing our teeth.
Here are some modern-day tools you can use for mapping your market.
Group map is positioned as a real-time online brainstorming tool for meetings, workshops or any digital collaboration.
The software that allows you to create all kinds of different maps and then to share those maps with clients or colleagues.
Miro is positioned as a platform where teams get work done.
In other words, it’s the ultimate collaborative tool to create unlimited numbers or types of exercises, activities or interactive maps.
You can use Miro to not just create positioning maps, but to run entire collaborative brand strategy workshops from.
Over To You
At the cornerstone of every brand is a strategy and at the cornerstone of every brand strategy is a unique position.
It forms the centre point of the brand and everything else is created and expressed with that position in mind.
Finding a unique position is one of the most challenging aspect in branding which is why you need as many effective tools at your disposal as you can find.
Market mapping is not rocket science, it’s not cutting edge and it’s not foolproof.
But if you take the time your competitors don’t to map your landscape effectively, you might just find gold in the unique opportunity you’re searching for.
On-Demand Digital Program
Brand Master Secrets
Make the transition from hired-gun to highly valued brand strategist in less than 30 days. The systems, frameworks and tools inside this comprehensive program are all you need to level up.