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How to abuse two dimensions at once

In advertising, we often come across this four legged spider called 'the perceptual map'. It is quite an interesting tool really. If done right, it is a very efficient visual representation of chosen facts (not the whole truth, but the part that helps win an argument. :P) The uglier mutations of this spider are the intuitive/ judgemental/ consensus maps. The difference is, while the prior is based on numbers, the later are approximate 'gut feelings' of people who sit often removed from reality.  Even then, these are useful, if only in finding new perspectives to see with.
We planners tend to use it quite often for its efficiency in meaning making and sharing of perspective. But lately even the clients have wizened up to it. But not entirely. Recently, we were briefed with a perceptual map that had four categories of the product at the four legs of the graph. That makes no sense. I can't share the actual figure of-course, but here's something similar (different category).
 It is the age of cross-over products. And you must convey the uniqueness of your cross over somehow. But this is not the best way to do it. seriously.

Shit that makes no sense.

Here's some handy tips to do these graphs right.

1. Oppositions: Humans understand things better with a frame of reference of opposites. An apple is edible for a human baby, as against a rubber ball (inedible). So here the concept of the opposition between edible and inedible things is absolute. The borders are drawn and they are distinguishable (mostly). So apple can sit at one end of the spectrum (definitely edible) with a rubber ball sitting at the other end (definitely inedible) with a piece of squid meat sitting somewhere in the middle. (depends. On the nationality of the mother/ father to start with.)
The perceptual maps work if you identify such oppositions to represent. So dig for the 'cultural tensions' if you must. For example, Contentious meal options v/s non-contentious meal options in India, where cow/ pig meat will sit in one extreme whereas a vada pav or a masala dosa will sit in the other.
Commuter bike is not conceptually the opposite of a racing bike. it is just a different kind of bike. So they can't sit on different ends in a conceptual map.

2. The two dimensions: The map is in two dimensions. One horizontal. One vertical. Each dimension represents a variable. And for the map to work, each dimension must stand for a unique, independent but related variable. In the example of bikes, all four legs belonged to a single variable. Hence it did not make any sense.
Secondly, if it is dependent variable, then it will simply create a predictable curve on the graph. Which might be good for a maths class, but it doesn't provide new insights to position your brand or surprising segments of consumers to target.

3. One universe of related variables: The two variable must belong to the same universe. There is no point in comparing countries to fruits. Not only should the variables belong to the same universe but they should be about a single thing/ concept. If  one variable is about the height of people in Vanuatu, then the other cannot be about skin color of New Zealanders. Neither is the heigh and skin color related to each other, nor is their a commonality between the universe. It might still make sense instead if height of people (short v/s tall) in vanuatu is put in perspective with the diet of people of vanuatu (malnourished v/s over eaters). That perhaps might throw up some insights.

Hmm.. may be you know more about this than I do. I am merely a peddler of perspective. Share yours.


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