I am just looking at the results of some market research that we have just fielded for a client to understand the strength of association of specific attributes with specific competitors.
This data lends itself perfectly to being displayed as a perceptual map. Attributes on which every competitor scores more or less the same (well or badly) have scores with low standard deviation and plot at the center of the map. Attributes on which there is a greater variation in the individual scores plot more towards the periphery of the map. Their position on the map is determined by how similar or dissimilar their tick pattern relative to other attributes (technically, their covariance).
Typically the top 5 or more highest scoring attributes in any category are all associated with every one of the main competitors and therefore cluster at the center of the map. It is therefore almost impossible to establish a differentiated position based on them. Counter-intuitive though it may appear at first, your best bet is to look at some of the less highly ranked attributes (because they are unevenly scored across competitors) and consider how they might be used as the basis for differentiation.
It is not that you do not need to “own” the top 5 attributes as well – it is just that you also need to add a difference that makes a difference.
The point is that percpetual maps are a powerful way of showing how respondents “view the world” (or at least that part of their world in which your company competes). The map shows clearly which attributes are deemed to be “table stakes” – ones that everyone has to the same degree. For technology companies this might mean “innovative” and for healthcare companies this might mean “caring” – the point is that they are attributes of the entire category and not the exclusive characteristic of any one company.
The key question is “what makes you special?” – the answer to that might be something relatively minor (like the 10th attribute on the list) but it may be the difference that has the potential to make a difference.