Guess what, it can be exactly like that.
One of the most powerful tools in branding is the perceptual map, or the positioning map. It is called perceptual because it is built using the perception of users or customers, and places all the brands in a particular space on the same map.
In-house marketing teams use them to figure out how they compare to the competition, and agencies use them to help companies build a new brand. We think recruiters should be using them as well to effectively position themselves within the talent market.
Perceptual maps: a powerful tool to build an employer branding map
The idea of a perceptual map is fairly basic:
Step 1: Choose two attributes of a specific competitive space.
For example, in the automotive space, we can look at how modern or classic the brand is, versus how sporty or city. Sometimes the attributes can be correlated to each other, such how cheap/expensive the car is perceived to be versus how luxurious or economic it is considered to be by customers.
Step 2: Rate the brands in that space according to the two attributes
Share a survey with potential users or customers of the brand asking them to rate every brand on the two attributes.
In our example above, one of the questions would be: “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “Extremely city” and 10 being “Extremely sporty”. Ferrari or Lamborghini could rate a 10, Porsche an 8, Audi a 5 and Toyota a 2.
Step 3: Visualize
The simplest way is to average the scores for each brand and then place them on a graph as shown below:
You can also plot all the answers on the map in a scatterplot. If the dots are mostly clumped up together, it means that customers generally perceive your brand the same way. If they are all over the map, it indicates that different people experience your brand in different ways. Not necessarily a bad thing, but definitely worth diving into.
It’s not always obvious how to use a perceptual map for powerful insights. Take the following map:
It basically says that cars that rank high in the Quality attribute also usually rank high in the Price attribute. You didn’t really need a perceptual map to tell you that.
Now look at the maps shown in the following video, published in A Better Way to Map Brand Strategy on the Harvard Business Review.
They measure how customers perceive car brands on two dimensions:
- Centrality, or how “top-of-mind” and central they are to their category
- Distinctiveness, or how differentiated they are from their competitors
Notice that the two are different. A brand might be very well-known in its category, but not very distinctive- customers might have trouble defining how it’s different from other brands, what it stands for, what it’s really good at.
After laying out the brands according to their centrality and distinctiveness, the authors then overlaid sales and profit data, and that’s where the strategic insights came out.
By seeing where in the map it stands compared to the competition, Tesla understands that it needs to become more top-of-mind, and market to a broader audience. Similarly, Kia can see that with a small boost in distinctiveness, the company can afford higher prices and still be in line with the market’s expectations in term of price.
What employer branding maps can do for recruiters
Going through the exercise of building an employer branding map can be super useful in many situations:
- When trying to build up the employer brand for the first time.
We’ve given a lot of thought to employer branding in general, and to the elements that go into it. A perceptual map can help you start the process by identifying where your competitors stand, for example, and what their strengths are. It helps you identify if there are any desirable blank spots on the map that you can aim for.
- When identifying a way to stand out better.
By surveying candidates on different attributes, recruiters can find out where they stand out on the map, and where they are clumped up with other companies hiring for the same profiles. As being differentiated is super important in branding, it’s always a good idea to try to put some distance between you and the competition.
- When tracking the impact of campaigns to change candidates’ perception
If a company has been struggling to hire top-shelf design engineers because they are perceived as not innovative enough, the logical next step is to plan campaigns highlighting the innovative projects they’ve been working on recently. Over time, a perceptual map can help you monitor how much your campaigns are moving the needle in candidates’ minds. Everyone, from the most conservative to the most agile recruiting teams, can use it to check their progress.
For an employer branding perceptual map that gives a lot of insights, focus on attributes that are not directly correlated. Added bonus if the attributes are not vertical, like “less distinctive” to “more distinctive”, but rather horizontal, such as “city car” vs “sports car”.
Building an employer branding map does not have to be a complex project, especially the first time around. You can start with a small group of candidates, and have a focus group to decide what attributes matter most to them in employer brands. You can the ask them to rank your company, as well as a few competitors, against those attributes.
The important part is being deliberate and precise. A project like an employer branding map can seem very imprecise given that we’re asking people to put numbers on intangibles, but perceptual maps are a purely quantitative tool, and can bring a ton of value to the team.
Hiring for Scarce Skills
You can learn more about what tools and techniques are used for effective employer branding at our next event: Hiring for Scarce Skills. Come hear top talent acquisition speakers discuss the latest trends and technologies in engagement, community building, and employer branding, and enjoy the view and sunshine from the terrace of our London office.