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Snakeplots: A Tool For Understanding Customer Perceptions

There is a tendency in marketing to think mostly about what customers care about. That is, what benefits customers really want.

But there is another important part that should be deeply appreciated by anyone who markets products, and that is customer perceptions, or how customers view (or perceive) the different products on the market. One technique that clearly depicts these customer perceptions is "snake-plot". It is a technique that falls under the umbrella term of "perceptual mapping."

The concept of a snake plot is simple. We first gather the benefits that customers use to judge the different products on the market. You can see a tutorial if you are unclear about these terms: Benefits vs. Attributes. Then place each benefit on a scale with the appropriate endpoints. Conceptually, we might think of this as a simple 5 or 7 point scale. An example is shown below for three benefits that might be applied to a pharmaceutical drug: efficacy (how effective it is), price/dose, and ease of application.

Notice that the so-called better things (like low price) are on the right hand side which aids in interpretation. The points where the red and black lines intersect the various benefit lines represent customer's perceptions of the products from Competitor A and B. In this example, the product of Competitor A is perceived as relatively low in efficacy compared to the product of Competitor B. But, the price per dose of Competitor A's product is perceived as lower. Finally, Competitor A's product is perceived as relatively easier to apply than Competitor B's product. The difference between customer's perceptions of the two products represents a perceptual gap. Obviously you'd like the perceptual gap to be in your favor.

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