Brand Differentiation in Medical Devices Industry – Leveraging Perceptual Maps to enhance your brand positioning


Once upon a time, MedTech companies could afford to be sales driven organizations on the back of their engineering prowess. Alas, those days are now over. MedTech companies face a consistent challenge of distinguishing their brand and offerings in a crowded marketplace where technologies get outdated every 18 months or less, new technologies being launched by unconventional players, ever so demanding regulatory changes, and shifting customer demands. Effective brand positioning allows marketing led MedTech companies to defend/grow their share in this complex market, and perceptual mapping is an effective tool to identify and establish your brand positioning.

Understanding Brand Perceptual Mapping

At its core, brand perceptual mapping is a visual analytical technique that allows you to view your brand’s differentiation on specific attributes vs. competitor brands among your target audience. These attributes could range from tangible aspects like technical specifications, cost, build quality, etc. to intangible ones such as brand prestige, ease of doing business, quality of customer support, etc. The resulting map provides a snapshot of the competitive landscape, illustrating how well differentiated various brands are on specific attributes. The market leaders invariably are strongly Differentiated on the most Important attributes.

A Step-By-Step Approach to Creating a Brand Perceptual Map:

1. Identify Key Attributes: Start by selecting relevant attributes that consumers consider when evaluating brands. These should cover both tangible and intangible factors, ideally done through open-ended qualitative/exploratory interviews.
2. Gather Data: Using quantitative survey methodology, ask the target audience to first-rate the importance of the attributes, and then to associate your brand and competition on these chosen attributes.
3. Plotting Data: Given that you might use 10 or even more attributes, multi-variate statistical analysis tools like factor analysis or cluster analysis will need to be deployed to manage the complexity of visualizing multiple dimensions effectively.
4. Create the Map: Plot the brands on a graph based on the analyzed data. Each axis represents an attribute, with brands positioned according to how they score for each attribute.
5. Interpret the Map: Analyze the positioning of brands to understand their market perception. Brands clustered together are seen as similar by customers, while outliers may possess unique traits.

Fig. A. Sample Perceptual Map for a Capital Medical Equipment Brand:


Technical Interpretation:

VECTOR LENGTH indicates how much the products are seen as differing on that attribute.

  • A short vector (Innovative solutions) indicates the products do not differ much and it is therefore probably not worth promoting since all products are seen as about the same.
  • A long vector length (Reliable after-sales support) indicates that this attribute clearly differentiates these products and this graph.

VECTOR ANGELS define the degree of association among attributes

  • Attributes with small angles between them are seen as positively correlated (one attribute goes with the other)
  • Attributes with a 90° angle between them are independent of each other.
  • Attribute vectors with greater than a 90° angle between them are seen as negatively correlated.
  • Attribute vectors opposite each other are mutually exclusive (you can’t have both)

Brand and Attributes Placement Interpretation

Fig. B.

Strategic Interpretation

Brand perceptual mapping empowers MedTech companies to navigate the competitive landscape with greater insight and precision.

1. Spotlight on Differentiation

Differentiation in the MedTech sector extends beyond the core technology of products. While technological innovation and specifications remains a cornerstone of competition, perceptual mapping reveals a broader spectrum of attributes that can serve as foundations for differentiation. Attributes such as after-sales support, integration with existing systems, user training programs, customizable options, and software interoperability are often undervalued in their potential to set a brand apart. In the perceptual map above (Fig. A.) Brand 3 and Brand 1 are leveraging their unique positions in software interoperability and customization respectively. This differentiation may provide them with a competitive edge, as they occupy less crowded and more distinct positions in the market landscape.

2. Exploring White Spaces for Innovation

Perceptual mapping excels in uncovering ‘white spaces’ or market opportunities that are currently unoccupied by any brand. These represent gaps in the market where consumer needs are not fully met by existing offerings. In the perceptual map (Fig. A.), there is a significant gap in perceptions of customer support, ease of integration, and user interface as these attributes are not associated with any brand. This insight suggests that a MedTech company could achieve a stronger market position by enhancing its after-sales support services or by making its products more compatible with existing technologies in healthcare facilities.

From a marketing perspective, by communicating a commitment to comprehensive support, integration ease, and intuitive UI, companies can appeal to healthcare providers’ desires for reliability, efficiency, and minimal disruption to existing workflows.

3. Guiding Product Lifecycle Management

Perceptual mapping offers invaluable insights throughout the product lifecycle, from introduction to decline. By identifying how consumer perceptions evolve over time, MedTech companies can strategically plan product updates, enhancements, or discontinuations. For instance, if a product begins to be perceived as outdated or less innovative than competitors, this signals a crucial juncture for technological upgrades or rebranding efforts. In the shown example (Fig. A.), Brand 3’s current association with software interoperability presents a strategic benefit. However, this position is at risk if competitors begin to enhance their offerings in this domain. Continuous innovation and product development are critical for Brand 3 to sustain its market position.

4. Facilitating Strategic Alliances and Partnerships

In the MedTech industry, strategic alliances and partnerships are often pivotal for growth and expansion. Perceptual mapping can identify potential partners that complement a company’s strengths or fill gaps in its offerings. By visualizing where other companies stand in terms of key attributes, MedTech firms can pinpoint ideal collaborators who share similar values or possess strengths in areas where they seek reinforcement, The perceptual map (Fig.A.), showcases Brands 5, 6, and 7’s strong association with attributes such as product specifications, flexible payment options, innovative solutions, and IP protection. These brands might gain additional market strength by partnering with Brand 3, which excels in software interoperability, creating a more formidable and diversified product portfolio

Check out our Case Study to learn more about how brand perceptual mapping works.


As the MedTech industry continues to cope with the challenges of differentiation in a complex market, brand perceptual mapping stands out as a beacon of strategic clarity. It not only aids in understanding the current competitive landscape but also in anticipating future trends and opportunities. For MedTech companies aiming to differentiate, adopting perceptual mapping is not just a strategic choice—it’s a necessity for survival and growth in the dynamic field of medical technology.

With extensive experience in the medical device industry, Cetas Healthcare provides specialized services designed to help MedTech companies understand their market position, identify opportunities for differentiation, and navigate the competitive landscape with confidence.
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Vatsal Tiwari

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