I get a call from my wife about once a week on my commute home. “Can you pick up five things from the market? Should I text you a list?” My response every time is “A list for five items? No I don’t need a list. I can remember.” But my over-confidence is usually the start of things falling apart. I start picking out the items I need and slowly, but surely I come up with only three of the five items. What were the other items I wonder? Why is it that I always forget and why does it always take me at least 30 minutes to pick up a handful of items?
With these quandaries in mind, I kept my detective skills handy on my next impromptu market visit. My mental list was ready as I went into the store and first up, milk. Here’s where things got interesting. When I arrived at the shelf display for milk, I found myself spending a lot of time comparing brands, ingredients, and features. Even when I see a brand I usually buy, I think about switching to a brand that is organic or all natural. What’s ultra-pasteurized? Then I start to notice more product highlights — local and organic, made with milk from grass-fed cows, only with A2 proteins. I found myself reading and investigating all of my options. This was my problem, as I was spending so much time trying to find the best option, I was forgetting the items at the bottom of my list.
While working at BrandIQ with several clients I realized that A) I am not crazy and B) most consumers are going through the same buying process as I am. All products are different, but each one has special characteristics that are heavily desired by consumers. Maximum Difference scaling (MaxDiff) is a statistical technique used to find meaningful and relevant product features. On a traditional 5-point scaled question consumers tend to choose similar ratings for what they find appealing. MaxDiff eliminates a scale and forces consumers to truly differentiate product characteristics. It not only ranks the importance of product characteristics, but can also identify what combination of product characteristics will appeal to the largest group of consumers. This technique is used for focusing advertisement messaging, developing package claim combinations, optimizing menus, as well as answering many other important research questions.
If more products used MaxDiff for package claim optimization, I know I would be immediately drawn to specific brands, feel confident in my purchases, and feel less like a failure when I go shopping.
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