MaxDiff Scaling has become a widely used market research technique that provides a hierarchy of the relative importance or appeal for a list of statements. MaxDiff Scaling utilizes tradeoff technique in which respondents are forced to choose between items. This method provides better discrimination than straight rating scales. As part of the MaxDiff exercise, respondents are shown multiple sets of statements. For each set of statements, they are asked to select:

  • The most important (or most appealing) item and
  • The least important (or least appealing) item

While this exercise provides a very good assessment of the relative order of the statements, it does not identify which items – or whether any of them – are actually important or appealing to the respondent. In fact, standard MaxDiff questioning typically results in approximately half of the items being above the reference point of 0 and the other half below the reference point – very helpful for prioritizing; not so helpful for determining absolute attitudes.

But, there is help! Over the past few years, the concept of Anchored MaxDiff Scaling has been introduced to provide an absolute element to the hierarchy provided by MaxDiff Scaling.

The anchored scaling approach RTi prefers to employ entails adding a question to the analysis after the MaxDiff exercise is completed. For this additional question, respondents are given a checklist of all the statements included in the MaxDiff exercise and asked to select those items they consider important (or appealing). In most situations the hierarchy of items is similar whether standard MaxDiff Scaling is employed or the additional anchoring technique is implemented. The value of the anchored question is it will move the reference point from the middle of the list to where it belongs based on the stated importance or appeal of the items being measured.

And so, with the addition of one simple question (and some analytical prowess), the traditional MaxDiff method can be leveraged to be a much more powerful insight tool!

-Howard Firestone, VP Marketing Science