For as long as dial testing has been a mainstay of global market, media, and public opinion research, its uses and benefits still remain a mystery to some. Whether to eliminate groupthink, quantitatively validate an idea, or drive deeper and more meaningful group discussion, dial testing can play a critical role in focus group and survey research. To help introduce (or re-introduce) you to the dial testing methodology, here are 10 good reasons why it should be part of your research mix.
#1: Dial testing uncovers the most impactful, critical moments.
Unlike typical results from purely qualitative studies, dial testing’s ability to collect continuous feedback allows you to focus in on the critical moments and messages that are most impactful and explore those through in-depth follow-up discussions. As Elizabeth Merrick, a consumer research expert and former Senior Manager of Consumer Insights at HSN, noted, “It makes all the difference to be able to see our videos from the same perspective that the customer sees it, and to be able to isolate moments of truth. Those types of results are much more actionable for us.”
#2: Dial testing identifies moments or messages that fall flat.
Just as the most impactful moments can be easily gleaned, so can those that fall flat, revealing individual segments or messages that miss the mark. Many times these problematic areas, once identified, can be fixed early on, saving you and your clients the cost of starting over or scrapping the entire project. As media researcher Neil Griffiths of Blinc Partnership noted, “Essentially, the dials tell the story. Response lines may show a program has a great beginning and ending, but a not-so-great second act. This tells the producer the second act, or elements of it, needs improvement, not that the whole program should be shelved.”
Dial testing is one of the most effective (and universally accepted) methods of getting to what consumers and audiences are really thinking, in-the-moment. Why is this important? Because relying on recall alone is flawed and can lead to inaccurate results. As Dr. Dave Lundahl, CEO of InsightsNow, said, “Moment-to-Moment research has such a wide range of applications to glean deeper insights into the whys of visceral reactions. Recall has its place, but is fraught with too many errors for the mind to ‘fill in the blanks’ in what really cannot be accurately recalled.”
Where does recall feedback fall short? Here’s a real-world example courtesy of HSN’s Elizabeth Merrick:
“Dial testing allowed us to pinpoint something that participants were having trouble articulating during group discussion. We always show multiple product close-ups during a segment and what we learned through the dial testing was that we were causing viewer fatigue with too many close-ups. The first and even second close-up rated well, but by the time we got the third and fourth, the ratings dropped significantly. Once we learned that through this quantitative method, we were able to discuss it specifically with participants where they were then able to better articulate the issue to us. That is something we were unable to learn through group discussion alone.”
#4: Dial testing eliminates bias and groupthink.
In a focus group setting, bias and groupthink can run amok. Dominant respondents take over, while more passive ones are easily influenced. Additionally, we know that questions asked earlier in the session, whether in polling, focus groups, or in-depth interviews, can contaminate questions asked later on. The same can happen when respondents hear other answers before giving their own. Dial testing allows for individual and independent feedback, minimizing the impact that groupthink or “herd mentality” can have on your results.
#5 Dial testing adds a quant boost to your qual.
This one speaks for itself. Ask closed-ended questions, and/or gather continuous, moment-to-moment feedback during a video or live presentation, and you’re instantly adding a valuable quantitative component to what is normally a purely qualitative session. Collecting targeted data gives researchers the ability to drive deeper, more focused follow-up discussions and provides tangible results for reporting.
Here’s how Aaron Paquette, Vision Critical’s EVP of Media and Entertainment explained it. “Dial testing can capture that visceral reaction in the moment, allowing researchers to understand what’s working and what’s not on a second-by-second basis, as well as the ‘flow’ throughout an entire piece. We use this deeper level of feedback to make editing decisions, remove entire scenes, reorder elements and quicken pace. We also use this to ask thoughtful follow-up questions that can address moments of confusion, boredom or offensiveness.”
#6: Dial testing results are instant.
Researchers using the Perception Analyzer can see the results in real-time, allowing them to dive deeper in-the-moment. Added Senior Trial Consultant Lara Giese, “Every time I use the dials and moment-to-moment, it saves my client time and money. It gives attorneys the information they need to change direction in real-time, enabling continuous review and analysis.”
#7: Dial testing opens your eyes.
Research participants can’t always articulate what they’re thinking. Conducting multi-mode research by combining dial testing with discussion allows participants to answer questions in different ways. Coming at things from different angles gives researchers more tools to get to the heart of what respondents are really thinking and why. Even seasoned dial testing researchers comment how they’re often surprised by how participants will say one thing and dial another and how it leads to discussions that would have never been possible without dials in the room.
#8: Dial testing results add a visual pop that’s easy to digest.
Not only are visual representations of data often more easily interpreted, they can also be more convincing. And the visual nature of the dial results speak to non-researchers in a much more natural way than heavy charts and tables—the overlay lines tell a story all on their own.
As one of our Perception Analyzer Online clients noted, “Having the graphic overlay of response lines is easy for all stakeholders, especially for those without a research pedigree, to understand and much more intuitive than a bar graph.”
#9: Dial testing is scalable and versatile.
Dialsmith’s Perception Analyzer dials have been used worldwide in many different forums—from small, intimate settings, to focus group rooms, and even large auditoriums. The dials can be used to gather continuous, moment-to-moment feedback as well as discrete and scale feedback. In addition to conducting dial testing on-site in a focus group setting, dial testing can also be done online—using an on-screen slider instead of a dial. Online dial testing can be integrated into surveys, online communities, even virtual focus groups.
One of our media research clients conducts both online and in-person dial testing on the same material. The online testing is done first in order to reach a more regionally diverse and statistically significant sample. The initial findings are then explored much deeper with a follow up, in-person dial test and focus group.
#10: Dial testing can cure what ails you.
There’s something to be said for what’s tried-and-true, however “been there, done that” can get stale and doesn’t offer a competitive advantage. Researchers who add dial testing to their research mix have something new to offer their clients and an avenue to get to deeper and richer insights. Now, curing that stubborn bunion on your left foot or the persistent sinus infection that won’t go away? Well… for those, you’re on your own. But, relieving some stress and saving you extra travel might stave off a cold or two and the general awesomeness you will experience from dial testing will make your whole world better.
Convinced? Well, if you want to make sure you’re prepped to propose dial testing to your clients, you can download our free “Essentials of Moment-to-Moment Research” eBook or contact our consulting team here at Dialsmith to schedule a brainstorming session.