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10 Ways Dial Testing Will Improve Your

Research
Brian Izenson

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 reintroduce) 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 testings 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 dierence 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 Griths 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.

#3: Dial testing captures opinions and perceptions in-the-moment.


Dial testing is one of the most eective (and universally accepted) methods
of getting to what consumers and audiences are really thinking, in-themoment. 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? Heres a real-world example courtesy
of HSNs 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 youre 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.
Heres how Aaron Paquette, Vision Criticals EVP of Media and
Entertainment explained it. Dial testing can capture that visceral reaction in
the moment, allowing researchers to understand whats working and whats
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 oensiveness.
#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 cant always articulate what theyre thinking.
Conducting multi-mode research by combining dial testing with discussion
allows participants to answer questions in dierent ways. Coming at things
from dierent 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 theyre 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 thats 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 tablesthe 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.
Dialsmiths Perception Analyzer dials have been used worldwide in many
dierent forumsfrom 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 onlineusing 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.
Theres something to be said for whats tried-and-true, however been
there, done that can get stale and doesnt oer a competitive advantage.
Researchers who add dial testing to their research mix have something new
to oer 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 wont go away? Well for those, youre on your own. But,
relieving some stress and saving you extra travel might stave o 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 youre prepped to propose dial
testing to your clients, you can download our free Essentials of Momentto-Moment Research eBook or contact our consulting team here at
Dialsmith to schedule a brainstorming session.