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Dial-Testing: A Research Method to Help You Win

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Competitive Edge is dedicated to helping clients win, whatever arena they’re competing in. One way we do this is by offering clients the opportunity to apply cutting-edge methodologies to their research problems. Dial-testing is one such research tool, and we’re using it in more and more client engagements.

You may have seen dial-testing from the work of pollster Frank Lutz, who is called on by news networks to run dial-testing groups on presidential debates and State of the Union speeches. Mr. Lutz assembles groups of voters who watch the proceedings while they hold dial meters that they can turn right or left, according to whether they like or dislike what is being said. The results are usually revealing, as graphical lines race across the screen, rising and falling in relation to points during the proceedings. Dialsmith, the leading manufacturer of dial testing equipment, claims that dial-testing has helped elect every American President of the modern era.

But using the dial testing methodology to win isn’t limited to politicians at the top of the food chain. It’s really a perfect methodology to capture any kind of consumer or audience reaction that changes moment-to-moment. This can range from the arcs of television content and advertising to choices in products, brands and concepts.

We’ve applied dial-testing to a diverse set of problems here at CERC and seen amazing results. We’ve identified key tone, gestures and words within campaign commercials that have helped candidates get elected. We’ve tested messages on major regional public affairs issues. And most recently, we’ve been helping the San Diego Padres choose new uniforms for the 2020 season – connecting directly with the Padres fan base through dial-testing. The San Diego Union Tribune even did a great write up, illustrating the surprise of Padres management to certain observations their fans made in uniform colors.

Key Benefits of Dial-Testing

Here’s a few benefits of dial testing we’d like to share. They could very well help clarify and solve your next research problem.

Identifies Moments of Truth

Every pitch contains an ebb and flow of information that registers with varying intensity on the receiving party. Yet sometimes this ebb and flow crescendos into critical moments that clearly signify significance. Dial-testing reveals these moments, as multiple participant opinion meters simultaneously peak or trough. These “moments of truth” are treasures of insight that researchers can explore through in-depth follow up discussions.

Eliminates Groupthink

One of the biggest hurdles in traditional focus groups is that dominant individuals assert opinions strongly, and this causes more deferential personalities to suppress their own opinions. As stated opinions coalesce due to this process, output can become monolithic. Dial- testing doesn’t allow for this “groupthink” bias. It accesses individual opinions and perceptions privately via the dial meters.  What people say is not always what they think, but dial-testing helps people express exactly what they actually think, no matter the overall group dynamics.

Reduces Recall Errors

When people are surveyed or participate in focus groups that ask them to describe their opinions and perceptions, researchers are often drawing upon participant memory, which is highly fallible. With the moment-to-moment immediacy of dial-testing, participants register their opinions and perceptions on the spot, yielding a clearer picture of message impact.

Tests Multiple Concepts

There are endless ways in which researchers can use dial-testing for concept evaluation. Researchers can show and discuss multiple logos, colors, identities and product features – using key insights from the dials to later guide targeted discussions. Somebody recently said that we’re all in the fashion business now, and dial-tests are a great way to gauge audience reaction to the coming season’s product line, whatever your line of business.

Provides Quantitative Support to Qualitative Research

Focus groups are qualitative in nature and an integral component of any public opinion research toolbox. Yet dial-testing empowers researchers to supplement such qualitative data with a quantitative overlay. Love them or hate them, numbers get respect, and should if the research is done correctly.  Dial-testing provides the numbers.

As you can tell, we’re excited about our dial-testing capabilities, and they’re only going to improve in our new offices. If you’d like to learn more about how we could apply this method to your next research project, give us a shout. We’re intrepid in our pursuit of key research insights, and want to use the best tools we have at our disposal to help you win.

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