Optimizing Messaging & Positioning With Choice Modeling
John Colias, Ph.d. and Wei Huang, MSMR
Messaging and positioning choice modeling is recommended when the primary research objective is to obtain information that would allow a company to develop the
most effective communications message to consumers, maximizing attraction to its specific brand, product line, store, or department within the store.
Component objectives of messaging and positioning choice modeling typically include:
- Isolate the most effective benefit statement or statements.
- Identify the most effective supporting statements.
- Determine the most effective or optimal combinations of benefit and supporting statements.
- Identify possible alternative supporting statements and measure their potential impact on the baseline (usually the optimal combination).
There are several general key benefits to choice modeling:
- Choice modeling defines product appeal in terms of choice behavior using a realistic setting. This allows management to know which items drive behavior
and how strong and important they are.
- Choice modeling shows the power each product has in causing or driving the decision to buy. These models are causal—designed specifically to answer
the question, “If I do this, then what would customers do?”
- Choice modeling simulates the future and allows forecasting and predicting of how customers and markets will react to specific decisions by management,
allowing management to mix and match decision drivers to obtain optimum results before they commit to them.
Choice Survey Tasks
While participating in a survey, respondents see a number of different choice scenarios, or tasks. The information presented to respondents in the choice
task scenarios places them in a situation where a choice or tradeoff must be made between several alternatives. For example, respondents are shown a total
of 15 tasks with three alternatives per task. Each alternative is described in detail, and the respondent reacts to the scenario in a way that would reflect
most closely an actual decision the respondent would have to make or would be involved in making.
Each alternative includes one or two core benefit statements and three to six supporting statements. Respondents rate their preference among three alternatives,
each with a different combination of core benefit and supporting statements. Each respondent then selects the combination of core benefit and supporting
statements that is most appealing.
The current paper illustrates, by two examples, how to optimize messaging and positioning with choice modeling. The primary objective of the first example
is to obtain information that would allow a company to develop the most-effective ad campaign to not only maintain its old customers but attract new customers.
Table 1 demonstrates a choice survey task, in which respondents are presented with a question: “Which of the following restaurants would you select
based solely on the descriptions of the following characteristics?” Table 2 lists four core benefit statements and 17 supporting statements in the hypothetical
Table 1: Example Restaurant Choice Scenario
Table 2: Core Benefit Statements and
Supporting Statements for a Restaurant Company
|Core Benefit Statements
|A combination of food, service, and prices paid that is a great value
||Good lunchtime specials
|A great place for people to enjoy each other’s company
||Food that is consistently good
|Food is prepared exactly as ordered
||Servers are knowledgeable
|Food looks as good as it tastes
||The location is convenient
|Food tastes delicious
||The menu offers many choices
|Only the best quality ingredients are used
||The staff anticipates your needs
|Portion sizes are generous
||The restaurant is known for one type of food
|Provides free bread with every meal
||Vegetables and side items are fresh
|Restrooms are neat and clean
||You feel that they really want your business
|Salads are crisp and fresh
||You’re served at a comfortable pace
|Servers are friendly
The second example is to help a software company to launch the best claims for future development and brand positioning. Table 3 involves five core benefit
statements and 19 supporting statements.
Table 3: Core Benefit Statements and
Supporting Statements for a Software Company
|Core Benefit Statements
|Is the leading brand for analytical software
||Offers a wide range of analysis products
|Has the best analytical software products overall
||The most innovative and forward-thinking company
|Has the best promotions
|Has best value for price paid
||Is most used among analysts
|Has good customer service
||Is the best selling
|Has responsive technical support
||Is very reputable
|Has sophisticated analytical tools
||Never has software bugs
|Has support for multiple operating systems
||Offers extremely advanced analytical techniques
|Has trusted name/brand
||Offers quality analysis tools
|Has user-friendly analysis products
||Reads any kind of data file
|Is customer focused
|Is easy to install
||The online knowledge base is very useful
|Is easy to purchase
Choice Modeling Experimental Design
A choice modeling research design involves selecting positioning statements in the choice tasks, which start with core benefit statements and are supplemented
by supporting statements. An experimental design is created that assures measurement of the relative value of each core benefit message, the relative value of supporting
messages, and selected interaction effects between core benefit and supporting statements.
Simulating Optimal Combinations
After developing the choice model, all possible combinations of core benefit and supporting statements are simulated. The optimal combination may or may
not be the most desirable or operationally feasible combination for the company. In this case, the question becomes which combinations are (1) the most optimal
and (2) the most feasible (i.e., in line with the company’s strategic goals and objectives)?
The optimal combinations sometimes include redundancies (e.g., multiple tatements on food or customer service), which would make for awkward marketing messages.
It may be desirable in some instances not to include every supporting statement, especially if it has already been emphasized by a previous supporting statement.
For this reason, each particular combination relative to the optimal combination is indexed in order to answer the question: “How much is lost, in comparison
to the optimal combination, by substituting different individual supporting statements?”
After simulating thousands of simulations, the top 100 simulations based on purchase interest can be selected. Table 4 (below) shows an example of a Combinations
Chart. This type of chart is intended to uncover the messaging and positioning pillars that successfully combine to attract customers to restaurants or to the software brand.
Table 4: Combinations Chart for Top-Ten Positioning Strategies
The benefit statements in blue are on the left side of the chart alongside the supporting statements in brown on the right. The chart is meant to be read
across (i.e., from left to right) starting at the top row. Each row depicts either one or two benefit statements along with three, four, five, or six supporting
statements, rank ordered from 1-100 (out of hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of possible combinations).
Each combination’s index, which is relative to the top combination, is presented to the far right. An index of 90, for example, indicates a preference
of 90% of that which is obtainable with the optimal combination. By scrolling through the combination of benefit(s) and supporting statements, we are able
to see a pattern emerge, whereby some statements appear essential to every top combination. In this chart, Benefit 2 is the critical lead benefit statement,
while three supporting statements emerge as the most important: Support 5, Support 19, and Support 15.
In the analytical software example, the top positioning might be:
- Has the best analytical software products overall
- Has good customer service
- Reads any kind of data file
- Has support for multiple operating systems
As shown in the examples in this paper, in some cases when clients are uncertain about what are the best messages to deliver to their customers, optimizing messaging
and positioning choice modeling can help to identify the most effective or the most feasible benefits to define the brand and win business. When Decision Analyst
has conducted projects to optimize messaging and positioning using choice modeling, the findings have proven to be extremely helpful in defining powerful brands.
Copyright © 2008 by Decision Analyst, Inc.
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