MaxDiff Overview

A MaxDiff analysis (short for maximum difference scaling) is a research technique used to identify consumer preferences among a set of attributes, such as flavors or product features. MaxDiff questions show respondents subsets of attributes, and for each set require respondents to select their best and worst options for the given set.

MaxDiff is a relative measure, meaning results will show performance (or preference) within the given list of attributes, but it won’t validate performance in the real world. Preferences gauged in a MaxDiff study are only as good as the attributes themselves, so a respondent could look at a set of attributes and dislike all of them, but they still have to choose their best and worst from the bunch. Pairing MaxDiff with an absolute measure, like a purchase intent question, such as ‘which of the following flavors would you consider purchasing’ or a more in-depth study like a TURF analysis, helps to ground the relative results with real world metrics.

Experimental design is key to achieve accurate and reliable MaxDiff results. Luckily, most survey platforms including Suzy will calculate and determine the best experimental design for your MaxDiff study. The key components of a strong MaxDiff study focus on balanced experimental design- ensuring that all attributes in the study are exposed equally, and no attribute has stronger exposure than another. For a deep dive into the components of MaxDiff study design, please click here!    

After collecting the best/worst selections from all respondents, a MaxDiff analysis uses the following formula to calculate a MaxDiff utility score, which is used to gauge preference for each item within the set. 


Benefits of MaxDiff:

Consider this: Imagine you ask respondents to rank 20+ flavors from best to worst. This would be very fatiguing for the respondent, not to mention each respondent probably only has strong opinions about the 1-2 best and 1-2 worst, and they’re likely to be somewhat indifferent to the rest. The middle attributes are unlikely to reflect an accurate preference order, which can have a flattening effect on results, leaving you without a clear direction.

Now that you understand MaxDiff, head over to this article to learn more about MaxDiff on Suzy!