What is MaxDiff and how do companies use it in their concept testing?

Apr 5, 2022

MaxDiff is a consumer research method that helps to determine which product features actually matter to consumers. Cambri’s Head of Research, Outi Somervuori, and Cloetta’s Consumer Insight Manager, Alexandra Palmqvist Aslaksen, share their thoughts and tips for using the method.

Do you find yourself struggling to work out how many alternatives to include in a product selection? If this sounds familiar, MaxDiff (Maximum Difference Scaling) could be the best concept testing method for you. This scientifically rigorous consumer research method is one of Cambri’s standard features and allows companies to test and prioritise product features according to consumer preferences. 

In practice, this means you and your company can run tests to determine which new flavours, scents or features consumers will be most excited about. MaxDiff can also help you identify consumer segments and understand why certain consumers are attracted to certain products. Essentially, MaxDiff is a method that supports limiting a product offering to the alternatives that have the highest likelihood of success.

“Research shows that even though consumers are attracted to a wide selection of alternatives, their ability to make decisions suffers because of information overload. Companies need to be careful not to introduce consumers to too many options,” says Outi Somervuori, Founder and Head of Research at Cambri.

Somervuori suggests MaxDiff is best for consumer research tests with 6–30 attributes. She shares a research example where consumers were shown two jam jar display settings, one with six jam flavours, the other with 24. While the display with 24 flavours received more attention from consumers, only 3% of them bought the jam. In comparison, when there were only six alternatives available, 30% of consumers bought the jam.


How does MaxDiff work?

MaxDiff is a concept testing method that helps companies determine which alternatives should be included in a limited selection. It offers a realistic view of people’s purchasing behaviour by asking them to choose the best alternative. Unlike the Likert scale method, MaxDiff forces respondents to express a strong opinion. 

Here are a few benefits of the MaxDiff method: 

  • MaxDiff questions are easy to answer.
  • The method allows you to include more attributes in the test than other questioning techniques.
  • The test does not allow anyone to like or dislike all options, so ranking becomes more realistic.
  • It allows for a reliable cross-cultural comparison since there is no scale bias.
  • The discrimination power is greater than for a scale question or a single select question because respondents only choose the best option.
  • Good predictive accuracy on what respondents perceive as most important.
  • MaxDiff results fit well into segmentation.


MaxDiff helped Cloetta land on the right flavour for their new pastille product

The Swedish confectionery company, Cloetta, wanted to launch a new pastille flavour in their Läkerol brand family. To find out which new flavour consumers would find most enticing, they created a MaxDiff test with 30 alternatives. They also wanted to identify consumer segments based on their taste preferences. “As a confectionary company, our product ideas often receive very high interest from consumers and are generally well liked. But we wanted to understand these consumers and their preferences in more detail,” says Alexandra Palmqvist Aslaksen, Consumer Insight Manager at Cloetta. 

The company created a concept description to describe the overall product concept and offer the respondents some context. The 30 alternative flavours were introduced with so-called flavour cards which included a short text description and engaging images.

“We chose to use MaxDiff to get a very clear and actionable output,” says Palmqvist Aslaksen. Cloetta took the test results straight into product development, and the new product is already in the pipeline, to be launched soon. With MaxDiff, the company also received invaluable information about their customer segments, enabling them to identify three different consumer segments according to taste preferences: fruity, liquorice and dessert.

Palmqvist Aslaksen believes MaxDiff is a great method, especially for companies that want to try ideas that are daring and “out there”. She also recommends using the method for multi-country tests to compare how different alternatives are received in certain markets.

Do you want to take a closer look at how the MaxDiff method works?

Watch our webinar Uncover Growth Opportunities with MaxDiff to learn more, see Outi Somervuori demonstrate a MaxDiff test and find out about Cloetta’s experiences with MaxDiff.