Measurement & Scaling in Marketing Research

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  • 0:04 Everybody Uses Scales
  • 0:52 How Scales Work
  • 2:17 Assigning Numbers
  • 3:11 Likert Scale
  • 3:36 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Whitsett

David has taught computer applications, computer fundamentals, computer networking, and marketing at the college level. He has a MBA in marketing.

When you rank something on a scale from 1 to 10, that's an example of scaling. In this lesson, we'll explain scaling characteristics and examine how measurement and scaling are used in marketing research.

Everybody Uses Scales

You see them everywhere — on customer comment cards and quick online surveys: ''Please rate your customer experience on a scale from 1 to 10.'' Why are market researchers fascinated with scales? Because you can't use statistical analysis on a qualitative rating like ''unsatisfied.'' In order to do analysis, you have to convert qualitative data into quantitative data (in other words, a number). Scales help put thoughts, feelings, and opinions into measurable form.

Scaling is assigning objects to a number. Researchers like to use scales because the questions are easy to ask and there are many different formats. Measurement is the process of collecting and recording the results or observations. The type of scale used directly affects which types of statistical analysis can be used on the results.

A high-tech version of a feedback scale
Feedback scale

How Scales Work

Scaling can be comparative, where one object is compared to another, or non-comparative, where only one object is evaluated. Non-comparative scaling is the most frequently used in marketing research. When you refer to using scales, how the numbers relate to the assigned attributes (ex. 1=male, 2=female) is known as the level of measurement.

There are four characteristics that collectively define the levels of measurement: description, order, distance, and origin. The attributes are known as the description. The order of the descriptors refers to their relative value. For example, when you use descriptors like ''greater than'' or ''equal to,'' they have a relative value to each other. Not all scales possess order characteristics. Distance on a scale refers to the differences between the descriptors, and distance is usually expressed in units. Scales that have a fixed starting point or true zero are said to have an origin. Two examples of scales with origin characteristics would be a thermometer (zero degrees) or a family income scale (zero dollars).

Origin is the highest level characteristic of a scale, and description is the lowest level characteristic, so if the scale has an origin characteristic, it will also have distance, order, and descriptions (think of the thermometer). Conversely, you can have a scale with descriptions that may not have any higher characteristics.

Assigning Numbers

There are four common methods of assigning numbers on a scale:

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