Monadic vs. Sequential-monadic… does your exposure really matter?

peek a boo woman

If you’ve ever conducted consumer marketing research, chances are good you’ve had to decide whether to evaluate your test stimuli via monadic or sequential-monadic exposure.  If you have no idea what these terms mean, don’t worry, they are explained simply below.

  • Monadic- stimulus (e.g., concept, product, etc.) is evaluated in isolation so as not to be influenced by comparison.  
  • Sequential-Monadic- stimuli are evaluated in succession, one after the other, by the same respondent with inherent comparison.

The issue is that often this decision is made on the grounds of budget constraints or preconceived corporate policies. But the truth of the matter is that these methods of exposure serve different purposes and should be selected based on discrete criteria. While we could certainly debate statistically about these two methods of exposure, let’s avoid “geeking-out” and attempt to clarify a simple case for each method and determine a discrete set of criteria with which to guide your decisions in the future.


A Case For Monadic Exposure

Imagine you have developed two different formulas and analogs of a new kind of candy- one is a chocolate bar and one is a gummy.  Problem, you only have resources to launch one now and want to launch the product with the most appeal. Clearly, comparing the granular dimensions of these two totally different formulations won’t yield useful information that isn’t already obvious.  What you need is an overall evaluation of each to understand consumer acceptance, purchase intent, etc. In this case, monadic evaluation to understand consumers’ overall evaluation of each product is warranted so that you can determine which is most appealing.

A Case for Sequential-Monadic Exposure

Now, imagine you have a very successful tortilla chip product in market.  A new source of flour has come on the market that is half the price and appears to be the same quality.  You definitely want to make sure you don’t change this ingredient without testing and inadvertently alienating your target consumers.

In this case, you want to test both products for acceptance with a focus on determining differences between the two formulations.  Accordingly, a sequential-monadic exposure will highlight any differences between the two formulations and best mitigate risk of adopting the new formulation in market.

It’s worth noting that with a sequential-monadic design, you can utilize a smaller sample than would be required to evaluate two pieces of stimuli monadically.  Furthermore, splitting the sample into two cells to allow one group to evaluate product A first and one group to evaluate product B first, thereby serves to mitigate order-bias in your analysis of the total sample.


Some Guiding Decision Criteria

  1. Are we trying to understand a consumer’s unbiased evaluation of the stimulus (monadic) or compare it to another piece of stimulus (sequential-monadic)?
  2. Is it more important to focus on an overall evaluation (monadic) or focus on the differences between stimuli (sequential-monadic)?
  3. Is there adequate budget to evaluate multiple stimuli among as many sample groups (monadic) or is budget constrained (sequential-monadic)?