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Q Scores identify favorites

A television show with paltry Nielsen ratings is about to be yanked off the air, and then something miraculous happens. Qualitative data roll in that show that while viewership is low, the audience is wild about the program. The show receives...
October 1, 1996

A television show with paltry Nielsen ratings is about to be yanked off the air, and then something miraculous happens. Qualitative data roll in that show that while viewership is low, the audience is wild about the program. The show receives a second chance.

That data probably came from Marketing Evaluations, a Manhasset, New York-based company that’s been polling consumers since 1963. It is most famous for its TV Q Score, a quotient derived from the percentage of those who called a show their favorite divided by those who are familiar with it.

‘The files are filled with stories [of shows] like Cheers, Family Ties and Hill Street Blues that were penciled in for possible cancellation,’ explains Marketing Evaluations president Steven Levitt. ‘They let those shows develop,’ he adds, based on their high TV Q Scores.

With a client list including ABC and CBS Television, M&M/Mars and Revlon, Marketing Evaluations uses phone, mall and written surveys polled from up to 60,000 participating households. Six different Q Score surveys at various intervals throughout the year obtain data on TV programs, performers, brands, characters and athletes. If a company is looking to license a cartoon character on a lunch box, for instance, buying the latest character Q Score data could help it select a winner. According to the most recent cartoon Q Score data for kids six to 11 years old, the top-rated celluloid stars are: Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Road Runner, Snoopy and Wile E. Coyote.

‘The concept is to measure the inherent appeal of these different properties,’ says Levitt.

With the same categories in each Q Score survey, data can easily be compared and contrasted in relation to previous findings by categories and across a wide variety of demographic groups. ‘You can compare a TV show, the characters in it, and the cartoon version of it,’ Levitt points out.

For its product Q Score, Marketing Evaluations had never included kids until this year. At the request of its clients, it just finished its first kids product Q Score in August (see chart below).

A group of roughly 2,000 kids, aged six to 11 and 12 to 17, were asked how familiar they were with each of the 60 brands listed and how much they liked or disliked each of the places, restaurants, magazines, TV channels, stores or products shown. The brands included: Nickelodeon, Gatorade, Yoo-Hoo, Fila, Kool-Aid, McDonald’s, Baskin Robbins and The Learning Store.

This time out, Disney dominated the survey. Among both age groups, the top three brands were: Walt Disney World, Walt Disney Land and McDonald’s. Despite the short time to announce the study, Marketing Evaluations signed up 12 major companies, and the response ‘was phenomenal,’ says Levitt. It is now instituting this measure twice a year.

Keeping the data simple and centered in the U.S., where Marketing Evaluations can maintain consistency in its polling, is the backbone to its success. ‘It’s not necessary to get into more depth,’ says Levitt. Any other way, and ‘the size of the study would become unwieldy.’ The key is to gauge ‘familiarity and likability’ and translate that data into ‘a meaningful measure of how people feel.’

Product Q Score

Total Children Boys Girls Boys Girls

6-17 6-11 6-11 12-17 12-17

% % % % %

McDonald’s 69 79 72 65 58

Burger King 49 56 52 47 40

IBM 47 54 44 51 38

Apple 36 44 42 29 29

Nike 64 63 56 70 65

Reebok 42 48 48 40 34

Mountain Dew 47 55 45 50 38

Yoo-Hoo 39 53 44 33 29

Gatorade 39 47 35 47 24

MAD 33 41 36 32 27

National Geographic 24 33 25 22 16

Average score of the 60 brands tested 42 49 49 35 35

Base: 2,040 545 512 499 484

Product Q Score = the number of kids who rate the brand as ‘one of my favorites’ divided by the number of kids familiar with the brand

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