The critical incident technique: A flexible method for the identification of salient product attributes

  • John E. Swan
  • C. P. Rao


A number of techniques have been developed for product attribute research, such as depth interviewing or focused group interviewing of a small sample of respondents. One major limitation of such techniques is the long interview time per respondent. However, without prior knowledge of attributes it is difficult to specify the relevant question in advance and a shorter interview may miss uncovering important information. In view of such conflicting demands for less time and more information, a compromise solution can perhaps be found in making use of the ‘critical incident’ method of research investigation. This method seems to offer advantages, especially to the practising marketers. The present study is concerned with developing a conceptual approach to the development and use of the ‘critical incident’ approach to consumer behavior studies. It illustrates that through a semi-structured depth interview approach it would be possible to identify the nature and significance of key elements in the product attributes of importance to consumers. Additionally, the descriminant and predictive ability of such ‘critical elements’ has been investigated through an empirical example.


Product Attribute Critical Incident Appliance Store Salient Attribute Satisfactory Item 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© The Academy of Marketing Science 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • John E. Swan
    • 1
  • C. P. Rao
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of Arkansas at FayettevilleFayettevilleUSA

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