Quality & Quantity 37: 377–391, 2003.
© 2003 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Smoke and Mirrors: Mapping the Dimensions of a
and JOHN KIRKLAND
Health and Human Development, Massey University
Abstract. The Method of Sorting is a widely-used research tool for quantifying human cognition. It
allows informants to provide data that are generally analysed with multidimensional scaling. Here the
method was extended to collect additional information. In combination with the Method of Triads,
it was applied to 36 brands of cigarette, resulting in a three-dimensional ‘Cigarette space’, where
the dimensions correspond to the main criteria on which brands were compared. Previous research,
including reports from within the tobacco industry, provides points of comparison. One dimension
resulting from tapping into the informants’ accumulated expertise was closely correlated with tar
content and can be identiﬁed as ‘strength’ – in effect, a Strength scale for cigarette brands, allowing
the informal distinction between light and heavy smokers to be reﬁned. Other dimensions correspond
to other aspects of taste. In a validity test, the map proved to be congruent with the same informants’
Key words: multidimensional scaling, cluster analysis, triads, sorting, smoking.
Within the market research literature, there are a considerable number of methodo-
logy papers describing techniques for mapping some speciﬁed domain of products:
more precisely, for representing particular products as points in a diagram of the
domain, close together for products which have much in common, or far apart
if they are dissimilar. The general approach is to elicit perceptual similarities
among brands, as experienced by consumers, and summarise these in the form of a
map. A comparable methodology genre can be found in the ﬁeld of mathematical
psychology. The mapping methodology is multidimensional scaling (MDS).
In the research reported here, existing mapping procedures were extended
and applied to tobacco products. The panoply of commercially-available tobacco
products is large enough to comprise more than one distinct domain: there is
chewing tobacco, pipe tobacco, snuff, and the traditional cigar, not to mention
novel nicotine-administration vehicles such as inhalers, chewing-gum, and dermal
patches. We looked only at pouch tobacco and 36 brands of tailor-made cigarettes.
Results for the former will be reported later.
Corresponding author. Health and Human Development, Massey University, Private Bag 11-
222, Palmerston North, New Zealand E-mail: email@example.com