Representative or not?

In Germany our industry has been engaged in this discussion for a number of years: Can you rely on market research and its results? Exactly one year has passed since the discussion reached its preliminary climax with the heavy accusations of the “Spiegel” and its research “Akte Marktforschung“. What was probably meant to be a sensational news item (and in a question in which the Hamburg-based magazine had to put their own house in order with the Relotius case) is still a central topic: our credibility. Subsequently, the industry discussed the representativeness of samples obtained by river sampling, which has existed for several years. Three market research institutes had complained to the press council that journalists were increasingly announcing survey results as representative without sufficiently reviewing them. Media representatives should be more careful with the terms, demanded the industry representatives. And even though the press council dismissed that complaint, it set in motion a discussion that we should have had long ago: How good is the quality of individual market research offers, in particular random samples? The German associations responded with open letters and comments: ADM, DGOF and BVM.

The attitude of Dialego

River sampling means that from a constant stream of Internet users, participants are randomly approached for studies. The procedure is not new. After all, response rates from online panels are falling year after year and some providers were wondering how they could generate “fresh” samples. There is the obvious idea that – analogous to addressing people on the street – institutes “place themselves on the Internet” and recruit there. This approach has not been discussed further in the past, which surprised me. Maybe because customers didn’t ask? Because they don’t want to know much about the origin of the respondents, as long as the required number of interviews have been completed in the desired time and within the budget? It’s good that this attitude is changing now.

I suggest the following: Take a closer look at where the respondents come from. Dialego has always refused river sampling. The reason is as simple as it is comprehensible: It is almost impossible to control where and how the participants are recruited. This method of respondent selection can produce a strong bias that speaks against any scientific approach. Recent background reports confirm this fear.

The BVM reacted with a neat list: RESPECT, as an industry promise. As a BVM member, we want to provide you with information on how we view “respect”, because discussion and clarification are more important than ever.

RESPECT – The BVM industry promise (in German)

The BVM’s industry promise


Dialego is a member of the organisations BVM, ESOMAR and DGOF and consistently complies with the relevant professional guidelines, codes and laws. ESOMAR, the World Federation for Social, Opinion and Market Research, with some 4,900 members in over 130 countries, is the main organisation for the promotion, the  advancement and the enhancement of market research. Codes and guidelines can be found at / ESOMAR guidelines for high-quality online samples

The Dialego Panel Policy is based on ESOMAR guidelines (ESOMAR 28). Our panel rules are structured accordingly.


Honesty, reliability and fairness are important foundations for credible research results. We are passionate about communicating honestly with our clients about both the methods we can deliver well and the research designs we recommend – or don’t recommend.

Facebook Post (in German)

We understand ethics in particular also in the direction of our respondents. Our own panel guarantees a fair, ongoing partnership between us – the institute – and our respondents. We rely on intrinsic motivation: Our panel point system prefers donations, i.e. the good deed before the classic voucher.

With our own Dialego Foundation for Children, we regularly tell our members what the donations have been used for and can thus credibly demonstrate that participation in Dialego surveys can be meaningful. In 2018, our Dialego Foundation was awarded the CSR Prize for its social commitment.


The methods used must deliver quality. When it comes to validity, we make no compromises. In particular, the many methods developed in-house undergo thorough testing before they are used in customer projects. It is a Dialego standard to comprehensively check the content of the interviews of each study so that the quality promise is continuously checked.


It goes without saying that our respondents always remain anonymous. Our customers can also be sure that any knowledge gained on behalf of a customer will be treated confidentially. Data protection is playing an increasingly important role, particularly in the context of digitalisation. Therefore, in the myneData research project we are also scientifically concerned with the question of which needs consumers have in the digital space and give recommendations on how these should be met.


Empathy is certainly one of the basic skills that market researchers should bring with them. In an interview I once said: “I don’t like the image of the submissive service provider”. Collaboration only works at eye level. Between client and agency and between interviewee and institute.

Dialego is one of the few institutes that maintains its own exclusive panel. This alone is a strong statement for the quality and esteem of the interview. In panel maintenance, for example, this practically means that we update our web portal daily and respond personally to participants’ questions. Panel members are just as important to us as customers. The panel members are mainly people with different feelings, motivations and expectations. A deep understanding of panelists and interaction at eye level guarantee not only appreciative communication, but above all high-quality results.


As online market researchers from day one, we rely on digitized and standardized processes. For example, standardised plausibility checks are used to check the quality of interviews. We set the highest standards in IT security. Dialego systems are “made and hosted in Germany”. We have the relevant certifications for this.


The same remains true for transparency. The Dialego Panel is exclusively available to our customer projects. It is in no way “leased” to other institutions. In our field work we focus on transparency:

  • the documentation of the address (mailing texts)
  • the illustration of exact quota plans
  • the exclusion of multiple participations
  • exact field statistics with field time, response rates, incidence, gross sample (drop out, invalid addresses) and participation behavior (non-response, screenout, field blocks)
  • the Dialego Data Cleaning

Not only do we like to uphold these values, they are our contribution to our industry’s most important asset: credibility. So that customers and respondents, companies and consumers can rely on the results of market research. In the article We inform you about the quality of the samples you will find further background information.

Let us work as a team on your goals.

Contact us