University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
The Human Rights and Ethical Dilemmas Facing Marketing Research in an Ever Expanding Business Market
What is ethical and unethical when it comes to information gathering on a group of people or an individual? This is a question that has been debated and pondered over for many years. As social mediums, technology, and social and economic statuses change at rates that have never been seen on this type of global scale in human history it can be hard to tell. I will delve into situations and dilemmas that marketers find themselves in, on a day to day basis when doing research. Before we can go into the ethical and philosophical questions of your everyday marketer we first have to come to understand of what marketing ethics are.
Marketing ethics is the application of morals to behavior related to the exchange environment (Zikmund & Babin, 2007). When it comes to evaluating an individual ethics you need to look at things such as relativism and idealism. When looking at relativism you are looking at a way of thinking that rejects the idea of absolute principles. So, what you get instead is someone who favors situational based evaluations, which is opposite of idealism. Idealism is a term that reflects the degree to which one bases one’s morality on moral standards (Zikmund & Babin, 2007). An example of this would be having a “golden rule” that is unbreakable.
These are things all of us turn too when making ethical decisions. The first dilemma I will cover is that of respondent confidentiality. Let’s say you make a presentation on business-to-business market research survey. You client then asks you for the list of companies that responded to the survey. To add to this their survey responses could indicate whether they were currently in the market for the client’s services. What is your response? You pledge to the individual that you are giving the survey that their confidentiality will be maintained, and personal information won’t be used for other purposes.
The person watching the presentation realized that the research survey that you presented could have very possibly created a list of “warm” leads to go after. From that individuals perspective they paid for the study so they own the results and the specific information that it entails. This is a pretty cut and dry situation if your only looking at the rules, but one of the major causes of lapses of ethical standing is the peer pressure of another human being, and saying marketers are trained and talented when it comes to convincing people of what is “good” for them this is a tough situation to be in.
The rules in this situation are that you cannot give out the respondents’ information for non-research purposes without the permission of the respondent. Another scenario would be that you have a personal interview questionnaire. No matter, what you try you cannot shorten it any more than what it is. You try to make it less than 30 minutes, but you couldn’t reach that number while making all your objectives. You know participants are unlikely to participate if they know the personal interview will last longer than 30 minutes.
Your boss tell you to tell the participants that the interview will only take a “few minutes. ” Do you inform the participants or do you lie to them? This is a hard situation because if you tell the participants than you won’t get all the information you need, and you will have a boss that is very upset with you. If you don’t tell the participants you are breaking ESOMAR guidelines (2012) by knowingly misleading participants. This is a horrible situation, because no matter what decision you make you will lose. One of my favorite marketing dilemmas of all-time has to deal with the Anheuser-Busch company.
Anheuser-Busch hired individuals that were looked at as “trend-setters,” to go into popular bars in major metropolitan areas in the United States and buy Bud Select. This is when Anheuser-Busch was just introducing Bud Select. This is where the dilemma comes in, was Anheuser-Busch doing anything wrong in hiring people to buy their own product in public outings? This was a way for them to push their product. For:Anheuser-Busch was not breaking the law. There is no rule saying you can’t hire people to buy your own product and then showcase it to other individuals.
Against: By hiring individuals that are looked at as “trend-setters” to push a new product in a public atmosphere, a bar or club, without the public knowledge can be looked at as misleading and shady The question you have to ask yourself when doing marketing research is where is line. In this situation Anheuser-Busch was using techniques that can be looked at as unethical, but at the same time Anheuser-Busch is a company that has a bottom line, and share holders to keep happy. Sometimes, employees are passive respondents to observational research. An example of this would be by a company using a mystery shopper.
Mystery shoppers are employees of a research firm that are paid to “pretend” to be actual shoppers (Zikmund & Babin, 2007). A mystery shopper performs their jobs in public, and performs where they are easily observable. This type of research is not considered an invasion of an employee’s privacy. I bring up this next section because I worked at a telemarketing company. Yes, I know I was one of the evil guys. The Do Not Call legislation restricts any telemarketing effort from calling consumers who either register with a no-call list in their state or who request not to be called (Zikmund & Babin, 2007).
This is another ethical area. The reason I bring this up is that there are many loop-holes when it comes to the famous, “Do-Not-Call list. ” One of the main loop-holes is if you are calling for a Mr. Smith, and then Mrs. Smith answers the phone, and says to be put on the Do-Not-Call list it doesn’t count. The reasoning is because since Mrs. Smith is the direct individual you are trying to contact they can’t speak for the other individual. This next situation is where ethical dilemmas come into question.
A telemarketer calls for Mr. Smith and Mr. Smith answers and says, “Do not call here. ” This is where laws and ethics collide. The reason I say this is that since Mr. Smith didn’t explicitly tell the caller to put them on the Do-Not-Call list then caller, by law, can keep on calling that individual. Also, if you go to your local grocery store and then sign up for a sweepstakes from General Electric you are now able to be called by General Electric, and every branch and company they own even if you used to be on the Do-Not-Call list for that company. This brings up the question of what is really ethical.
Are our laws the only boundaries we should live by, or should we hold ourselves to a higher standard? What if living by a higher standard causes jobs to be lost because of less business that could be generated? This is the reason I choose situations to show what I have learned this year. By showing examples I am showing that I am able to give a situation, recognize a problem, and show examples of how it may or may not be handled. This has increased my problem solving ability, which I believe is paramount in your career and your life.