Today, marketing research managers must fully take into account the marketing research process and marketing ethics while conducting their research. According to Brown (2014), the marketing research process is the process of gathering and interpreting data for use in developing, implementing, and monitoring the firm’s marketing plans; whereas marketing ethics are the principles, values, and standards of conduct followed by marketers.
To stress the importance of both the marketing research process and ethics, I will apply the principles of each one to a different scenario. The marketing research process is sequence of activities undertaken to provide information needed for decision making (Brown, 2014). The first step of the marketing research process is to clearly define the problem. Typically, the problem at hand can be defined by asking questions such as what is the purpose of the study, what is the source of the problem, and is the research intended to provide information or to make a decision (Brown, 2014).
Based upon the scenario, the Flighty Airline Company is interested in altering the interior layout of its aircraft to suit the tastes/needs of an increasing market segment of businesspeople in which management is planning to reduce the number of seats and install small tables to enable businesspeople to work during long flights. Therefore, the purpose of their study (define the problem) is to see if there truly is a need to alter the interior layouts of their aircraft to better accommodate their increasing market segment of businesspeople who fly long hours .
Now that the problem has been precisely defined, research can start to be conducted. The next step of the marketing research process is to collect data. Data can be collected from using existing data or by generating new primary data. Generally, there are two ways of collecting existing data: (1) by collecting data to address specific problems or (2) by putting systems in place that provide marketing intelligence on an ongoing basis (Brown, 2014). Each approach has its merits and can help provide managers the information they need to support their decision.
On the other hand, generating primary data is generally a time-consuming, expensive process and should only be collected if the information cannot be obtained from the company’s existing data (Brown, 2014). Primary data can be collected from conducting causal and/or descriptive research experiments in which “causal research uses experiments to identify cause-and-effect relationships between variables, whereas descriptive research focuses on describing a population, often emphasizing the frequency with which something occurs or the extent to which two variables are related to one another” (Brown, 2014, p. 2). After determining the means of how data will be collected, the researchers must decide what group will be observed or questioned. In Flyweight’s case, it would be their passengers. With that being said, Flighty Airline Company elected to do some descriptive research by ending out questionnaires to its passengers to ensure the possible changes would suit their needs. The questionnaires were distributed the second and third weeks of December (that was when flights were full) to short flights that were an hour or less; which is completely outrageous and goes against the whole purpose of their problem.
To recall, Flighty Airline Company wanted to better accommodate those businesspeople by making necessary changes that would allow them to work during their long flights; therefore passing out the questionnaires on short flights and during the holiday season is a waste of time. To get the data they need, the Flighty Airline Company needs to take their time and hand out the questionnaire to all their passengers that have long flights regardless of the time of year. Once all the questionnaires have been correctly handed out again and collected; the data analysis process can begin.
The next step of the marketing research process is to conduct data analysis, which generally involves several steps. Seeming Flighty collected primary data, the questionnaires need to be edited or scanned to ensure that they were completed, consistent, and that the instructions were followed accordingly Brown, 2014). After being edited, every questionnaire must be coded, which involves assigning numbers to each of the answers so that they can be analyzed by a computer. Once both of those steps are completed, the data can then be analyzed.
According to Brown (2014), most analysis is quite straightforward involving frequency counts (usually, how many people answered a question a particular way, often reported as a percentage) or simple descriptive statistics. Finally, after all the questionnaires have been analyzed; Flyweight’s marketing research mangers can then prepare written research reports. The finally step of the marketing research process is information reporting. Information reporting consists of written research reports from marketing mangers that will be submitted to management that summarizes the research results and draws conclusions (Brown, 2014).
Research reports need to be very clear and accurate as higher level managers will Judge the research conducted as well as utilizing it to aide them in making their final decision. Also, the reports need to be clear and accurate because the project will be no more successful than the research report itself. Finally, the written research report is often the most important factors affecting whether the research will be useful for its intended purposes (Brown, 2014).
Successfully utilizing the marketing research process correctly will ensure that the Flighty Airline Company makes the best sound decision possible; however, marketing ethics is Just of equal importance. Marketing researchers must make many decisions throughout the entire research process; therefore, researchers must consider the ethics involved in every decision that they make (Brown, 2014). Ethics are defined as the “moral principles and values that over the way an individual or a group conducts its activities; whereas marketing ethics are the principles, values, and standards of conduct that are followed by marketers” (Brown, 2014, p. 5). From a marketing standpoint, it is critical to take into account the impact of an organization’s decisions on other people and the environment. In Judging whether a proposed action is ethical or not, it is necessary to adopt one or more of the following ethical reasoning methods: utility, Justice, and rights. The utility approach focuses on society and the net consequences that an action may have; whereas, the Justice approach focuses on the degree to which benefits and costs are fairly distributed across individuals and groups (Brown, 2014).
On the other hand, the rights approach focuses on the welfare of the individual and uses means, intentions, and features of an act itself in Judging its ethically (Brown, 2014). Applying these approaches to marketing research can be rather tough; however asking questions like do benefits exceed costs, are human rights respected and are the benefits and costs fairly distributed can greatly ensure ethical behavior s well as helping decide the right approach to focus on.
With all that being said, let’s apply these approaches to the following three scenarios. The first scenario (a) consists of a marketing research director that notices the deadline of their research report is fast approaching, so they decide to cut the required sample in half as well as instructing their researchers not to mention the sample size on any of the slides that would be prepared for presentation to the decision makers.
Based on the scenario, the benefits of cutting the required sample in half and hiding it from the session makers does not exceed the costs because the required research is in fact important and could be used to make a very important decision that could have such a vital impact on the organization or society as a whole. Therefore, this act would be considered unethical under the utility approach.
This act would also be considered unethical under the Justice approach as this approach focuses on the consequences of behaviors in which this act can easily bring about a lot of negative consequences. Finally, the rights approach simply deals with the proposed action being right or ring, therefore under this approach the acts in this scenario would be considered wrong and unethical.
The second scenario (b) consists of a researcher from scenario a that personally notices the deadline is not going to be met; therefore, fearing for their Job they decide to complete a number of the surveys at home to ensure the project could move forward much more quickly. Based on the scenario, the act of one market researcher completing a number of surveys at home does not create the greatest good for the greatest number; therefore this act would be considered unethical under the utility approach.
This act would also be considered unethical under the Justice approach as this approach focuses on the consequences of behaviors in which this act can easily bring about a lot of negative consequences to include inaccurate data for the decision makers to go on. Finally, the acts in this scenario would also be considered wrong and unethical under the rights approach as the proposed action to complete more than one survey in order to ensure the project moves forward is completely wrong and defeats the purpose of the research process.
The third scenario (c) consists of a marketing researcher from a well-known apartment store who begins to send out surveys using an unknown company’s cover letter, not the employer’s cover letter in which they noted after making the change, the responses to the customer satisfaction questions became less positive of the employing company. However, this was exactly their intention because many respondents want to “help” the researcher by supplying the answers that they think the researcher wants to hear.
Based on the scenario, the act of changing the cover letter would be considered ethical under the utility approach, Justice approach, and sights approach because the benefit of having more accurate research clearly exceeds the cost of changing the cover letter (utility), the act has no negative consequences associated with it Justice), and the act does not violate human rights nor would it be considered wrong knowing that many respondents want to “help” the researcher by supplying the answers that they think the researcher wants to hear (rights).
Clearly, marketing research managers have their work cut out for them in regards to research projects. Properly utilizing the marketing research process can alp out immensely and ensure that executives and other higher level managers have the research reports they need to make the best decisions for their organizations.