Ethical integrity in marketing research has remained a widely challenging aspect in marketing. According to Carrigan, Marinova, and Szmigin (2005), marketing research involves the processes in which a business collects, analyze, and interpret data about competitors, customers, and factors in the business environment in order to enhance efficiency in marketing.
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Ethics, on the other hand, has diverse definitions depending on the field in which it is applied. From a universal perspective, ethics encompasses well-established standards of wrong and right acts that human beings should avoid or do.
The standards include instances of honesty, societal benefits, fairness, and particular virtues. Moreover, ethics revolves around the development of the aforementioned standards in ensuring that institutions study their own ethical criterions. Ethics is a philosophical division that touches on human conducts that are in line with the goodness and badness of their actions, motives, and results of such actions.
Marketing research ethics involves practices or moral principles that guide the conducts of market operators (Carrigan et al., 2005). Different theories have different ways of classifying actions as good or bad.
For instance, from utilitarianism point of view, an action is ethical if the consequence is beneficial to a given group of people even if the method applied harmed others. This ethical theory holds that the end justifies the means no matter the repercussions that result from the actions.
Ethical practices are not limited to the laws and social norms. For that reason, a lawful act may not be ethical (Shaw, 2003). Ethics is applicable in several fields and it has the historical, modern, and postmodern theoretical perspectives.
This branch of philosophy encourages honesty, accountability, respectfulness, integrity in all fields. Marketing research ethics offers guidelines and rights that suppliers, customers, field service, and respondents are entitled to in the process of carrying out marketing research.
The approaches used in the research should not harm the relationship that exists between researcher and client, researcher and research subject, and the researcher and the marketing research industry. Upholding marketing research ethics comes with honesty, transparency, fairness, and respect and responsibility to acknowledge the basic human dignity of all stakeholders.
Businesses that maintain high ethical standards when conducting market research report increased customer trust, thus developing solid reputation with other stakeholders (Covey & Merrill, 2006). In addition, such businesses certainly gain competitive advantage over their competitors in the marketing field. In improving the working relationship among participants in the research field, ethics forms a core component in marketing research.
Organizations that employ research ethics in marketing motivate employees in meeting quality at all times. With high levels of ethical practices during marketing research, employees become satisfied with their jobs, remains committed to work towards achieving common strategic objectives and goals of the firm, and definitely do the right thing even when it is difficult.
For example, in a market research where employees and customers feel adequate security for their data, loyalty is enhanced. In this situation, an organization gets assurance of continuity and sustainability in its operations. Moreover, ethics in marketing helps firms to be authentic or original in the manner in which they present their services, products, and opinions (Shaw, 2003).
Such firms focus on their customers and subjects that actually matter to them when purchasing products and acquiring services and opinions. Domino Pizza is an example of a business enterprise that acted on the bad feedback that it received from the focus groups to produce products that meet the needs of their customers.
The fast food restaurant worked towards producing what the customers required, hence improving their public image as a company that respects the will and needs of its clients.
In marketing research, ethics helps researchers to avoid any risk that can harm the environment and people unreasonably. Ethical norms promote knowledge, error avoidance, and truth in research findings.
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For instance, the norms prohibit falsification, fabrication, and misrepresentation of research data in order to circumvent blunders and promote truth. Researchers use ethics to back the objectives of the research, enhance collaborative work values, such as transparency and responsibility for actions, and build support from the public.
In building public support, organizations make it easy for investors to fund various research projects, as they have full assurance on the quality and integrity of the research.
Some guidelines for authors, policies on sharing of data, and policies on copyright and patenting encourage collaboration, as well as safeguard intellectual property. In this aspect, the norms help in minimizing plagiarism, hence ensuring that an author’s idea is highly protected.
Ethics in research also promotes vital moral and social values like welfare of animals, overall health and safety, law compliance and rights of all humankind. Research institutions, such as universities and government agencies have opted to adopt specific rules and codes to guide their operations due to the significance of ethics in marketing research.
Researchers ought to care about marketing research ethics in their activities given the strong link that it has with market performance and improving financial performance. At one instance, Anheuser-Busch used persuasive messages in order to reduce underage drinking incidences.
Regardless of a person’s job requirements, ethics defines how one makes life decisions. Personal ethics determines a person’s destiny and career options. Besides, personal values determine whether one invests in himself/herself or not.
They form the grounds upon which all-personal objectives and strategies rest. Therefore, one has to base all decisions on the values to avert ultimate decline of such decisions. In addition, ethics influences a person’s personal character.
For instance, pillars like fairness, respect, trustworthiness, and caring form parts of ethical values that guide people’s characters (Covey & Merrill, 2006). A person that encompasses the aforementioned pillars of character in his/her life makes ethical decisions that aim at benefiting all.
For instance, trustworthiness is essential in meeting organizational obligations with limited supervision. If an organization believes in the competency of a team, it is highly likely that the team will live up to the expectations of the firm. In such scenarios, instances of fraud, subterfuge, and stealing become minimal.
A case example of the Enron Company where the top executive engaged in cheating and other unethical practices to maintain strong public trust resulted in its fall. The culture encouraged massive innovations, which went unchecked.
The entire staff of Enron developed attitudes and beliefs that could easily defy ethical practices. Employees involved themselves in fraudulent activities as a way of maximizing profits within the shortest time possible. With the full support of the HR executives, dishonesty became the sole way of achieving Enron’s goals.
In this aspect, they viewed dishonesty as a normal and necessary way of meeting the corporation’s objectives. Internal auditors could report falls accounting position of the firm to the public at the time when the organization was making huge losses.
Here, dishonesty ruined the once powerful company that had strong command and trust from the public (Covey & Merrill, 2006). Reliability is another element of honesty in which one fulfills promises that she/he makes. Such persons accept the responsibility of making numerous strides to fulfill their commitments.
Another personal level example is the case of Tiger Woods failure to maintain his personal brand in the sporting arena. Notably, his inconsistencies at the tournaments made corporate sponsors to abandon him for other players who were living up to their values at the time. Clearly, Woods fortunes and endorsement deals dried up due to his dwindling professional and personal performances.
Careers depend on values, and people should take corporate practices and apply in their personal lives. From the given case examples, if I apply ethical practices in my life, I will develop resilient trust among different people. At the workplace, there are higher chances of promotion and retain-ability, in cases of employees’ lay-offs.
I have encountered ethical dilemmas that forced me to apply wisdom even though my positions seemed unethical. At one instance, during school holidays, a male teenager ran into our apartment and requested me not to inform a mob that was looking for him.
After some minutes, a group of twenty men armed with machetes arrived and asked me if I had seen a male teenager who had stolen a mobile phone from a shop in the city center. At this point, I was in a great dilemma of being truthful by allowing the mob to have the suspect.
However, after a quick thought on the possibility of the boy losing his life at the hands of the mob, I decided to cheat that I did not know the whereabouts of the teenager.
Even though I went against one of the strong pillars of ethics, I considered that life is greater than properties that are sold in shops. In my opinion, cheating was the only option in this scenario since life is only a-one-cycle event as opposed to properties that one can purchase again.
Carrigan, M., Marinova, S. T., & Szmigin, I. (2005). Ethics and international marketing research background and challenges. Bradford, England: Emerald Group Publishers.
Covey, S. M., & Merrill, R. R. (2006). The speed of trust: the one thing that changes everything. New York: Free Press.
Shaw, W. H. (2003). Ethics at work: basic readings in business ethics. New York: Oxford University Press.