Essentials of Marketing Research

Modern technologies of management and marketing are based on interdisciplinary research of a person as an object of control and influencing his behavior. The religious factor has become an essential component of the cultural life of modern society. Conceptual differences between marketing and Christian philosophy lead to a potential ethical conflict of “efficiency versus good.” In these conditions, the questions about the boundaries of the combination of the Christian worldview on the one hand and the technologies for conducting marketing research on the other are actualized.

The Purpose of Marketing Research

Marketing research is an integral part of any business. It has been defined as “…the function that links an organization to its market through the gathering of information” (Hair Jr., Celsi, Ortinau, & Bush, 2013, p. 5). Thus, it is a systematic process of collecting, processing, and analyzing information about the market environment in order to make management decisions. It allows businesses to reduce uncertainty, minimize risks, identify the needs and preferences of buyers, determine the volume, structure, trends, and prospects of the studied market, choose the most effective means of promotion, and identify strengths and weaknesses in relation to competitors.

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Any marketing research begins with a problem statement. Researchers are faced with two types of problems: a management problem (a problem faced by a company specialist, for the solution of which it is necessary to conduct marketing research) and a marketing research problem (a problem that involves finding an answer to the question of what information is needed and how best of all this information receive).

Particularly sensitive issues of ethics relate to marketing research. Marketing research can be carried out by the company’s own marketing division and by independent research agencies. The primary purpose of market research is to provide the company with objective information to facilitate informed business decisions (Hair Jr., Celsi, Ortinau, & Bush, 2013). As a rule, this decision is directly related to profit. Sometimes marketers have to compromise on research objectivity or professional requirements for this purpose.

The Need for Ethics

Ethics traditionally proceeds from what is commonly called the best intentions of a person: striving for good, virtue, and peace, fulfilling one’s promises, and many other questions. With the replacement of natural exchange by commodity-money relations, money has become an indispensable part of economic processes and, at the same time, a measurement of wealth. According to its original meaning, money, along with other property, is morally neutral. However, from the abstraction of exchange, they have become an independent value, the goal to which they strive first of all. Intangible values and moral ideals are losing their influence in the “monetary” picture of the world. In the personal aspect, material well-being opens up new opportunities for increasing benefits but hinders inner freedom, which is emphasized by Christian morality, urging to abandon acquisitiveness and avarice, to share the property with the poor (Matthew 6:19-21; 19:21, 23; Luke 3:11; 12:33).

The desire to get rich becomes a necessity in the context of the market’s primary driving force – competition. Of course, it is impossible to ignore the reflection in the competition of the properties of a mature economy. High profits serve as signals for potential market participants to enter the market, thereby improving supply, stimulating innovation; they also serve individual investors to cover losses (insurance reserves), but at the same time do not contribute to the fulfillment of moral requirements. Although this position testifies to the influence of the competition of economic entities on the coordination of private and public interests, it remains indifferent to the fact that exclusively utilitarian relations prevail. Childs (2012) demonstrates that people are highly likely to lie when the matter comes to monetary reward. As opposed to the irrational individualistic approach, the Golden Rule should apply here: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law of prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

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Participant Awareness

A serious problem associated with marketing research ethics is the infringement of the rights of respondents by performers. Any violation of their rights is unethical. If the ethical standards for dealing with respondents are not followed, they will refuse to cooperate or provide false information in retaliation. This means that research companies must adhere to high standards of ethics while caring for their own prestige.

Participant awareness in the process of engagement in the marketing research is central to every step. Business practices are prone to black-boxing their purposes, objectives, and processes. However, one could argue that one of the core ethical principles guiding marketing research could become the principle of granting the right to freely decide on participation in research based on broad and full access to the goals and objectives of the research. Freedom in the interpretation of Christian ethics is endowed with a special meaning – predestination by God. It appears as a gift of intellectual openness to recognizing good and evil and implies the presence of free will in the individual, that is, the ability to desire specific actions and perform them in accordance with moral choices (Kim, Fisher & Mccalman, 2009). The moral meaning of free human actions in economics is the combination of freedom and necessity, but not as a moral compromise, but as an act of will under the pressure of an object, external conditions (Kim, Fisher & Mccalman, 2009).

Invasion of Privacy/Confidentiality

When a researcher asks respondents for cooperation, he in no way should mislead them, and he is obliged to ensure the anonymity of the respondents. If, when communicating with the respondent, the use of any technical devices is expected, he should be warned in advance about this. If the respondent can remain anonymous, then the interviewer, on the contrary, is obliged to provide the respondent with the opportunity to easily find out the name and details of the interviewer and the details of the organization that conducts the research.

As Angst (2009) states, de-identified pieces of data can be arguably regarded as public good, yet lawful and deceitful use of such data becomes a huge problem. In fact, invasion of privacy/confidentiality can be viewed as data theft. “Stealing” means taking something belonging to another person without their consent or knowledge. Paul says: “He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need” (Ephesians 4:28). Paul teaches not to steal but to work instead so that people have something to share with those in need. Thus, invasion of privacy/confidentiality is unethical and unacceptable.

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Conclusion

The biblical worldview places very high demands on the moral imagination of a person. In particular, it is necessary to evaluate the context of the action as something indivisible, integral. At the same time, the reluctance to take into account certain points in strategic planning can be characterized as immorality, which is not entirely true. There is a widespread view that ethical managers will not be able to survive in a competitive market, and their companies will be pushed out of the market. Most ethical actions require additional costs and often quite large ones. However, this assumption is fundamentally wrong. In reality, the alternative courses of action that a business entity can take are very complex. Besides, it must be remembered that this subject’s practice takes place within the framework of social integrity. Taking into account the social and economic aspects of behavior that go beyond the traditional homo economicus may be both ethical and beneficial. Inattention to the client, unethical behavior on the part of marketers and managers means potential financial losses for the organization, which can be conventionally called “ethical expenses of future periods.”

Autonomy in ethical Christian teaching does not mean independence from moral norms (secular or religious) and adherence to rational goals, but the human ability to perceive moral principles with his mind, regardless of the source of information about them (regardless of whether they are discovered by the subject independently, or gleaned from the outside).

References

Angst, C. M. (2009). Protect my privacy or support the common-good? Ethical questions about electronic health information xchanges. Journal of Business Ethics, 90(2), 169-178. Web.

Childs, J. (2012). Demonstrating the need for effective business ethics: An alternative approach. Business and Society Review, 1172, 221-232.

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Hair Jr., J. F., Celsi, M. W., Ortinau, D. J., & Bush, R. P. (2013). Essentials of Marketing Research (3rd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill p. 5,15,91.

Kim, D., Fisher, D., & Mccalman, D. (2009). Modernism, christianity, and business ethics: a worldview perspective. Journal of Business Ethics, 90, 115-121.

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