How other industries and activities damage the reputation of Market Research
In the UK, the practice of market research is responsibly regulated by the Market Research Society, which publishes and enforces detailed codes of practice. These codes are designed to protect all parties touched by the research process in any way, from members of the public who wish to share their views to clients who wish to protect their commercially-sensitive information during the process. The integrity of the industry, as protected and regulated by the MRS, has created a high degree of trust amongst members of the public and the market research industry over many years.
This trust is important, because as part of a robust fieldwork service it is necessary for researchers to collect contact information from participants, even though this is not passed on to the end clients themselves. What the clients are buying into is a reliable process, and that means a quality system where the research company is able to check up on the results of a specific percentage of interviews or surveys by recontacting the participant – that is the reason for asking those questions. The contact information is then separated from the other responses, before analysis or reporting. This is the only way to ensure fairness to both sides, the participant can join in the research safe in the knowledge of their ultimate anonymity, but the client paying for it all can for their part be sure the interview has been conducted correctly, fully and fairly.
Unfortunately however there are a number of other industries and activities that attempt to exploit and trade on this trust, without having anything to do with market research itself. This damages the reputation of the industry, and can also be damaging to the interests of people and organisations who get exploited or mislead.
For example, next time you are queueing to board an aircraft and you are approached by a clipboard-wielder who is ‘just doing a survey’, do ask to see their MRS-approved interviewer identity card. If they cannot produce this or have no idea what you are talking about, they are in strong likelihood not conducting research of any kind but are collecting data for marketing purposes – in the airport environment this is usually in connection with holiday property or financial services. If you give them your contact information you will receive junk mail or spam that will be difficult to opt out of – the direct marketing industry is simply not as tightly regulated as market research, and by their tactics of soliciting your information in this way they already reveal themselves to be operating in an underhand and disingenuous manner.
Similarly, a lot of online scams that pass off as ‘market research’ are also marketing information collection exercises, designed to get hold of your email address and other important information, so that they can send you stuff. If they are being deceitful about the purpose of the information gathering, then you can make a safe guess that they are also not being honest about the ipad2 or flights to Disney that you might win by participating either.
More worryingly, information collected under the false pretences of market research can sometimes be used as part of criminal activities such as phishing scams and identity theft. Information is powerful and your identity is precious – you owe it to yourself to safeguard your personal contact information carefully, and ensure you only share this in appropriate and secure ways. If approached to take part in market research, always check that the company involved is a member of and regulated by the Market Research Society, or similar bodies in other countries. You can find a full list of Company Partners here http://www.mrs.org.uk/companypartner/companies.htm