Tiptoeing on the edge of ethical – Market Research

Blogs At Velvet Marketing

When Gillette conducted a focus group market research that surrounded the usage of razor blades by women, they were told frequent blade changes took place, however, when they conducted observational research, they found that the same women rarely remembered to change the blade as they didn’t keep a stock in the shower.

Perspective of action is rarely the same as perspective in action, what consumers tell market research personnel is what they think they do, not what they actually do, so why do we continue to use surveys and focus groups? in short – they are a safe bet, we know what to expect and direct the line of thought, an ideology hardly conducive for innovation.

Observational market research is exciting! It gives researchers a 3D view of the subject in question, it engages the researcher in the life of the subject and much can be recorded & analysed to uncover the subconscious behaviours; however failing to uncover the next big thing, is a risk that management simply has to accept.

The implications of using vidiography in observational research poses numerous ethical issues that researchers need to consider.

In a recent market research survey of shopping motivations and habits, the shopping habits of people where observed for three hours in a mall by placing a camera on them, the mall management was aware of the experiment, but neither other customers nor shop clerks, that the subjects came into contact with, had any idea they were being videoed, which although not illegal is arguably an ethical misconduct.
Further complications occur when subjects forget about the camera (a marketeer’s dream!) and therefore may engage in private behaviours, in this particular experiment some forgot to switch off the camera in the changing rooms!

Videography is a game changer, observational research is expensive and daring, its for those seeking innovation, however it needs to be handled with care, because until the technology is upgraded to black out other humans and interpret private behaviours switching off automatically, marketeers either undertake perspectives of action (i.e. just listen to what people think they do) or continuously tiptoe on the edge of ethical.