Does Marketing Research Have a Responsibility to Society?
by Lynnette Leathers, President, Mindspot
Exploratory research, like an online focus group, online discussion or even a chat on a Facebook or Google+ group can be used to determine the perceived severity of a problem or condition, how it occurred and even possible solutions. Since we are experts at specific types of research, are we obligated to use our research powers for good?
Marian Wright Edelman said, “If you don’t like the way the world is, you change it. You have an obligation to change it. You just do it one step at a time.” Marketing Research is a process that is truly one step at a time. You follow a research methodology that has been tested and that works. If you think this blog is going to be about that you are partially right. The rest of the story is what may be thought provoking, and of course, you are not getting off that easy.
Since, Marketing Research is a process, it makes sense that all research uses a scientific method and that it requires the discipline to follow that process, regardless if you are conducting consumer research, or business-to-business research (a company who has other businesses as customers).
At Mindspot Research, we have conducted a significant amount of research with people who may have a chronic illness or a mobility challenge and provided our clients with insights regarding what their patient’s needs or requirements are to improve the delivery of care, knowledge or information that is relevant to improving or creating something.
Bringing me to what is really on my mind. Since we are experts at specific types of research, does that mean we are obligated to use our research powers for good? Anyone who has been in research for a while does know the process of solving problems. Utilizing both exploratory research, like an online focus group, online discussion or even a chat on a Facebook or Google+ group can be used to determine the perceived severity of a problem or condition, how it occurred and even possible solutions. It is also quantifiable if the proper quantitative methodology is used to measure the results in a way which can make them statistically reliable enough for other scientists, other researchers and doctors to use to progress the condition, share knowledge and ultimately benefit society as a whole.
Still – what is this really about? Let me elaborate, based on my recent observational research it seems the medical system, even at the very best teaching hospitals, is operating at capacity. Is it reasonable to expect a doctor or surgeon to know every answer, in addition to their area of expertise and teaching it to others? There were 48 million operations in the United States according to the CDC in 2009. My answer is that if you truly believe you can fill a knowledge gap in society by designing a survey instrument, collecting, analyzing, reporting, and distributing data to the experts who need it, then you as a Marketing Research Professional, are obligated to contribute even if it is not requested or possibly even well received. Of course you know this applies to anyone –even those of you reading who are not even sure what Marketing Research is exactly. Everyone has some useful skill and something to contribute. Marketing Researchers have unique skills. How many chronic illnesses or outlier conditions could we solve by helping to place or disseminate the right information into the right minds?
I am asking each of you with these skills to consider where you could make a difference in the world. And also those of you not in the research field, this applies to the other mad skills that you possess. One of my favorite bosses once told me, “you only get to bitch about something to the extent you are willing to fix it”. So here is my soapbox pitch for the day –if you don’t like something in the world, then you have the skills or power to change it. Plenty of people complain about our broken healthcare industry as one example that is top-of-mind for me. Consider the idea that you either should be quiet (shut up already) or that Ms.Edleman is right and take a step to change it. You have the power.