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Ethical Problems of Marketing Researchers

Author(s): Shelby D. Hunt, Lawrence B. Chonko, James B. Wilcox


Source: Journal of Marketing Research, Vol. 21, No. 3 (Aug., 1984), pp. 309-324
Published by: American Marketing Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3151607
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D. HUNT,LAWRENCE
SHELBY B. CHONKO,and JAMESB. WILCOX*

Almostall studieson ethics in marketingresearchhave focused on either delin-


and obligationsof researchersto respondentsand clients
eating the responsibilities
or exploringwhethervariousgroups perceivecertain marketingresearchpractices
to be ethicalor unethical.Theauthorsempiricallyexaminefour researchquestions:
What are the majorethical problemsof marketingresearchers?To what extent do
our professionalcodes of conductaddressthe majorethicalproblemsof marketing
researchers?Howextensiveare the ethicalproblemsof marketingresearchers?How
effectiveare the actions of top managementin reducingethical problemsof mar-
keting researchers?

Ethical Problems of Marketing Researchers

Marketingactivities often pose significant ethical systematic"(p. 262). They identifyseveralareaswhere


problemsin business. In a classic studyof businesseth- more researchis critically needed, including "ranking
ics, Baumhart(1961) identifiedthe majorethical prob- (in termsof importance)the variousareasof ethicalabuse
lems thatbusinesspeople wantedto eliminate:(1) gifts, in marketing"and "findingout whetherthe behaviorof
gratuities,bribes, and "call girls," (2) price discrimi- the chief marketingofficer is the crucialvariablein set-
nationand unfairpricing, (3) dishonestadvertising,(4) ting the moral tone of the marketingorganization"(p.
miscellaneousunfaircompetitivepractices,(5) cheating 262). The purposeof our researchprojectwas to ex-
customers,unfaircredit practices, and overselling, (6) aminethese issues. Specifically,the studyaddressedfour
pricecollusionby competitors,(7) dishonestyin making researchquestions.
or keeping a contract,and (8) unfairnessto employees
andprejudicein hiring.Note that five of the eight most 1. What are the majorethical problemsof marketingre-
searchers?
importantethical problemspertainto marketingactivi- 2. To whatextentdo our professionalcodes of conductad-
ties. BrennerandMolander(1977) conducteda followup dressthe majorethicalproblemsof marketingresearch-
study and found the same set of undesirablepractices, ers?
thoughthe orderof importance changedfor severalitems. 3. How extensiveare the ethicalproblemsof marketingre-
Findings such as these led Murphyand Laczniak(1981) searchers?
to concludethat"thefunctionwithinbusinessfirmsmost 4. How effective are the actionsof top managementin re-
often chargedwith ethicalabuseis marketing"(p. 251), ducingthe ethicalproblemsof marketingresearchers?
andpromptedus to exploreempiricallythe natureof the We exploredthesequestionsusinga sampleof morethan
ethicalproblemsof marketingresearchers. 450 practicingmarketingresearchprofessionals.Before
Murphy and Laczniak (1981) comprehensivelyre- we examinethe resultsof the study, a discussionof the
viewed ethics researchand found thatresearch"related natureof ethical problemsin marketingresearchis ap-
to marketingethics has been less than innovativeand
propriate.
THENATUREOF ETHICALPROBLEMSOF
*ShelbyD. Huntis Paul WhitfieldHornProfessorof Marketing, MARKETING RESEARCHERS
LawrenceB. Chonkois AssociateProfessorof Marketing,andJames Ethicalproblemsare relationshipkinds of problems.
B. Wilcox is Professorof Marketing,Texas Tech University.
The authorsexpresstheir sincereappreciationto the membersof Thatis, ethicalproblemsoccuronly when an individual
the AmericanMarketingAssociationwho participatedin the research interactswith otherpeople.The ethicalphilosopherBaier
project.They also gratefullyacknowledgethe financialsupportof the (1958, p. 215) pointsout that"a worldof RobinsonCru-
Officeof BusinessResearch,Collegeof BusinessAdministration,Texas soes has no need for morality."Partof the value system
TechUniversity.The timelyassistanceof PaulSurgiSpeckat various
stagesof the researchprojectis appreciated.
of each individualis a perceivedset of obligations,du-
ties, andresponsibilitiestowardothergroupsof people.

309

Journal of Marketing Research


Vol. XXI (August 1984), 309-24
310 JOURNALOF MARKETING AUGUST1984
RESEARCH,

For example, a researcher has the responsibility to treat the relationships producing ethical conflict for marketing
respondents fairly in a research study. At the same time, researchers. Though Murphy and Laczniak (1981) con-
a researcher has a responsibility to the client to gather clude that "there appears to be a general dissatisfaction
accurate, reliable information. with the ethical performance of marketing researchers,"
Ethical conflict occurs when an individual perceives (p. 255), no research has documented empirically the
that his/her duties and responsibilities toward one group extent of ethical problems of marketing researchers. The
are inconsistent with his/her duties and responsibilities preceding discussion emphasizes the importance of two
toward some other group (including one's self). The in- of the research questions addressed in this study: "What
dividual then must attempt to resolve these opposing ob- are the major ethical problems of marketing research-
ligations. For example, a researcher might resolve an ers?" and "How extensive are the ethical problems of
ethical conflict as follows: "In order to gather accurate marketing researchers?"
and reliable data (satisfying my duty to my client), I shall Previous studies have suggested three things that top
deceive the respondents in my study about the true na- management can do to help resolve employees' ethical
ture of the study, but shall 'debrief the respondentsabout conflict: (1) serve as role models by conducting their own
the true purpose of the study upon its completion (thus activities impeccably, (2) encourage ethical behaviors by
satisfying my obligation of fairness to my respondents)." promptly reprimanding unethical conduct, and (3) draft
Other researchers might choose a different solution to and promote both corporate and industry codes of con-
the ethical conflict, such as sacrificing the interests of duct. Ferrell and Weaver (1978) examined the ethical
the client by gathering less reliable data. Bartels (1967, beliefs of marketing managers and concluded that "these
p. 24) succinctly states the nature of ethical conflict. findings suggest that top management must assume at
least part of the responsibility for the ethical conduct of
In a pluralisticsocietynot one butmanyexpectationsmust marketerswithin their organization. By establishing and
be met. Therefore,resolutionof what is rightto do pro- enforcing policy, the frame of reference for ethical be-
duces a balanceof obligationsand satisfactions.Ideally, havior could be improved" (p. 73). Similarly, Kaikati
full satisfactionof the expectationsof all partieswould and Label (1980) examined American bribery legislation
constitutethe most ethical behavior.This is impossible,
for expectationsare often contradictoryand sometimes and concluded that "no code of ethical behavior is likely
exceedsocialsanction.Therefore,skill andjudgmentmust to be observed unless the chief executive officer declares
be used to guide one in determiningthe point at which that violators will be punished. When a company fails
his own integritycan be best maintained. to take strict disciplinary actions, many employees may
assume that their unethical acts are accepted standards
As Murphy and Laczniak (1981) point out, the "most of corporate behavior" (p. 42).
longstanding thrust within marketing research ethics is Corporatecodes of conduct are very common. A study
the delineation of the rights of all parties involved in the conducted by the Ethics Resource Center (1979) found
research process" (p. 253). Most of the ethics research that approximately three-fourths of corporations had a
pertains to the duties of researchers toward respondents written code of ethics. Similarly, the American Market-
and clients. For example, Tybout and Zaltman (1974) ing Association has both a general code of ethics for
set forth a "bill of rights" for respondents: the right to marketers and a specific code for marketing research
choose, the right to safety, and the right to be informed. (Twedt 1963). Apparently believing the national asso-
Similarly, Schneider (1977) examined ways in which re- ciation's code of conduct to be deficient, the New York
spondents' rights can be abused, including deceptive Chapter of the American Marketing Association has en-
practices by researchers, invasion of privacy, and lack dorsed its own code of ethics for marketing research
of consideration for respondents. Crawford (1970) ex- (MarketingNews 1980, p. 24). Despite the existence of
amined the responsibilities of researchers toward both many corporate, industry, and professional codes, em-
respondents and society in general. Using primarily pirical evidence that these codes effectively help resolve
"scenario" techniques, Coney and Murphy (1976) and ethical conflict is lacking. Murphy and Laczniak (1981)
McGown (1979) also examined responsibilities of re- examined the evidence and concluded that "corporate
searchers toward respondents and clients. codes are somewhat controversial" (p. 259). Therefore
Almost all studies on ethics in marketingresearchhave we investigated the effectiveness of top management ac-
focused on either delineating the responsibilities and ob- tions and corporateethical codes in reducing ethical con-
ligations of researchers toward respondents and clients flict, as well as the extent to which our professional eth-
or exploring whether various groups perceive certain ical codes address the major ethical problems.
marketing research practices to be ethical or unethical. METHOD
No research has been done to determine empiricially the
major issues that practicing researchersperceive to result The data we report are from a larger study examining
in ethical conflict. Furthermore, though it is well estab- marketing ethics, Machiavellianism, and attitudes to-
lished that ethical conflict results from balancing the in- ward the job by means of a self-administered question-
terests of various groups, no research has addressed the naire sent to 4282 marketing practitioners. These indi-
frequency with which different groups are involved in viduals represented a systematic sample of one of every
PROBLEMS
ETHICAL 311

four marketingpractitionersin the AmericanMarketing Table 1


Association.As our focus was on the ethical problems CHARACTERISTICS
OF SAMPLEa
of researchersemployedeitherby marketresearchagen-
cies or by businessorganizationsas "in-house"research- Characteristic %
ers, educatorsandstudentswere excludedfromthe sam- Typeof organization
ple frame. The questionnairewas pretested with a 1. In-houseresearchers 75
conveniencesampleof 200 marketers(also obtainedfrom 2. Agencyresearchers 25
the AMA directory).The final set of mailings, sent in Job title
1. Junioranalyst 6
the summerof 1982, consistedof the questionnaireit- 2. Analyst 29
self, a cover letter, a stamped,pre-addressedreply en- 3. Assistantmanager/director 12
velope, a prenotificationpostcardsent one week before 4. Manager/director 33
the questionnaire, and a followuppostcardsent one week 5. Vice president 13
afterthe questionnaire. 6. President,owner 7
Size of firm
A total of 1076 usable questionnaireswere returned, 1. 1 1
for a responserateof 25.1%. Responseratesat this level 2. 2 to 9 5
arenot uncommonwhen marketingpractitioners are used 3. 10 to 19 5
as a sample. For example, Myers, Massy, and Greyser 4. 20 to 49 7
5. 50 to 99 4
(1980) obtaineda responserateof 28.5% in theirsurvey 6. 100 to 249 10
of the AmericanMarketingAssociationmembership,and 7. 250 to 499 9
a straightforward membershipsurvey of AMA practi- 8. 500 to 999 10
tionersconductedby the Associationproducedonly a 9. 1000 or more 49
41% response rate (American MarketingAssociation Educationlevel
1. No college degree 4
1982). These studies had the sponsorshipof either or 2. Bachelor's 34
boththe AmericanMarketingAssociationand the Mar- 3. Master's 58
ketingScience Institutewhereasour studyhad no spon- 4. Doctorate 4
sorshipotherthanour universityaffiliation.This differ- Sex
ence probablyaccountsfor our lower responserate. 1. Male 59
2. Female 41
Fromthe total of 1076 usable questionnaires,the re- Maritalstatus
sponsesof the 460 individualswho identifiedthemselves 1. Married 65
(in the questionnaire)as marketingresearchersconstitute 2. Single 35
the database for our analysis.The characteristicsof the Income
1. Less than$10,000 1
sample(Table 1) indicatethat respondentshave varied 2. $10,000 to $19,999 9
educational backgrounds but, as expected,almostall have 3. $20,000 to $29,999 28
college degrees.The sampleincludesboth in-houseand 4. $30,000 to $39,999 25
marketresearchagency researchersemployedby firms 5. $40,000 to $49,999 17
6. $50,000 to $59,999 9
rangingin size fromone to morethan 1000 employees. 7. $60,000 to $69,999 4
Advertisingagency researchersare not in the sample. 8. $70,000 to $79,999 3
Also, the respondentsspan a wide range of ages, in- 9. $80,000 to $89,999 1
comes, andjob titles. 10. $90,000 to $99,999 1
11. $100,000 or more 3
RESULTS Age
1. 20-29 24
Ethical Problems 2. 30-39 38
3. 40-49 19
Our first researchquestion is, "Whatare the major 4. 50-59 15
ethical problems of marketingresearchers?"The ab- 5. 60 or more 4
sence of previousresearchon this questionnecessitated Majorfield of study
an exploratoryresearchprocedure.Marketingresearch- 1. Generalbusiness 19b
2. Business-marketing 23
ers were asked to respondin an open-endedmannerto 3. Business-accounting 1
the followingquestion. 4. Business-management 1
In all professions(e.g., law, medicine, education, ac- 5. Business-statistics 3
6. Business-finance 1
counting,marketing,etc.), managersare exposed to at 7. Engineering 4
least some situationsthat pose a moralor ethical prob- 8. Othertechnical
lem. Wouldyou please brieflydescribethe job situation (e.g. physics) 10
thatposes the mostdifficultethicalor moralproblemfor 9. Social studies 21
you? 10. Humanities 9
11. Other(e.g., education) 8
Thesubjectof ethics is alwaysa sensitiveresearchtopic. aN = 460.
Pretestsindicatedthat many respondentsbelieved (mis- bManyof these are probablymarketingmajorswho simply speci-
takenly)that the purposeof the researchwas to single fied "Bachelor'sdegreein business."
312 JOURNALOF MARKETING AUGUST1984
RESEARCH,

out marketingas uniquein havingethicalproblems.Re- any manager.Issues such as personnelproblems,gifts,


spondentsseemedmuchmorewilling to answerthe eth- bribes, and entertainment,and the misuse of funds are
ics questionwhenit was precededby the "desensitizing" not uniquelymarketingresearchethical issues.
firststatement.The responseratewas 55%on the open- The most often reportedethical conflict of in-house
endedquestion. researchersis attemptingto balancethe reseacher'sself-
As is consistentwith ethical theory, the ethical prob- interestagainstthe researcher'sresponsibilitiesto clients
lems identifiedby respondentswere coded accordingto withinone's own company(Table3). Similarly,the eth-
the differentissues and conflicts involved. Two inde- ical conflictmost often indicatedby marketingresearch
pendentjudges coded all 254 responsesand, thoughthe agency respondentsis attemptingto balance one's re-
codingof open-endedquestionsinherentlyinvolves sub- sponsibilitiesto a clientoutsidethe companyagainstone's
jectivity, the interjudgereliabilitywas 95% for issues companyresponsibilities(Table4). We discuss each of
and94%for conflicts. Categorieswere developedto be the majorethical issues in turn.
as consistentas possible with the AmericanMarketing Researchintegrity.The firstcategoryaccountsfor 33%
Associationcode of ethics. of all responsesand includessuch items as deliberately
Tables2, 3, and4 displaythe resultsfor ethicalissues withholdinginformation,falsifying figures, alteringre-
and conflicts. The ethical issue most often indicatedby searchresults,misusingstatistics,ignoringpertinentdata,
bothmarketingresearchagencyandin-houseresearchers compromisingthe design of a researchproject,and mis-
involvesproblemswith researchintegrity(Table2). Note interpreting the resultsof a researchprojectwith the ob-
that the questionposed to respondentsdid not restrict jective supportinga predeterminedpersonalor cor-
of
them exclusively to ethical problemsin the practice of poratepoint of view. All of these practiceshave the
marketingresearch.Therefore,thoughthe firstfour eth- commonthemeof deliberateproductionof dishonestor
ical issues relate directlyto respondents'activities qua less-than-completely-honest research.We label the cat-
researchers,severalotherscould be ethicalproblemsfor egory "research integrity,"because any dishonestyin re-

Table 2
ISSUESIN MARKETING
ETHICAL RESEARCHa

In-house researchers' Agency researchers' Total


frequencyb frequencyb frequencyb AMA New York
Issue No. % No. % No. % coded AMA code'
1. Researchintegrity 62 31 37 37 99 33 A1,Bl, A1,2,3,4
C1 B1,2,3,4
2. Treatingoutside
clientsfairly 15 8 16 16 31 11 - A5,6
C1,3
3. Researchconfidentiality 15 8 12 12 27 9 B2,3 C2
4. Marketingmix
social issues 17 9 6 6 23 8 - D4,E
5. Personnel issues 14 7 6 6 20 7
6. Treatingrespondentsfairly 17 9 2 2 19 6 A2 D1,2,3
7. Treatingothersin
companyfairly 11 6 1 1 12 4 -A5,6
C1,3
8. Interviewerdishonesty 1 1 9 9 10 3 D1,2,3,4 B3
9. Gifts, bribes,and
entertainment 6 3 2 2 8 3
10. Treating suppliers fairly 8 4 - - 8 3 - C4
11. Legal issues 8 4 - - 8 3
12. Misuseof funds 5 3 1 1 6 2
13. Other 17 9 7 7 24 8
n = 196 102 n = 99 99 n = 295 100
to
aResponse open-endedquestion: "In all professions(e.g., law, medicine,education,accounting,marketing,etc.), managersare exposed to
at least some situationsthat pose a moralor ethical problem.Would you please briefly describethe job situationthat poses the most difficult
ethicalor moralproblemfor you?"
bThoughrespondentswere asked to describeonly one ethical problem,38 respondentsdescribedtwo coequal problemsand one respondent
describedthreecoequalproblems.Therefore,n is the numberof problemsdescribedby all valid responses,i.e., 254 respondentsdescribed295
problems (n = 295).
cIssuesare rankedby total frequency.Spearmanrankordercorrelation= .09 n.s.
dSectionof AMA (national)code addressingthis issue (See AppendixA for key).
'Sectionof AMA (New YorkChapter)code addressingthis issue (See AppendixB for key).
ETHICAL
PROBLEMS 313

Table 3 must be very tactful and diplomatic-use finesse. Suc-


ETHICAL
CONFLICTS
REPORTED
BYIN-HOUSE cessful marketing researchers within a company are usu-
RESEARCHERSa ally extensions of management. Firms should always use
independent research facilities if they want the straight
story. I could write a book on this subject. When a bad
Rank Party one Party two No. % decision is made by management, it becomes very dif-
1 Self Clientwithin 24 12 ficult for the marketing personnel. You either support the
2 Self Company 18 9 decision halfheartedly, support the decision and offer al-
3 Company Society 13 7 ternatives, or look for another job. It is tough to be in a
4 Self Management 13 7 position where you criticize management. Much market-
5 Company Management 12 6
6 12 6 ing research is only "eye wash" for the wholesale buyers
Company Competitors to convince them that the product is indeed needed and
7 Company Suppliers 11 6
8 Outsideclients 10 5 will sell in volume-almost a "fraudulent" situation.
Company
9 Self Co-workers 10 5
Otherconflictsb 73 37 Another in-house researcher reported, "[I] refused to
196 100 alter research results and as a result I was eventually
'Read: "Thenumberone ethical conflict reportedby in-housere- fired for failure to think strategically." A sporting goods
searcherswas attemptingto balanceone's self-interestswith the in- marketing research manager described passing off "soft
terestsof clients withinone's own company." data" as "hard."
bOfthese otherconflicts, eight accountedfor 43 reportedinstances
(22%): company-customer(8 instances), company-respondent (7), Managers, wishing to provide backup for their proposals
company-co-worker(6), self-outside client (5), self-respondent(5), and/or analyses of some situation, ask me to "estimate"
company-subordinate (4), management-outsideclient (4), and co- the dollars, percentage, etc. They then put these gross
worker-outsideclient (4). Eighteenotherconflictrelationshipsmade
estimates, guesses and sometimes completely fake fig-
up the remaining30 instances(15%). ures into their reports with two decimal accuracy! They
do this ratherthan defend their opinions as "my best busi-
search compromises its fundamental integrity. This ness judgment" and admit we can't afford or haven't had
the time to do an actual study. I generally comply [with
interpretation is consistent with Blankenship's (1964) these requests] making clear how later reliance on these
description of integrity (p. 26). numbers may cause poor decisions and warn that if it ever
Integrity is a voluntary, spontaneous, positive form of comes to it, I will freely admit how the numbers were
honesty, where one takes initiative in being honest, being derived! If the president of the company had any back-
almost aggressive about it. The person with integrity says bone and a better understandingof all the "guessing" that
or stands up for what he thinks is right without waiting goes into our reports to our corporate parent. But who is
for anyone to ask him how he feels. going to tell him? The issue can easily be positioned as
just a matter of opinion as to these being educated esti-
For example, a consumer goods marketing services di- mates or a snow job to avoid having to put one's neck
rector reported a conflict between his own self-interests on the line when there's little to go on but "seat of the
for honest research and pressures from management for pants" judgment.
research that would support a particular decision.
As an example of a research integrity issue for an
Market research is a treacherous business-one that puts agency researcher, one respondent reported a conflict
you in a position to second-guess top management. You between self-interest for an honest project and the de-
sires of the client: "when a client requests a methodology
Table 4 or procedure that will guarantee the results he wants."
ETHICAL
CONFLICTS BYAGENCY
REPORTED Finally, an agency executive vice president described a
research integrity problem involving errors in study de-
RESEARCHERSa
sign.
Rank Party one Party two No. % The most difficult moral problem is how to handle a sit-
1 Outsideclient 35 35 uation in which our company has made a mistake in study
Company
2 Outsideclient Self 24 24 design (or in study execution) which results in obtaining
3 Outsideclient Society 8 8 results that are unreliable or invalid. We try to bury the
4 Outsideclient Outsideclient 7 7 mistake and concentrate on the valid parts of the study
5 Outsideclient Competitor 6 6 in those results.
6 Company Subordinate 5 5
Other conflictsb 14 14
Treating outside clientsfairly. The second-ranked eth-
99 99 ical issue involves clients outside one's own company
'Read: "The numberone ethical conflict reportedby researchers and is labeled "treating outside clients fairly." One re-
workingat a marketingresearchagencywas attemptingto balancethe searcher reported that "hidden charges are often passed
interestsof the client with the interestsof one's agency."
'Theseotherconflictrelationshipsincludedself-company(2), out- on to the customer and reversed only if the customer
side client-management(2), self-management(2), outside client- complains." An agency researcher reported a conflict
supplier(2), and six otherconflictsnoted only once each. between company interests and outside client interests
314 JOURNALOF MARKETING AUGUST1984
RESEARCH,

when "requiring subcontractors to follow all specifica- to forgopotentialnew businessis almostimpossiblefrom


tions demanded by our clients, especially when costs are a financialperspective.
running higher than estimated. Must decide to overlook Social issues and marketing mix. The fourth ethical
validation problems or require questionnaire replace-
issue pertains to social issues related to various com-
ment." Many of the conflicts involve pricing in some
ponents of the marketing mix. Conflict most often in-
way, as illustrated by the problem of an agency senior volves balancing the interests of society with the inter-
consultant.
ests of the company in the context of either product
Our firm encouragesus to sell clients retainer-typeser- decisions or advertising decisions. Several respondents
vices, ratherthan fixed-pricecontracts.Under the "re- mentioned "advertising to children" as being the number
tainer-type"situation,clients are chargedhowevermany one ethical issue. Others simply responded "advertising
hoursit takes to completea study and more often than
not this turnsout to be more expensive(thancontracts). products I don't believe in." An agency account exec-
Whatto do? Recommendthe "retainer" or act in the best utive mentioned "conductingresearch for companies that
interestsof the client and recommendthe contractap- produce products which are hazardous to one's health-
proach? for instance, certain chemicals, cigarettes, etc." One
agency directorcriticized trivial products in general: "My
Confidentiality. Marketing researchers often have ac- company must aid the manufacturers who are flooding
cess to data that are in some sense confidential. The pro- the nation with useless (or worse) products, so my com-
tection of these data sources is the third most often iden- pany can survive to perform our other more socially ben-
tified ethical issue. Sometimes a researcher must balance eficial work (which is also profitable but not of great
what is fair to a competitor with what is best for one's volume)."
own company. Personnel decisions form the fifth set of ethical issues.
Ethical issues in hiring and firing employees are most
Competitiveintelligence;whatis an ethicalversusuneth- troublesome. Researchers experienced conflict in their
ical sourceof information.Forexampleif I receivea con-
fidential document from a competitorregardingtheir attempts to balance their responsibilities to both em-
pricingand exceptionschedules.It is informationgiven ployees and potential employees against their company
by an unethicalemployee of anotherbank. Should one responsibilities. For example, one agency branch man-
supressthe informationor "publish"it to field manage- ager reported "telling a person who is over-qualified but
ment? received improper training and can't be hired. The in-
Other in-house researchers discussed balancing the in- dividual is usually an older person with set ideas and
terests of different clients in the same corporation. For ways." Another agency president reported that his most
difficult ethical problem is "firing/releasing older em-
example, a research manager for an insurance company
reported, "Since the corporation has several related sub- ployees who have become very poor workers."
sidiaries, occasionally the research I do for one subsid- Treating respondents fairly is the sixth most impor-
tant ethical issue. It often stems from temptations to con-
iary may be beneficial to another subsidiary or to the
field sales force. The proprietary nature of the findings ceal from the respondent the purpose or the sponsor of
must be respected in most cases in spite of pressures the research. Protecting the anonymity of the respondent
also poses problems. The ethical conflict usually centers
placed on us by the field or other subsidiaries." on the researcher's attempts to balance the interests of
Most of the confidentiality issues for agency research-
ers arise when they try to balance their obligations to- the respondent against the interests of the company. For
ward different outside clients. As one researcher put it, example, a research manager for a publishing company
"Wheredoes 'backgroundknowledge' stop and conflicts indicated her major problem as "concealing my firm's
exist [as a result of work with a previous client]?" An- identity and involvement when doing research." Another
other agency researcher discussed the issue in more de- reported having "been asked to misrepresent myself for
tail. the sake of unbiased information-which I have re-
fused." Finally, an analyst for an industrial goods com-
I get involved in a numberof proprietarystudies. The
pany reported:
problemthatoften arisesis thatsome studiesend up cov-
eringsimilarsubjectmatteras previousstudies.Ourcode Often in getting competitive data, such as unit sales,
of ethics statesthatyou cannotuse datafromone project productcharacteristics,etc., it is temptingto call the
in a relatedprojectfor a competitor.However, since I competitor'sfunctionalpeople underfalse pretenses(en-
often know some informationabout an area, I end up gineers,sales-marketing people, plantmanagement,etc.).
compromisingmy original client. Even though upper I have called for existing productinformation(not up-
managementformallystates that it should not be done, comingintroductions)using my own identity.I have also
they also expect it to be done to cut down on expenses. called without giving my name (if the other party de-
This conflictof interestsituationis difficultto deal with. mandedto know who he was talkingto I've hung up or
At least in my firm, I don't see a resolutionto the issue. somehowside-steppedthe question).
It is not a one time situation,but rathera process that
perpetuatesitself. To make individualsredo portionsof Other issues. The final six sets of issues, in order, are:
studieswhich have recentlybeen done, is ludicrous,and treating others in the company fairly, interviewer dis-
PROBLEMS
ETHICAL 315

honesty, gifts, bribes, and entertainment,treatingsup- researchers?" Table5 shows the resultsof 10 items spe-
pliersfairly, legal issues, and the misuse of funds. The cificallydirectedat assessingthe extentof ethicalprob-
"othersin the company"categoryincludesissues related lems perceivedby marketingresearchers.The items are
to peer relationshipsand conductingresearchto make groupedin termsof respondents'perceptionsof (1) the
othersin the firm look bad. Interviewerdishonestyin- frequencyof unethicalbehaviors(Al and A2), (2) the
volves suchissues as falsifyingdataand interviewerbias. opportunitiesfor unethicalbehaviors(B1 and B2), (3)
Respondentsindicatedpressuresfrom customersto give the relationshipbetweensuccess andgenerallyunethical
gifts to securebusinessand pressuresfrom suppliersto behavior(C1 and C2), and (4) the relationshipbetween
accept gifts for additionalbusiness. Treatingsuppliers successandspecificunethicalbehaviors(Dl throughD4).
fairly often centerson the problemof personalfriends ItemsD3 and D4 are comparablewith two items found
wantingto be given specialtreatment.Legal issues usu- to be unethicalby Ferrelland Weaver(1978). ItemsD1
ally involve problemsof talkingwith competitorsabout and D2 were generatedin the exploratoryphase of the
pricing. The misuse of funds includes "padding"ex- project.
pense accountsand questionable"slush"funds. The descriptivestatisticsin Table5 revealthata large
proportion(almosthalf) of ourrespondentsbelieve man-
ProfessionalCodes of Ethics agers in their respectivecompanieshave ample oppor-
Our secondresearchquestionis, "To what extent do tunitiesto engage in unethicalbehaviors.Nevertheless,
ourprofessionalcodes of conductaddressthe majoreth- only a small percentage(18% of in-house researchers
ical problemsof marketingresearchers?" AppendicesA and 15%of agency researchers)believe that managers
and B reproducethe AmericanMarketingAssociation in theircompaniesfrequentlyengage in such behaviors.
nationalcode of conductfor marketingresearchand the The comparablefiguresare muchhigherwhen research-
code of conductproposedby the New York Chapterof ers refer to industrybehaviorratherthan companybe-
the AmericanMarketingAssociation.The last two col- havior. Seventy-onepercentof our agency researchers
umns in Table 2 indicatethe sections of each code that believe managersin theirindustryhave manyopportun-
apply to each of the majorethical issues of marketing ities to engage in unethicalbehaviorsand 44% believe
researchers. that researchersin their industryoften engage in such
The nationalcode of the AMA has sections which in behaviors.Similarly, 58% of in-house researchersbe-
some way addressthe issues of researchintegrity,con- lieve managersin theirindustryhave manyopportunities
fidentiality,treatingrespondentsfairly, and interviewer to engage in unethicalbehaviorsand 27% believe that
dishonesty.However, it does not have sections govern- managersin their industryoften engage in such behav-
ing the treatmentof outsideclients, marketingmix social iors.
issues, personnelissues, the treatmentof others in the Though the opportunityfor and the frequency of
company,gifts, bribes,andentertainment,the treatment unethicalbehaviorsare important,the relationshipbe-
of suppliers,legal issues, and the misuseof funds. Rea- tween success and unethicalbehaviorsis probablycru-
sonableargumentscan be advancedthatpersonnelissues cial. If researchersbelieve unethicalbehaviorsare nec-
and the misuse of funds are topics that belong in cor- essaryfor successin marketingresearch,suchperceptions
poratecodes of conduct, but not professionalcodes of would be powerful motivatorsfor unethicalbehavior.
conduct.Nevertheless,there seems to be ample oppor- Items C1 and C2 show only a small percentageof re-
tunityandjustificationfor addressingsome of the other searchers(eitherin-house or agency) believe it is nec-
issues in our professionalcode of conduct. essaryto compromiseone's ethics to succeedor believe
Thecode of ethicsproposedby the New YorkChapter successfulmanagersin their companiesare less ethical
of theAMAis muchlongerandconsequently coversmany thanunsuccessfulmanagers.However, the findings are
more of the major issues delineatedin Table 2. The somewhatdifferentwhen specificunethicalbehaviorsare
treatmentof two issues is conspicuouslyabsent:gifts, the stimuli.Items D1 throughD4 examinethe relation-
bribes, and entertainmentand legal issues. These two ship between success and the specific unethicalbehav-
issues might warrantinclusionin the code proposedby iors of (1) withholdinginformationdetrimentalto self-
the New YorkChapter.Note thatBrennarandMolander interests,(2) makingrivals look bad in the eyes of oth-
(1977, p. 62) found "gifts, gratuities,'call girls,' and ers, (3) looking for "scapegoats"for a failure, and (4)
bribes"to be the numberone ethical problemin busi- takingcreditfor the ideas and accomplishmentsof oth-
ness. ers. In comparisonwith the generalsuccess items, each
Extentof EthicalProblems of these items shows a largerpercentageof researchers
believe successfulmanagersengage in these behaviors.
The precedingdiscussionfocuses on the most difficult In-houseresearchersdiffer significantlyfrom agency
ethicalproblemsfacing marketingresearchersin terms researcherson each of the specific unethicalbehaviors.
of issues and conflicts. Though many differentethical Higherproportionsof in-houseresearchersbelieve that
issues areidentified,maintainingresearchintegrityis by successfulmanagersin their companiesengage in such
far the most often reported.Ourthirdresearchquestion behaviors.Almost half of all in-house researchersbe-
is, "Howextensivearethe ethicalproblemsof marketing lieve that successful managersin their companies (1)
316 JOURNALOF MARKETINGRESEARCH,AUGUST 1984

Table5
EXTENTOF ETHICALPROBLEMSIN MARKETINGRESEARCH

In-house researchersa Agency researchersb Totalc


% agreed Mean' S.D. % agree Mean S.D. % agree Mean S.D.
A. Frequency of unethical behaviors
1. Marketingmanagersin my COMPANY
oftenengagein behaviorsthatI consider
to be unethical 18 5.1 1.6 15 5.3 1.6 17 5.1 1.6
2. Marketingmanagersin my INDUSTRY
oftenengagein behaviorsthatI consider
to be unethical 27 4.48 1.5 44 3.7g 1.5 31 4.2 1.5
B. Opportunitiesfor unethical behaviors
1. There are many opportunitiesfor mar-
keting managersin my COMPANYto
engagein unethicalbehaviors 43 3.9 1.7 44 3.8 1.7 43 3.9 1.7
2. Thereare many opportunitiesfor mar-
keting managersin my INDUSTRYto
engagein unethicalbehaviors 58 3.49 1.5 71 2.98 1.6 61 3.3 1.5
C. Success and unethical behaviors
1. Successful marketingmanagersin my
COMPANYare generallymore unethi-
cal thanunsuccessfulmanagers 14 4.7 1.4 13 5.0 1.7 13 4.8 1.5
2. In orderto succeed in my COMPANY
it is oftennecessaryto compromiseone's
ethics 15 5.38 1.5 12 5.8g 1.6 15 5.5 1.6
D. Success and specific unethical behaviors
1. Successful managersin my company
withholdinformationthatis detrimental
to theirself-interests 47 3.6g 1.5 21 4.7g 1.6 40 3.9 1.6
2. Successful managersin my company
makerivalslook bad in the eyes of im-
portantpeople in my company 26 4.39 1.5 15 5.48 1.6 23 4.6 1.6
3. Successfulmanagersin my companylook
for a "scapegoat"when they feel they
may be associatedwith failure 37 4.28 1.7 16 4.9g 1.7 32 4.3 1.7
4. Successfulmanagersin my companytake
creditfor the ideasandaccomplishments
of others 50 3.68 1.5 26 4.68 1.6 44 3.8 1.6
E. Top management actions and unethical behavic)rs
1. Topmanagementin my companyhas let
it be knownin no uncertainterms that
unethicalbehaviorswill not be tolerated 58 3.2 1.8 64 3.2 2.2 60 3.2 1.9
2. If a managerin my companyis discov-
ered to have engaged in unethicalbe-
haviorthatresultsprimarilyin personal
gain (ratherthancorporategain) he will
be promptlyreprimanded 66 2.8 1.4 72 2.7 1.7 68 2.8 1.5
3. If a managerin my companyis discov-
ered to have engaged in unethicalbe-
havior that results in primarilycorpo-
rate gain (ratherthanpersonalgain) he
will be promptlyreprimanded 49 3.3 1.5 65 3.1 1.9 53 3.3 1.6
'N = 343.
bN = 117.
CN= 460.
dPercentresponding"slightlyagree," "agree,"or "stronglyagree."
'On a 7-pointscale with 1 = "stronglyagree"and 7 = "stronglydisagree."
fThis item was reverse-phrased in the questionnaire,i.e., "moreethical."
gDifferencessignificantat .01 level by t-tests.

withholdinformationthat would be detrimentalto their problems of marketing researchers?" To examine this


self-interestsand (2) take credit for the ideas and ac- question we needed measures of (1) the extent of ethical
complishmentsof others. problems and (2) the extent of top management actions.
As no scale existed for measuring the extent of ethical
Top Management Actions problems of marketing researchers, a scale was devel-
The fourth research question is, "How effective are oped. Table 6 shows the factor analysis of Items Al,
the actions of top management in reducing the ethical B1, C1, C2, D1, D2, D3, and D4 from Table 5, all of
ETHICAL
PROBLEMS 317

which relate to perceived ethical problems in the re- Table 7


spondent's company. The factor analysis shows a one- FACTOR
ANALYSIS
OF TOPMANAGEMENT
factor solution with all eight items loading in excess of ACTIONSSCALEa
0.3 on the single factor. Coefficient alpha for the eight
items is 0.82. Therefore, for exploratory purposes these Factor 1
items can be treated as a single scale measuring the la- Item loading
tent construct "ethical problems of marketing research- 1. Topmanagementin my companyhas let it be known
ers." in no uncertaintermsthat unethicalbehaviorswill
Measuring the actions of top management also neces- not be tolerated 0.49
sitated scale development. Items El, E2, and E3 in Ta- 2. If a managerin my companyis discoveredto have
ble 5 address the kinds of behaviors that writers previ- engagedin unethicalbehaviorthatresultsprimarily
in personalgain (ratherthancorporategain) he will
ously have suggested should be undertaken by top be promptlyreprimanded 0.70
management. That is, "unethical behaviors will not be 3. If a managerin my companyis discoveredto have
tolerated" and unethical behaviors will be "promptly engaged in unethicalbehaviorthat results in pri-
reprimanded."The factor analysis in Table 7 shows all marilycorporategain (ratherthanpersonalgain) he
will be promptlyreprimanded 0.99
three items loading on a single factor in a one-factor so-
Eigenvalue1.71
lution. Coefficient alpha for the three items is 0.74, sug- % varianceexplained57%
gesting that the three items can be appropriatelyconsid- Coefficientalpha = 0.74
ered a scale measuring the latent construct "top "Principalaxis.
management actions."
Writershave suggested that top managementalso should
establish corporate codes of conduct to curb unethical scores on the ethical problems scale as the dependent
actions. Therefore, we asked whether the respondents' variable. Preliminary analyses indicated that both the re-
companies and industries had established formal codes spondent's title and industry were related significantly
of conduct. Twenty-four percent of in-house researchers to the extent of ethical problems. That is, presidents and
and 61% of agency researchers reported industry codes
vice-presidents were less likely to see problems than an-
of ethics. Similarly, 46% and 21%, respectively, indi-
alysts and junior analysts. Similarly, the agency re-
cated company codes of ethics. The smaller figure for searchers perceived fewer problems than in-house re-
agency codes probably reflects the fact that most re- searchers. Therefore, both "title" and "industry" were
search agencies are smaller than the corporations that entered as control variables in the regression.
employ in-house researchers and thus are less likely to On the basis of other researchers' suggestions, we ex-
have company codes.
pected that specific actions by top management to en-
Table 8 shows the regression results with the factor
courage ethical behavior and discourage unethical be-
havior would decrease the extent of ethical problems
Table 6 perceivedby marketingresearchers.The results show that,
FACTOR
ANALYSIS
OF ETHICAL of the variables we examined, the actions of top man-
PROBLEMS
SCALEa
agement are the single best predictor of perceived ethical
Factor 1 problems of marketing researchers, explaining 15% of
Item the total variance. (Obviously, with 75% unexplained
loading
1. Marketingmanagersin my companyoftenengagein variance, there may be other factors which taken indi-
behaviorsthatI considerto be unethical 0.58 vidually explain more than 15% of the variance.)
2. There are many opportunitiesfor marketingman- A corporate code of ethics made no difference in the
agersin my companyto engage in unethicalbehav- respondents' perceptions of ethical problems. The sim-
iors 0.33
3. Successfulmarketingmanagersin my companyare ple correlation between ethical problems and a corporate
code of ethics is not significant, nor is the beta coeffi-
generallymoreethicalthanunsuccessfulmanagersb 0.41
4. In orderto succeedin my companyit is often nec- cient in the regression. Similarly, though there is a sig-
essaryto compromiseone's ethics 0.64 nificant negative simple correlation between an industry
5. Successfulmanagersin my companywithholdin- code of ethics and the extent of ethical problems, the
formationthatis detrimentalto theirself-interests 0.68 fact that the relationship is nonsignificant in the regres-
6. Successfulmanagersin my companymakerivalslook
bad in the eyes of importantpeople in my company 0.82 sion equation suggests a spurious correlation.
7. Successful managersin my company look for a
"scapegoat"when they feel they may be associated DISCUSSION AND LIMITATIONS
with failure 0.77 Readers should be mindful that our research involved
8. Successfulmanagersin my companytake creditfor
the ideas and accomplishments of others
an "insiders"ratherthan an "outsiders" research design.
0.65
Eigenvalue3.2
Actual researchers were the respondents instead of other
% varianceexplained40% potentially interested parties (e.g., consumers, consumer
Coefficientalpha = 0.82 advocates, corporate managers, interviewing agency
'Principalaxis. personnel, academic marketing researchers). Such out-
bItemwas reverse-scored. side parties might view the major problems differently.
318 JOURNALOF MARKETING AUGUST1984
RESEARCH,

Table 8
DETERMINANTS
REGRESSION: OF ETHICAL
PROBLEMSa

Simple Increment Standardized


Independentvariable correlation to R2 beta coefficient t
Titleb -.259 .06 -.10 2.2h
Industry' -.249 .03 -.16 3.49
Top managementactionsd -.429 .15 -.39 9.28
Industry code of ethics' -.178 .00 -.07 1.6
Corporatecode of ethicsf +.06 .00 +.05 1.0
Constant = 7.22
R2 = .25
F = 28.18
aDependent variableis factorscore on ethicalproblemsscale (see Table 6). Highernumbersindicatemore problems.
bHighnumbersare highertitles thanlow numbers(see Table 1 for categories).
cResearchers workingfor a marketingresearchagency are 1, othersare 0.
dFactorscoreson top managementactionsscale (see Table 7). Highernumbersindicatemore actionsby top management.
'Dummyvariablewith 1 as presenceof an industrycode of ethics.
fDummyvariablewith 1 as presenceof a corporatecode of ethics.
gSignificantat .01 level.
hSignificantat .05 level.

The finding that maintaining research integrity is by respondentsor subjectsused in marketingresearch.Only


farthe mostdifficultethicalissue of marketingresearch- 12 in-houseresearchersand one agency researcherre-
ers shouldbe interpretedcarefully.Recall thatthe ques- portedthese kinds of conflicts (see footnotes, Tables 3
tionwas to "describethejob situationthatposes the most and4).
difficultethical or moral problemfor you." The most Ourfindingsat least partiallysupportthe position of
difficultethicalproblemis not the same as the problem Day (1975), who questionedthe usefulnessof restricting
that occurs mostfrequently. Nor does "most difficult" discussionsof researchethics to conflicts involving re-
necessarilyimply that the problemoccurs regularlyor spondents.He called for broaderstudies(alongthe lines
withgreatfrequency.Nevertheless,given the tone of the of our researchproject)by pointingout, "Whatis per-
respondents'comments,the resultssuggestthatmarket- haps more interesting,and possibly of greatersignifi-
ing researchersperceive significantproblemsin main- cance to the value of marketingresearch,is the ethics
tainingthe integrityof theirmarketingresearch. or moralityof the researcherwith respect to the inter-
Agency researcherscited "treatingoutsideclients"as pretationof data from survey work" (p. 233). He con-
a difficultethical issue more frequently(16% vs. 8%) tinuedby suggesting,"Thereare few fields of scientific
thanin-houseresearchers.In ourclassification,when an activitythat are as susceptibleto fraudas some aspects
in-houseresearcherdid a projectfor a separatedivision of consumerresearch"(p. 233). Day's referencesto the
of the companythe workwas classifiedas thoughit were problemsof "interpretation of data" and "fraud"are
done for an outsideclient. As most agency researchin- consistentwith our findingthatmaintainingresearchin-
volves a transferof services from one firm to another, tegrity is the most difficult ethical problemfacing re-
ourresultis not surprising.Similarly,in-houseresearch- searchers.
ers seem moreconcernedabouttreatingrespondentsand The resultsin Table 5, comparingcompanybehavior
othersin the companyfairly. These researchersengage with industrybehavior,are consistentwith researchon
in researchin whichorganizationpeersare respondents. marketers'perceptionsof the ethics of theirpeers in the
Questionsof anonymity,fairness,and the like are more same company.Ferrelland Weaver(1978) investigated
importantto them becausetheir respondentsare people the ethicalbeliefs of 280 marketingmanagersbelonging
they are likely to know throughtheirwork experience. to the AmericanMarketingAssociation.They concluded
The substantiveimportof the findingson ethicalcon- that"respondentsbelieve thatthey makedecisionsin an
flicts (Tables3 and 4) lies as much in what we did not organizationalenvironmentwhere peers and top man-
find as what we did. Many writerson ethical problems agementhavelowerethicalstandardsthantheirown" (p.
in marketingresearchhave focused almost exclusively 72). Similarly,we find that marketingresearchersbe-
on conflictsinvolvingrespondents.Forexample,Tybout lieve they makedecisionsin an environmentwheretheir
andZaltman(1975) devoteall theirattentionto the rights peers in otherfirms have lower ethical standards.
of subjectsin the researchprocessandcall for additional In comparisonwith agency researchers,why do more
researchon the "conflictsbetweenclient rightsand sub- in-houseresearchersconsistentlyreport (Table 5) that
ject rightswith respectto ethical issues and their reso- successfulmanagersin their companiesengage in spe-
lution"(p. 236). We did not find many researchersin- cific unethicalpractices?The explanationmay lie in the
dicating fundamentalconflicts involving the rights of natureof the practicesand the size of the organization.
ETHICAL
PROBLEMS 319

These specific practices may be more prevalent in bu- of otherpartiesand balancingthe interestsof the com-
reaucracies with many organizational levels. Marketing pany againstthe interestsof otherparties.
research agencies are likely to be smaller and have fewer 3. All of the primaryethicalconflictsof agencyresearchers
organizational levels than the corporations where the in- involve balancingthe interestsof their outside clients
house researchers work. Thus, the specific unethical againstthe interestsof variousother parties, including
practices are less likely to lead to success in the less company,self, society, competitors,and otherclients.
4. Thoughmarketingresearchersperceivemanyopportuni-
bureaucraticallyoriented agencies. ties for engagingin unethicalbehavior,they perceive a
Several factors may explain the findings in Table 5
relativelylow frequencyof unethicalbehavior.
that researchers perceive success and unethical behavior 5. Marketingresearchersdo not believe that unethicalbe-
in general to be unrelated but perceive a relationship be- haviorsin generallead to success in marketingresearch.
tween success and specific unethical behaviors. Re- 6. A relativelylarge proportionof marketingresearchers
searchers may perceive that success and unethical be- believes thatsuccessfulmanagersengage in certainspe-
havior are related, but are unwilling to admit the cific formsof unethicalbehavior.
relationship (even to themselves). Another possible ex- 7. The actionsof top managementin reprimandinguneth-
planation is that the specific unethical behaviors selected ical behaviorcan significantlyreduce the ethical prob-
for our research were perceived to be only moderately lems of marketingresearchers.
unethical. That is, when researchers were responding to 8. The presenceof either corporateor industrycodes of
conductseems to be unrelatedto the extent of ethical
items C1 and C2, they were thinking of more serious
problemsin marketingresearch.
breaches of ethics than the kinds of unethical behaviors 9. In comparisonwith the official AmericanMarketingAs-
specifically identified in items D1 through D4. There- sociationcode of conductfor marketingresearch,the code
fore, if the unethicalbehaviors had spanned a wider range proposedby the New York Chaptercovers many more
of severity, the results might have been different. Fi- of the most difficultethical issues facing marketingre-
nally, the findings may be an artifact of the way the searchers.
questions were constructed. Items C1 and C2 had, re-
spectively, the qualifiers "generally" and "often." Be- Managerial Issues
cause items D1 through D4 had no such qualifiers, re- Marketingresearchershave long sought recognition of
spondents may have interpreted them differently. their professional status. Coe and Coe (1976, p. 257)
Nevertheless, the factor analysis showed all six items identify "governance through a code of ethics and dis-
loading on the same factor (Table 6) and therefore the ciplinary procedures for violation of the code of ethics"
evidence suggests that respondents viewed all six items as one of the four criteriadistinguishingprofessions from
similarly. other occupations. Our findings imply significant defi-
Why did corporate codes of ethics seem to make no ciencies in the present official marketing research code
differencein the extent of ethical problems?Fulmer (1969) of conduct of the American Marketing Association. The
reviewed problem areas in corporate codes of ethics and code does not address many of the important ethical is-
identifiedseveral consistentweaknesses. Prominentamong sues confronting marketing researchers. In contrast, the
these weaknesses were (1) vagueness, (2) the assump- code proposed by the New York Chapter of the AMA
tion of automatic acceptance of provisions, (3) the as- is much more comprehensive. We recommend that the
sumption that codes, once drafted, need never be re- Marketing Research Division of the AMA revise the of-
vised, and (4) incorrect assumptions about what are the ficial code so that it addresses the major issues facing
important ethical problems. Though corporate research marketing researchers. The code proposed by the New
codes may have any or all of these problems, the last York Chapter can serve as a useful starting point for
weakness may be particularly relevant to marketing re- analysis.
search. Perhaps corporate codes for research are simply Our findings suggest that top management actions do
not addressing the salient issues. make a difference. When top managementlets it be known
that unethical behavior will not be tolerated, marketing
CONCLUSIONSAND RECOMMENDATIONS researchers experience fewer ethical problems. How-
Our findings suggest nine conclusions. The first three ever, the absence of a relationshipbetween corporatecodes
relate to our first research question. Conclusions four of conduct and ethical problems does not imply that cor-
throughsix pertainto our thirdquestion, conclusions seven porate codes are useless. If members of top management
and eight to our fourth question, and conclusion nine to are going to reprimandunethical behavior, they have an
our second question. obligation to other members of their organization to state
1. The most difficultethical problemfacing marketingre- clearly the guidelines for acceptable and unacceptable
searchersis maintainingthe integrityof theirresearchef- behavior. Therefore, though corporate codes of conduct
forts. Manyotherethicalproblemsare involved in mar- alone do not appear effective, we believe they are useful
ketingresearch,butthe issue of maintainingfundamental starting points for other actions by top management to
researchintegritydominates. encourage ethical behavior.
2. The primaryethicalconflictsfor in-houseresearchersare The preceding discussion must be tempered with the
two: balancingthe interestsof self againstthe interests realization that many marketing research executives do
320 JOURNALOF MARKETING AUGUST1984
RESEARCH,

not realizethe extent of ethical problemsin their orga- The lack of empiricalwork on ethical problemsin
nizations.Recall our finding(Table 8) thattop research marketingresearchstems in part from the lack of the-
executives perceivedfewer ethical problemsthan per- oreticalefforts. Most of the theorizingin ethics is nor-
sons of lower rank. This finding is consistentwith the mative. Such work is an attemptto provide normative
conclusionsof Carroll(1975), who examinedthe ethical guidelinesfor ethicalbehavior.Notablylackingarepos-
problemsof a sampleof businessexecutivesfroma broad itive theoriesthat purportto explain and predictethical
spectrumof industriesand occupations.He found that behaviorand, thus, could guideempiricalresearch.What
middleandlowermanagersexperiencemorepressurethan is needed is a generaltheory focusing on the determi-
top managersto compromisepersonal ethical beliefs. nantsandconsequencesof ethicalbeliefs andbehaviors,
Carrollconcludes that "top managementcan be inad- withspecificemphasison the role of organizational,per-
vertentlyinsulatedfrom organizationalreality with re- sonal, and culturalvariablesin the formationof ethical
spect to particular[ethical] issues" (p. 79). Top mar- beliefs.
ketingresearchexecutivesseem to be similarlyisolated. We agree with Murphyand Laczniak(1981) that the
We recommendthat those in-house researchdepart- use of scenariosto exploreresearchethics has been un-
mentsand agency companieshavingcodes of ethics re- imaginative.Simply asking variouskinds of people to
view and updatethem. Departmentsand agencies lack- judgethe degreeto whichthey believe certainbehaviors
ing codesshouldinitiatetheirdevelopment.Fulmer(1969) are unethicalis raw empiricismin the extreme. At the
gives severalexcellentrecommendations on developing very least, the scenariosshouldbe manipulatedsystem-
codes. First, he suggests avoiding the "temptationto atically to explore why differentgroups hold different
borrowsections from existing codes on the assumption views. The work of Kohlberg(1981) provides a good
thattheseprovisionshave workedbefore"(p. 56). With model. He developeda series of moral dilemmas(sce-
such a procedure,he points out, one assumes identical narios)thataremanipulated systematicallyto explorewhat
problemsacrossorganizations.Second, he suggeststhat he calls "stageof moraldevelopment."His primarycon-
draftersof codes seek outside professionalassistance, clusion is that people seem to go throughsix distinct
though"thedraftingof a code shouldnot be left com- stages of moral developmentand that these six stages
pletelyto outsiders"(p. 56). Third,internalparticipation are not culture-bound.ThoughKohlberg'smoraldilem-
in the draftingof the code shouldbe encouragedbecause mas are not directlyapplicableto ethical issues in mar-
"thosewho are to be governedby the code are much ketingresearch,his methodologyis. Kohlbergidentifies
morelikely to supportthe provisionsit containsif they "six stages of moraljudgment,"rangingfrom a com-
have a choice in its formulation"(p. 56). Finally, as is pletely egocentricpoint of view to a state that assumes
consistentwith our findings,he suggeststhattheremust guidanceby universalprinciples.It-wouldbe interesting
be "provisionfor enforcement"(p. 56). to classifyresearchersby these categoriesandthenrelate
these perceptionsto the researchers'assessmentsof a
ResearchIssues troublesomeethicalissue.
Ourfindingsalso suggest potentiallyfruitfulavenues We were dismayedto learnthat so many of our mar-
for additionalresearchon ethicalproblemsin marketing ketingresearchcolleaguesexperiencegreatpressuresto
research.Furtherinquiryinto the relationshipbetween compromisethe fundamentalintegrity of their work.
successandspecificunethicalbehaviorsin marketingre- Sometimesthe very exposureof an importantproblem
searchseems important.Such researchmight startwith in a professionis a significantfirst step towardits so-
the specific ethical problemswe identify and examine lution. We sincerelyhope that our study providesthat
the relationship,if any, betweenthese specificbehaviors "firststep."
andsuccessin marketingresearch.Success mightbe de-
fined by an individual'sincome, position in the orga-
APPENDIXA
nization,job performance,or variouskinds of satisfac- CODEOF MARKETING RESEARCHETHICSFOR
tions (e.g. job, career, life). Decision processes in sit-
uationsinvolvingethicalproblemsalso warrantsystem- THEAMERICAN MARKETING ASSOCIATION
atic investigation.How do marketingresearchers"solve" A For Research Users, Practitioners and
theirethicalproblems?Are thesedecisionprocessesfun- Interviewers
damentallydeontological(focusingon the intrinsicright- 1. No individualor organizationwill undertakeany
ness or wrongnessof specific behaviors), teleological
(focusingon the goodnessor the badnessof the conse- activitywhich is directlyor indirectlyrepresented
to be marketingresearch,but whichhas as its real
quencesof behaviors),or both?
Furtherresearch on corporatecodes of conduct is purposethe attemptedsale of merchandiseor ser-
needed. Such researchshouldanalyzethe actualprovi- vices to some or all of the respondentsinterviewed
sions of such codes. To whatextentdo they addresssa- in the courseof the research.
lient issues? Are they vague? Are they often revised? 2. If a respondenthas been led to believe, directlyor
How are they formulated?Comparingthe specific pro- indirectly,that he is participatingin a marketing
visionsof codeswiththeextentof specificproblemswithin researchsurvey and that his anonymitywill be
firmswould be useful. protected,his name shall not be made known to
ETHICAL
PROBLEMS 321

anyone outside the researchorganizationor re- Membersof the AmericanMarketingAssociation


searchdepartment,or used for otherthanresearch will be expectedto conductthemselvesin accor-
purposes. dance with the provisionsof this Code in all of
theirmarketingresearchactivities.
B For Research Practitioners
Source: American Marketing Association.
1. Therewill be no intentionalor deliberatemisrep-
resentationof researchmethodsor results.An ad- APPENDIXB
"A PERSONALCODE FOR PRACTICINGMARKET
equate descriptionof methodsemployed will be
madeavailableuponrequestto the sponsorof the AND OPINION RESEARCH"BY THE NEW YORK
research.Evidencethatfield work has been com- CHAPTER OF THE AMA
pleted accordingto specificationswill, upon re- A My commitmentto scientific practice
quest, be made availableto buyersof research.
1. I WILL follow the principlesanduse the methods
2. The identityof the surveysponsorand/or the ul- of scientificinvestigationin the researchI do. Re-
timateclient for whom a surveyis being done will search, as I define it, means seeking knowledge
be held in confidenceat all times, unlessthis iden-
throughscientificstudy.It can be practicedat many
tity is to be revealedas partof the researchdesign. levels of complexity and precision and through
Researchinformationshall be held in confidence
manyapproaches,but to fit my definitionit must
by the researchorganizationor departmentandnot have a seriouspurpose,use orderlyand objective
used for personalgain or made availableto any
outsidepartyunless the client specificallyauthor- thinking,and show a respect for data. Whatever
researchI do will reflect,in these qualities,its sci-
izes such release. entific orientation.
3. A researchorganizationshall not undertakemar- 2. I will do research in the framework of the sci-
keting studies for competitiveclients when such entific method
studieswouldjeopardizethe confidentialnatureof -Serious researchis a process that follows the
client-agencyrelationships. scientific method. It starts with defining the
C For Users of Marketing Research problemand ends with challengingthe results
throughtesting and reanalysis.
1. A user of researchshall not knowingly dissemi- 3. I will use scientific techniques that fit the in-
nate conclusionsfrom a given researchprojector dividual problem.
servicethatare inconsistentwith or not warranted -In the collection and analysis of information,
by the data. researchmay use proceduresfrom a varietyof
2. To the extent that there is involved in a research scientificdisciplines.I cannotmasterall of the
projecta uniquedesign involvingtechniques,ap- availableapproaches,but I will understandand
proachesor concepts not commonlyavailableto use a range of techniques.I will put the best
researchpractitioners,the prospectiveuser of re- tools I can againstthe problemat hand.
search shall not solicit such a design from one 4. I will present each research study for what it is
practitionerand deliverit to anotherfor execution and claim for it the precision and significance
withoutthe approvalof the design originator. it deserves to have.
D For Field Interviewers -In the field of marketandopinionresearch,even
the best designs are imperfectand the best re-
1. Researchassignmentsand materialsreceived, as sultsapproximations. The dataare estimates,the
well as information
obtainedfromrespondents, shall methodsare affordablecompromises;thereusu-
be held in confidenceby the interviewerand re- ally are none of the externalchecks or the crit-
vealed to no one except the researchorganization ical discussionthatmightcome with open pub-
conductingthe marketingstudy. lication.
-In these circumstancesthe burdenof objectivity
2. No informationgained througha marketingre- is on the researcherto provide a professional
searchactivityshall be used directlyor indirectly
explanationappropriate to the way the research
for the personalgain or advantageof the inter- was done and the way it will be used.
viewer. -I will put each study I do into perspective,as-
3. Interviewsshall be conductedin strictaccordance sess its reliabilityand application,and say how
with specificationsand instructionsreceived. its technicalaspectsaffect its meaning.
4. An interviewershall not carry out two or more 5. I will encourage users to make independent
interviewingassignments simultaneouslyunless evaluations of my research.
authorizedby all contractorsor employers con- -I will questionandcheckandchallengethe work
cerned. thatothersdo for me andhope thatthose I work
322 JOURNALOF MARKETING AUGUST1984
RESEARCH,

for will follow the same practice. -I have seen how easily researchcan be cor-
-I will urgeusersto go beyondcheckingfor con- ruptedby failuresto follow instructions,by in-
sistency and plausibility,since regularityover ventedresponses,or by misrepresentation of how
time or betweensmall samplescan resultfrom or from whom the data were collected. I know
insensitive measurements or undisclosed how often such problemsare linkedto unwork-
smoothingof the data and may say little or able questionnaires,and unfair time and pro-
nothingabouthow well the researchwas done. ductivity demandsfrom those conductingthe
-I see rigorousexaminationand ventilationas the survey.
best tests of good researchand the best incen- -I will not exert or permitthe kind of pressures
tives for doing it. that force such abuses.
-I will instead make a conscious effort to un-
6. I will give the users of my research the infor-
derstandthe realitiesof field operations.I will
mation they need to understand it.
-I respect the rights of those who pay for my insist on the carefulselectionof field people. I
will providepositiveincentivesfor qualitywork,
researchand, if the researchis published,of all
and check the work I get with an objectiveand
who use it, to be told how the researchwas con-
ducted,in suchdetailthata goodresearcher could rigoroussystem of validations.
redo the studywithoutfurtherinformation. 4. I will resist temptations to shade results, to
-Additionally, I will providesuch informationas overstate their significance, and to reach con-
the rates of sample completion, the results of clusions that go beyond the findings.
field validations,the statisticalerrorlimits, and -I will not alterthe findingsof researchto protect
possible sources of other errors, when this is my income or my reputation.
relevantand would help users understandthe -I believe it is my duty, as a researcher,to draw
research. as much meaning as I can from collected in-
-I will conceal or misrepresentnothing with a formation. But I will not go beyond honest
seriousbearingon how the researchwas done, analysisin an effort to give sponsorswhat they
how good it is, or what it means. wantto hear or whatthey thinkthey have paid
My commitmentto scientificpracticegives me the for.
approach,the tools, the point of view, and the I will personallyguaranteethe integrityof what-
challengeI need for productivestudy. It is what ever data I report.I will acceptresponsibilityfor
identifiesme, at least to myself, as a professional the conclusionsI draw. If I cannot do research
in the practiceof research. honestly,I will not do it at all.
B My commitment to honest research C My commitment to fair business dealings
1. I AM committedto honestresearchand to honest 1. I WILL protectthe interestsof those I serve and
researchinformation.I see simple honesty as ba- deal fairly with people and organizationswho do
sic to the researchconceptand honest counts and researchor performresearchfunctions.Thosewho
honest meaningas fundamentalto researchprac- pay for research,andthose who do it, have a right
tice. Most of the researchI do is used to make to seek a profitfromtheirresearchoperations.But
money, or supporta point of view, or strengthen this has to accomplishedthroughbusinesslikeand
an argument.I believe thathonestresearchcan be responsibleconduct. If the findings of my re-
done towardsuch objectives, but only if the re- search are to be above suspicion, the business
search is objectively designed, impartiallycon- practicesinvolved in the researchmust also be
ducted, and deliveredfree of cosmetic alteration above suspicion.
or biased interpretation.
2. I will treat all of the informationinvolved in my
2. I will base research on honest plans, set up to research as privileged.
get germane and honest answers. -I will protectthe confidentialityof unpublished
-Honest researchis not designed to mislead or proprietary researchandof anythingI learnfrom
misrepresent,or to use measurementsmadeun- a sponsoraboutthe sponsor'sbusiness.
der abnormalor manipulatedconditionsas rep- -I will expect that a researchplan or proposal
resentationsof the public's normalbehavior. submittedin confidencewill be treatedas pro-
3. I will work insistently for sound field opera- prietaryand not used or disclosed withoutap-
tions, for the collection, in the field, of honest provaloutsidethe companyto whichit was sub-
information. mitted.
-Whether or not a good design translatesinto 3. I will keep my relations with those I work for
honestdata dependson how the data are gath- professional and responsible.
ered. -I will make it a point to discuss with sponsors
ETHICAL
PROBLEMS 323

any problems in conducting research as the or poorly designed questioning procedures. And
problems are encountered. I will not tolerate those who use the pretense of
-I will not add unrelated questions to a study conducting research to get money from, exploit,
without the sponsor's consent. propagandize, or otherwise take advantage of
-I will fit the scope of any research I do to the people.
importance of the insights and the need for pre- 3. I will protect the right to privacy by guarding
cision in the information the research is de-
the identity of individual respondents.
signed to provide. -I will not release the names of respondents to
4. I will compete fairly against others who do re- anyone for any purpose other than legitimate
search and deal fairly with those who do or sell validation, because the guarantee of anonymity
research services. is the respondent's only insurance against the
-I support active competition for research as- disclosure of personal matters.
signments and believe researchers should com- 4. I will encourage sponsors to do research that
pete on terms or conditions as well as the qual- seeks out and effectively represents the needs
ity of their skills and the excellence of their and views of the public.
thinking. But I will not buy or sell research at -It is my responsibility, as a researcher, to listen
terms or conditions or with specifications that
for the voice of the people, and to make it heard.
make honest work impossible or with commit-
ments to do work or to produce results that can- -Research serves its highest purpose when it
not be honored. speaks for the citizen or the consumer, when it
-I will keep the agreements I make with inter- brings the wants and wishes and ideas of people
to light, not for manipulation or exploitation,
viewers and other researchworkers and pay them
but for translationinto needed productsand laws
promptly when their work is completed. I will and services.
not contract for research work unless I can pay
for that work. E
-I consider kickbacks and other illicit favors given I stand, by my own election, as an honest broker be-
in return for research business to be incompat- tween those who give their money for research and
ible with research and below the minimum lev- those who give their information. I will assure a fair
els of research ethics.
exchange between the parties. I will practice research
-I will get and give full value for the money spent to serve the public as well as the private interest.
through me for research or research services.
In the practice of research, I will hold to the high-
est standards of legality and business ethics, and REFERENCES
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sure the confidence of those I work for, and those (March),conductedby HiggenbothamAssociates,Houston.
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Ethics. Ithaca,NY: CornellUniversityPress.
D My commitment to the public interest Bartels,Robert(1967), "A Model for Ethics in Marketing,"
Journalof Marketing,31 (January),20-6.
1. I WILL protect the rights of respondents and the
Baumhart,RaymondC. (1961), "How Ethicalare Business-
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the time and privacy of those who give me infor- Blankenship,A. B. (1964), "SomeAspectsof Ethicsin Mar-
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ics of Business Changing,"HarvardBusiness Review, 55
2. I will do research without harming, embar- (January-February),57-71.
rassing, or taking unfair advantage of respon- Carroll,Archie B. (1975), "ManagerialEthics: A Post-Wa-
dents. tergateView," BusinessHorizons, 18 (April), 75-80.
-I believe that, with care and imagination, par- Coe, Ted L. and BarbaraCoe (1976), "MarketingResearch:
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be made a positive experience for most re- andBeyond,KennethL. Berhardt, ed. Chicago,IL:Amer-
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plished without compromising the interests of Coney, KennethA. and John H. Murphy(1976), "Attitudes
of MarketersTowardEthical and ProfessionalMarketing
the sponsor, or the scientific integrity of the re- ResearchPractices,"in Proceedings:SouthernMarketing
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andRespondents,"
Marketing, 34 (April), 46-52. in Proceedings of the American Institute of Decision Sci-
Day, RobertL. (1975), "A Commenton Ethics in Marketing ences, J. F. Hair, ed., 195-7.
Research-Their PracticalRelevance,"Journalof Market- Murphy,PatrickE. andGeneR. Laczniak(1981), "Marketing
ing Research, 12 (May), 232-3. Ethics:A Review with Implicationsfor Managers,Educa-
Ethics Resource Center (1979), Codes of Ethics in Corpora- tors and Researchers," in Review of Marketing, 1981, Ben
tions and Trade Associations and the Teaching of Ethics in M. Enis and KennethJ. Roering, eds. Chicago:American
Graduate Business Schools. Princeton, NJ: Opinion Re- MarketingAssociation,251-66.
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Ferrell,O. C. and K. MarkWeaver(1978), "EthicalBeliefs (1980), Marketing Research and Knowledge Development:
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69-73. NJ: Prentice-Hall,Inc.
Fulmer,RobertM. (1969), "EthicalCodesof Business,"Per- Schneider,KennethC. (1977), "SubjectandRespondentAbuse
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Kaikati, Jack G. and Wayne A. Label (1980), "American 20.
BriberyLegislation:An Obstacleto InternationalMarket- Twedt,Dik Warren(1963), "Whya MarketingResearchCode
ing," Journal of Marketing, 44 (Fall), 38-43. of Ethics," Journal of Marketing, 27 (October), 48-50.
Kohlberg, Lawrence (1981), The Meaning and Measurement Tybout,Alice M. andGeraldZaltman(1974), "Ethicsin Mar-
of Moral Development. Worcester, MA: Clark University keting Research:Their PracticalRelevance," Journal of
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MarketingNews (1980), "A Pledge:A PersonalCodefor Prac- and (1975), "A Replyto 'Commentson Ethics
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EmergingPerspectives on Services Marketing


20
a proceedings edited by Leonard L. Berry,G. LynnShostack and
GregoryD. Upah
160pp. $11/AMAmembers $16/nonmembers
15

10

To help you develop more effective marketing strategies, here is a compilationof papers given at the 2nd
marketingservices conference held in West Palm Beach, Florida,in November1982. The meetings focused on the
need for and means of developing effective marketingstrategies for services industries.Materialon services
marketingresearchis also included.
mmm___mm__ ___ __mm__ __mm__ _-__mm__-

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