Consideration on ethics in marketing research

Maintaining an ethical approach during research eventually pays back in increasing the level of reputation of researchers. The adherence to a code of conduct is important because consumers are more likely to contribute if they know that precise rules are in place and that they are protected, for example, from discrimination, intrusive violation of their privacy, deception and judgement. Furthermore, acting ethically can help researches reach wider categories of people, deal with minorities and avoid people to deliberately manipulate the research. To put in a nutshell, I think ethics gives research a certain credibility and professionalism.

Deception in research is in many cases unacceptable but, in a utilitarian view, can be acceptable whenever the outcome produces benefits that outweigh the damage to participants of being deceived (Kimmel et al., 2000). It may also produce positive effects for the research, but what are the negative effects on the participants and on the research both in the short and long term?

I can think for example that people may find hard to rely on researchers, creating a bad reputation for the whole sector. Or analysing the relationship client-researcher, if I was a client and knew that researchers don’t respect confidentiality passing data or analyses to other companies, maybe competitors, would I still trust companies that provide this service and the whole sector of market researchers?

I think is important to keep an ethical approach in order to gain and maintain a high level of reputation and because it is not possible to predict which consequences an unethical behaviour may have and when.


Kimmel, AJ, Smith, NC (2000) Deception in Marketing Research: Ethical, Methodological and Disciplinary Implications. London. London Business School. Online at [accessed 29 April 2012]

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