Pierre Belisle, who heads Belisle Marketing buys into the idea that “If you want to understand how a lion hunts, don’t go to the zoo. Go to the jungle.” A recent project by Belisle Marketing demonstrated that the trophies from such “safaris” can be brought back more easily and less expensively than ever before, thanks to current video technology
The results were powerful. The report told in detail what the customers wanted. For example, Canada Post got to know where exactly the customers wanted the post boxes to be positioned and hich would be the ideal location for the counter. They also understood how a self-service weighing-machine would help the customer to weigh and post an envelope without help from the staff. Canada Post has decided to roll out the new design to more outlets, along with many modifications suggested in the video.43
The usual limitations of qualitative techniques also apply in the international context, perhaps to a greater extent. It is often difficult t<?find trained moderators and interviewers overseas. The development of appropriate coding, analysis, and interpretation procedures poses additional difficulties
Ethics in Marketing Research
When conducting qualitative research, ethical issues related to the respondents and the general public are of primary concern. These issues include disguising the purpose of the research and the use of deceptive procedures, videotaping and recording the proceedings, the comfort level of the respondents, and misusing the findings of qualitative research
All indirect procedures require disguising the purpose of the research, at least to some extent. Often, a cover story is used to camouflage the true purpose. This can violate the respondents’ right to know and also result in psychological harm. For example, respondents may be upset if, after responding to a series of completion techniques, they discovered that they had spent their time on a trivial issue such as what should be the color of the can of a new orange drink, when they had been recruited to participate in a study on nutrition. To minimize such negative effects, the respondents should be informed up front that the true purpose of the research is being disguised so as not to bias the responses. After completing the research tasks, debriefing sessions should be held in which the respondents are informed about the true purpose and given opportunities to make comments or ask questions. Deceptive procedures that violate respondents’ right to privacy and informed consent should be avoided, for example, . allowing clients to observe focus groups or in-depth interviews by introducing them as colleagues helping with the project.
Another concern that needs to be addressed is the comfort level of the respondents. During qualitative research, particularly during in-depth interviews, respondents should not be pushed beyond a point so as to make them uncomfortable. Respect for the respondent’s welfare should warrant restraint on the part of the moderator or interviewer. If a respondent feels uncomfortable and does not wish to answer more questions on a particular topic, the interviewer should not aggressively probe further. A final issue relates to the general public and deals with the ethics of using qualitative research results for questionable purposes, as in the political campaigns profiled in the following example
Focusing on Mudslinging in Presidential Campaigns
The ethics of negative or “attack” ads has been under debate for some time. However, the focus has shifted from the ads to the ethics of employing marketing research techniques to design the ad message. Nowhere, is this phenomenon more prevalent than in political “mudslinging” presidential campaigns. In particular, the George H. W. Bush campaign against Michael Dukakis has been cited. In designing negative ads about Dukakis, the Bush campaign leaders tested negative information about Dukakis in focus groups. The idea was to develop some insight into how the American public would react if this negative information were released in the form of advertisements. Negative issues that elicited very negative emotions from the focus groups were chosen to be incorporated into Bush’s political advertising.
The result? Painted” … as an ineffectual, weak, liberal. do-gooder lacking in common sense … ,” Dukakis lost the election by a wide margin. Similar (mis)use of qualitative research was observed in the
1992 and 1996 presidential elections thar Bill Clinton won in part by negatively attacking the Republicans. In the 2000 presidential election, Al Gore unfairly attacked George W. Bush as lacking in experience when focus groups revealed that experience was an important criterion for voters. The 2004 presidential elections were also cited for negative attacks by both parties, particularly by John Kerry on George W. Bush, again based on focus group and survey findings on issues such as Iraq and the economy. Perhaps, the 2008 presidential election is unsurpassed in terms of negative attacks by both Barack Obama and John McCain based on the perceived weaknesses of the opponent identified through focus groups and other qualitative research procedures
Lotus Development Corporation: Developing Its Web Site
Mike Rhod in is president and CEO of Lotus Development Corporation which is one of the brands of the IBM Software group. Lotus is a company that recognizes the need for individuals and businesses to work together and therefore redefines the concept of conducting business through practical knowledge management, e-business, and other groundbreaking ways of connecting the world’s ideas, thinkers, buyers, sellers, and communities via the Internet. As of 2009, Lotus markets its products in more than 80 countries worldwide through direct and extensive business partner channels. The company also provides numerous professional consulting, support, and education services through the Lotus Professional Services To stay ahead of the competitors, Rhodin wishes to increase their site’s number of hits and wants Lotus to maintain a Web site that is going to best meet the needs of its customers
From focus groups, Lotus learned that customers wanted improved navigation and a higher level of consistency. In the past, the emphasis was on making sure that information was delivered quickly to customers. Focus groups revealed that the company needed to further develop the site to ntake it easier for Web site visitors to navigate through all of that information
The Marketing ResearchDecision
1. Do you think that Lotus’ use of focus groups was appropriate?
2. What type of research designs would you recommend and why?
3. Discuss the role of the type of research you recommend in enabling Mike Rhodin to design an effective site.
The Marketing Management Decision
1. What should Mike Rhodin do to increase the traffic and enhance the experience of visitors to the Web site?
2. Discuss how the marketing management decision action that you recommend to Mike Rhodin is influenced by the research design that you suggested earlier and by the findings of that research