The Role of Market Research in Marketing Ethics

In his latest book To Thine Own Self: Honesty in Marketing, Romi Mahajan has combined a series of blog posts that talk about marketing ethics and authenticity into a treatise on how marketers in all industries have the opportunity to behave — with true and real thine own self

What’s a marketers’ responsibility around authenticity?

It seems that we’ve been traveling down the slippery slope of bastardizing authenticity and integrity.  We’ve been playing with definitions and changing them around to suit our needs — and then we wonder why our customers aren’t buying what we’re selling.

As a marketer, you’ve probably said “be authentic” more than a thousand times — but what does being “authentic” look like?  The simplest definition of the word “authentic” is that it is indisputable or original.  In other words, it’s an honest representation of your product, service or opinion that isn’t colored or covered up by fancy words or terms that serve YOUR purpose of appearing smart and knowledgable instead of focusing on your ideal customer and what matters to them.

People see through this and they turn against it.

Can market research really help you be more authentic?

The short answer is — yes.  Take Domino’s pizza for example.  This is one organization that got such bad feedback from their focus groups that they took the “risky” path of putting it all out there on an entire series of commercials that showed clips from the focus groups and then they told a story of what they did about it.  This series of commercials was hailed as revolutionary.

Mahajan’s book rails against the marketing machine and it’s seeming abuse of holidays and human emotions for the sake of selling more stuff and building their brands to the point where I have to admit that it made me a little mad.  After all, the purpose of marketing is to trip your “I want that trigger” — because that’s what makes folks pull out their Visa card and that’s what keeps the brand machine going.  But have we gone too far?

I got to thinking about that and have laid out a few tips that you can bring into your own marketing practice that will get your market enrolled and connected to who you are without going past your ethical boundaries.

How to bring magnetic authenticity to your marketing

Be clear about who you are.  You can use research to get to the heart of who you think you are versus who your customers think you are.  Simply create a series of statements that reflect you YOU think you are as an organization and ask your customers to rate you on those elements.

Focus on what matters to your audience.  The simplest way to measure this is to lists what you think is important to your customers, add some elements of what your competitors are offering and then put those into an importance/satisfaction matrix question type.  This is probably my all time most powerful question type because it not only tells you what matters to your customer, but has them rate how well you are doing.  This data will help you focus on the critical few elements that make a diference to your customers.

Target the right audience.  If you find yourself stretching yourself, your fact, and features, you may be targeting the wrong audience.  Inside yourself, you’re thinking you need to impress or tell them something they want to hear.  If that’s the case, you’ve got yourself the wrong audience.  Stop. Look. Listen.  And don’t be afraid to switch your audience or your message.

I’ve made this mistake too many times to mention.  I chose an audience that I was familiar with and had relationships with and forgot to pay attention to the fact that they were simply not interested in my message or what I was selling.  They liked consuming it, but they didn’t want to pay for it.  This is obviously no way to build a profitable business. I found another audience.

Speak plainly and carry a big offer

Finally, don’t be afraid to speak in your own voice.  I know, you’ve got this little voice inside your head telling you it’s not good enough, you’re not good enough.  This is BS.  If you’ve had at least one client, you are good enough.  There is at least ONE company or person out there happy to trade dollars for your offer.  Build on that.

The next step is to have an offer that resonates with your customers.  If you’ve chosen the right customers, paid attention to what matters to them and decided to serve them — then the offer will become self-evident.

It may take some time — but that’s what it takes to build an offer.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, your house wasn’t built in a day and neither will your offer.  Give yourself the time it takes to craft an offer that your customers can’t refuse.

Don’t be afraid

Finally, don’t be afraid of who you are, what you have to offer and whether or not your audience will choose you.  You will look desperate, your prospects will smell it and you will achieve exactly the opposite of what you intended.

Focus on who you are in the world.  Decide on what you’re committed to and what people can count on you for.  Then go out there and just do it!