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Ethics in Marketing Research

Part 2. Marketing Research

  1. Marcus J. Schmidt

Published Online: 15 DEC 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9781444316568.wiem02003

Wiley International Encyclopedia of Marketing

Wiley International Encyclopedia of Marketing

How to Cite

Schmidt, M. J. 2010. Ethics in Marketing Research. Wiley International Encyclopedia of Marketing. 2.

Author Information

  1. Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen, Denmark

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2010


The article discusses ethical issues and dilemmas that may arise during the marketing research process. Topics discussed involve deceitful interviewers, use of leading questions, employing a sampling frame that overrepresents subjects with supportive responses, and deliberately misinterpreting results such that a company's product, an organization's mission, and so on, appear more favorable than an objective analysis of the results would justify. In many cases, such behavior must be regarded unethical. Several forms of unethical behavior are well known: The market research agency may disguise errors in the survey or in statistical computations. Sometimes, clients have a hidden agenda and try pressurizing agencies to make them come up with certain prespecified findings. Clients may misuse a methodological framework developed by an agency and agencies may inappropriately reuse a research design worked out exclusively for a specific client. A client may be persuaded by an agency to purchase a market research study that is too expensive compared to what the client really needs. Relations between agencies and clients may be so close that the agency's competitors are not even asked to give a bid. The article discusses these and other ethical dilemmas by way of case examples. Finally, some minimum standards are suggested and the ethical codes provided by three market research associations are presented.


  • interviewer bias;
  • questionnaire bias;
  • sampling bias;
  • agency–client dilemmas;
  • hidden agendas;
  • unethical behavior;
  • minimum standards;
  • code of ethics