Research Rockstar (Kathryn Korostoff) has a great post on her blog about the concept of “sugging” (selling under the guise of market research) in MROCs. In it, she coins the phrase “mugging” to describe the practice of marketing under the guise of research in market research online communities.
We’ve blogged a bit about this before on MROC Talk (check out “‘Sugging’ in market research online communities” and “10 reasons to have a separate online research community” if you’re interested), however it’s worth touching on again given that it’s starting to come up more often… As Kathryn points out, she heard it at the recent Market Research Association First Outlook conference. I also witnessed it a bit at ESOMAR Online Research 2009.
As MROCs become more popular in the research industry, market researchers will have to be more careful in distinguishing their community objectives from those of the marketing department. The temptation can be fairly strong to create a single community for both marketing and research (mostly due to cost and resource constraints), but ultimately it ends up putting researchers in a bit of an ethical quandary and can sacrifice the quality of the feedback.
As Kathryn notes, it is ok to run communities like this provided it is disclosed during recruitment. However, any findings should carry the caveat that it is from a community inherently designed with marketing objectives in mind, and therefore less objective. I’d also suggest that these types of communities carry a different name entirely, so as not to further confuse anyone interested in setting up a MROC.
For example, the Swarovski community example presented by HYVE during the ESOMAR Conference carried the designation of an “innovation research community,” rather than a MROC, as the goals were partly to create a large PR campaign around the design and voting process. Not to discredit their work (it was a really interesting case study and clearly very useful for Swarovski), but this isn’t what the industry should consider to be a MROC.
I might be arguing semantics here, but I think this is an important distinction to make for the future of the methodology… What do you think?