ESOMAR has set about developing a definition of market research as a way to differentiate itself from other sectors in the information industry. Here is what they have so far:
Market research, which includes social and opinion research, is the gathering and interpretation of information about individuals or organisations using statistical and analytical tools to gain insight or support decision making. It is implicit that the identity of the respondent will only be revealed to the user of the information for research purposes and no sales approach will be made to them as a direct result of their having provided information.
Their intent is to replace the current four paragraph definition in the ICC/ESOMAR code with a sort of elevator speech that is easily understood by the general public.