Jeffrey Henning did such a nice job of blogging the ESOMAR Online Research Conference that I recommended his blog in a previous post. But I've just read his summary piece on communities and worry that he has missed a key point, one that I tried to stress in no uncertain terms in my closing remarks.
In virtually every conversation of any length about social media in MR and especially about branded communities the subject of marketing rears its ugly head. The discussion in Chicago was no different. The key point that way too many people don't get is that our ability to function as an industry is tied to our maintaining a clear distinction between research and marketing. It's a line in the sand we dare not cross. The third rail we dare not touch.
It was not that long ago in the US that we were sweating bullets because of the fear that MR would be subject to the then-pending National Do Not Call legislation. It was widely understood that inclusion in the legislation would kill telephone research in the US. We eventually were exempted because we do not deliver commercial messages. Raise the same issue with European researchers and they will share their continuing fear of being lumped in with Direct Marketing by the EU and thereby suffering all sorts of restrictions that will strangle research.
MR is being transformed by technology and part of that has meant a whole new group of practitioners entering our industry, many of whom have yet to understand the long-term values of our industry. While we welcome them we also need to educate them. It's not a matter of some quaint ethical principles. It's a matter of survival.