In volatile and uncertain times, (and we can definitely apply those terms to the past year), brands need decision support from research partners who embody trust: sound methodologies, tested and proven results, and above all, ethical behavior.
Governments have long played a role in regulating corporate behavior to ensure compliance with actions that protect the well-being of their citizens and engender trust. But mere legal compliance doesn’t necessarily equate with reliability and ethics. As further proactive proof of trustworthiness, independent non-governmental organizations like ISO have developed industry-specific standards to which any company can apply for certification. This is particularly prevalent in manufacturing sectors where operational compliance is essential for worker safety and the efficacy of products ultimately intended for the consumer.
Most services industries have historically established trade associations to function in part as certification of quality and reliability. In the insights industry, they include such groups as ESOMAR globally, the Insights Association in the US, and MRS in the UK. These organizations exist with the multi-purpose of advocating for their membership, providing a common platform for sharing ideas, innovation and training, and establishing an unambiguous code of conduct that all members, and the employees of their organizations, agree to follow.
Some client buying organizations actually require membership in one or more of these organizations because it is a proxy for having to do the due diligence that evidences that their agency partners are worthy of trust. Synergistically, mutual trust in ethical behavior between client companies and their research partners makes for a better business relationship for both, and more positive outcomes.
Two of the core values of Behaviorally happen to be trustworthiness and integrity. So, among the first actions we took after we re-launched our brand on January 21st of this year, was to reinvigorate our relationship with these organizations, partially because of what their code of ethics requires of their members.
For examples of the breadth that these codes cover in terms of actions and activities, it is useful to reference the MRS Code of Conduct (PDF).
While these codes may not be legally binding, beyond expulsion from the organizations they represent, it is a tangible reminder to us, and to all of our employees, that we start with the mindset that ethics matter.
It is that mindset that is most meaningful and important, regardless of the public affirmation. It takes our brand promise (for us, the mission of “defining, diagnosing and driving our clients’ shopper growth”) and frames “HOW” we achieve those goals. From platforms that favor pledges to ethical standards (like ensuring privacy and fiduciary/corporate responsibility), to our pledges to activate objectives for diversity and inclusion, these tangible manifestations put concrete examples on the table of what we commit to. More importantly, they stand for what we won’t do to achieve our own business outcomes.
Therefore, we are now displaying our endorsements and credentials as members of ESOMAR, the Insights Association and part of the newest category of membership in the MRS International Affiliate status, fully embracing what these mean as symbols of the pathways to signifying trust.
Alex Hunt is the CEO of Behaviorally (formerly PRS).
Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexHunt84 or connect with him on LinkedIn.