Trust is the foundation of everything. Once trust has been lost, it can never be fully regained. This applies to human as well as to business relationships and this also applies to market research. If society, business and politics lack confidence in data, analyses and recommendations gained through market research, the industry will lack its foundation.

The Global Trust Survey 2022 shows the level of trust in market research around the globe compared to other industries. Of the 15 sectors surveyed, market research is only 8th in the “Trust Index” with an index value of 12. 33 percent of respondents have trust in market research, 43 percent are not sure if they should trust and 19 percent even distrust it.

In international comparison, Germany still ranks second with an index value of 22. Responsible for this good ranking are certainly the rules of the industry in Germany. As part of self-regulation, the German market and research associations (ADM, ASI, BVM and DGOF) has imposed strict rules that go far beyond the legal regulations of the GDPR and other laws relevant to market research. And they are also far beyond the international industry rules. The requirement to adhere to scientific methods, the anonymity of respondents – even if respondents express the wish that their data should be transmitted to the client in non-anonymised form, this must not be granted – and the strict separation from all advertising and direct marketing activities are the basic principles of market research in Germany. In addition, there are further special guidelines that contain binding specifications on how market research in Germany is to be conducted in a legally compliant, fair and ethical manner. Violations of these industry regulations and guidelines can be sanctioned by the “Rat der Markt- und Sozialforschung”.

Nevertheless, there is still room for improvement in terms of trust in the industry in Germany: 36 percent of the respondence have trust in market research. However, 46 percent are not sure and 14 percent even distrust it. In this context, the analysis of trust in the protection and appropriate use of personal data is particularly striking. Only 30 percent of respondents trust market research in this regard, 46 percent are not sure if they can trust it and 21 percent even distrust market research. This puts Germany well above the average of the participating countries, but nevertheless, the strict rules of the German industry do not seem to be convincing enough or people are not sufficiently aware of them. This is where the work of the “Initiative Markt- und Sozialforschung” (IMFS) comes in. The aim of the initiative is to inform the German public about the relevance of market research and to convey the difference between market research and direct marketing. IMFS want to make clear that market research never advertises or sells products or services, but treats personal data with absolute security and separates it from survey data. Through posts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, IMSF tries to educate the public about good market research. It reports on high-quality studies and how they came about. It explains the background and wants to show how to distinguish bad from good market research.

Transparency creates trust

But how can this be done? How to distinguish bad from good market research? A first requirement is transparency. Only when you know how results came about you can evaluate them and trust or distrust them. Transparency should be the mantra of market research industry to which all researchers should commit. Because trust cannot simply be replenished. Once it’s gone, it’s incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to get it back.

Bettina Klumpe

Managing Director

ADM Arbeitskreis Deutscher Markt- und Sozialforschungsinstitute e. V.