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Marketing Research and Consumer-Created Content

    Marketing Research and Consumer-Created Content

    Researching Using Digital Media

    Digital media technologies are enabling researchers to use increasingly sophisticated tools to collect data via the Internet.


    Discuss how digital media is used to conduct marketing research


    Key Points

    • Many online research methods are related to existing research methodologies, but re-invent and re-think them within the scope of digital technologies, rules and media associated with the internet.
    • Research methods that incorporate digital media include online ethnography, online focus groups, online interviews, online clinical trials, web-based experiments and online questionnaires.
    • Although the open and collaborative nature of content communities offer opportunities for research, companies also utilize private online communities focused on individual brands or customer segments.

    Key Terms

    • Homogeneous: Of the same kind; alike, similar.
    • ethnography: The branch of anthropology that scientifically describes specific human cultures and societies.

    Research using Digital Media

    The field of Internet research is relatively new and evolving. Online research methods enable researchers to use increasingly sophisticated digital tools to collect data via the Internet. Thus, the practice is also referred to as Internet research, Internet science, or iScience. Many of these online research methods are related to existing research methodologies, but re-invent and re-think them within the scope of digital technologies, rules and media associated with the internet. The growth and rapid adoption of social media technologies has introduced a new level of complexity and opportunity for digital researchers. Inclusion of social media research can provide particularly unique insights into consumer and societal segments.


    Digg Website: Social bookmarking sites such as Digg are used to gather research on different target markets.

    Application of Digital Media in Research

    Digital media including images, videos and audio can prove valuable sources for Internet researchers. Specific types of research methods that incorporate digital media include:

    • Online ethnography
    • Online focus groups
    • Online interviews
    • Online questionnaires
    • Web-based experiments
    • Online clinical trials

    Advantages of Digital Research

    Market research is increasingly making use of developments in Web 2.0 technologies and online communities. Social media analytics allow brands to efficiently collect and analyze qualitative research on user interaction with images, video, podcasts and other digital media. Although the open and collaborative nature of content communities offer opportunities for research, companies also utilize private online communities focused on individual brands or customer segments. These private communities can engage customer groups or target consumers who might be difficult to reach using traditional offline tactics. Companies are able to collect and aggregate this consumer information to define segments of homogeneous consumers. To supply targeted and relevant product offerings, the data is further segmented using in-house or third-party databases; personalization techniques; or opt-ins from consumers themselves.

    Brands also benefit from online communities by having them on-hand to respond to questions, test hypotheses and observe trials in real-time. Digital technologies can quickly adapt to an organization’s research needs, while keeping pace with internal development processes. Social media and digital platforms also produce a consumer feedback loop where brands can continually check new ideas, such as product development, from inception to launch.

    Consumer Privacy Issues

    Consumer privacy issues revolve around the legal (and illegal) use and extraction of user data on websites and social media platforms.


    Explain how digital technologies expose organizations and consumers to privacy issues


    Key Points

    • Concern over consumer privacy dates back to the first commercial couriers and bankers, who were obligated to take strong measures to protect customer privacy to maintain competitiveness in the market.
    • With the emergence and evolution of telecommunications, companies and organizations have implemented online and offline customer privacy measures to protect confidential customer data from being stolen or abused.
    • While web visitors can choose to opt-in or opt-out of behavioral targeting on legitimate corporate sites, website operators that use malware collect sensitive user information without user knowledge.
    • Brands are increasingly monitoring and analyzing consumer behavior on social media to refine behavioral and contextual targeting, and encourage viral, word-of-mouth advertising.

    Key Terms

    • defamation: Act of injuring another’s reputation by any slanderous communication, written or oral; the wrong of maliciously injuring the good name of another; slander; detraction; calumny; aspersion.

    Consumer Privacy Issues

    Commercial companies and organizations institute customer privacy measures to ensure that confidential customer data is not stolen or abused. Consumer privacy concerns date back to the first commercial couriers and bankers who were obligated to take strong measures to protect customer privacy to maintain competitiveness in the market. Modern consumer privacy law in its recognizable form originated in the regulation of telecommunication companies, since these businesses potentially had access to unlimited amounts of information regarding customers’ communications habits.


    Malware: Some malware programs are designed to gather sensitive information from users without their knowledge.

    However, the growing adoption of web and mobile technologies, as well as the pervasiveness of the Internet, has given rise to additional concerns over consumer privacy online. While the web provides a collaborative platform for consumers to perform searches and share and post content, it also exposes them to privacy issues including spam, data tracking, malware, identify theft, and defamation.

    Since most organizations have a strong competitive incentive to retain exclusive access to the data and customer trust is a high priority, most companies take some security engineering measures to protect customer privacy. Companies that advertise via corporate websites, social media platforms, and mobile devices must also grapple with implications on the privacy and anonymity of users. Companies that place web banners on its websites, host the banner images on its servers, and uses third-party cookies enables to the company to track browsing habits of users across these sites.

    Cookies, Behavioral Targeting and Malware

    Most browsers can block third-party cookies using discrete mechanisms to increase privacy and reduce tracking by advertising and tracking companies. Many advertisers have an opt-out option to allow users to remove behavioral targeting advertising from their user experience. Nevertheless, consumer privacy issues abound over both legal and illegal data collection practices on the web. Website owners are obligated to give users the option to revoke permission for contextual and behavioral targeting. The United States Federal Trade Commission proposed a “Do Not Track” mechanism to allow Internet users to opt-out of behavioral targeting in 2011.

    Some websites use numerous advertisements like flashing banners to distract users or feature misleading images designed to look like error messages from a user’s operating system rather than advertisements. Websites that unethically use online advertising for revenue frequently do not monitor where their advertisements link on the web. This allows advertisements to lead to sites with malicious software or adult material.

    Some sites attach malware to the computers of unsuspecting users. Malware is an external application that alters system settings (like a browser’s home page), spawns pop-ups, and inserts advertisements into non-affiliated web pages. These applications are also referred to as spyware or adware, as they mask questionable activities by performing services such as displaying the weather or providing a search bar. Typically, malware is difficult to remove or uninstall, making it even more difficult for less computer-savvy users to protect themselves from these programs. Malware also makes users vulnerable to the theft of sensitive information including social security numbers and credit card data.

    Consumer Privacy Issues on Social Media

    Social media sites, particularly social networks, have been defined as the new public sphere where individuals freely discuss societal problems. Thus, the mere existence of social media sites gives access to such discourse. Site mechanisms like comment boxes, wall posts, “Like” buttons, and widgets facilitate the ability to share and post vast amounts of information with multiple users. Brands are increasingly monitoring and analyzing consumer behavior on social media to refine behavioral and contextual targeting and encourage viral, word-of-mouth advertising.

    With so many Internet users functioning as content creators and distributors, questions around privacy and anonymity have emerged in court cases throughout the United States. According to the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.” Consequently, the U.S. Supreme Court has declared that online speech is entitled to the same constitutional protections as traditional speech offline. Despite consumer willingness to share and post brand-related content, companies that engage in social media advertising must be cognizant of their increased exposure to litigation on social media channels.

    Avoiding Potential Fraud

    Consumer education, web security tactics, and government legislation are measures used to protect consumers from potential fraud.


    Give examples of online fraudulent techniques, and the consumer tools used to fight them


    Key Points

    • Phishing and pharming are common techniques used by fraudsters to steal sensitive information from vulnerable online consumers.
    • In addition to legislation, user training, public awareness, and technical security measures, several companies specialize in providing consumers with identity theft protection services.
    • Erasing hard drives and clearing private data from web browsers are habits individual consumers can practice to protect from potential fraud.
    • Some companies attempt to defraud consumers with undisclosed endorsements and other unclear or misleading messaging.

    Key Terms

    • hacking: Unauthorized attempts to bypass the security mechanisms of an information system or network. See also cracker.
    • IP: Internet Protocol

    Avoiding Potential Fraud

    Internet fraud can occur in chat rooms, email, message boards, or on websites. Phishing is an example of a social engineering technique used to deceive users and exploit the poor usability of current web security technologies. Some of these techniques include:


    PayPal Checklist: Online merchants such as PayPal often provide security tips to help consumers protect their personal information.

    • Communications purporting to be from popular social web sites, auction sites, online payment processors, or IT administrators
    • Emails containing links to websites infected with malware, also known as email spoofing
    • Instant messaging directing users to enter details at a fake website that has a look and feel almost identical to the legitimate one

    Other online fraud, such as pharming, occurs when a hacker redirects website traffic from a legitimate website to the hacker’s fraudulent website by exploiting vulnerabilities in the Domain Name System (DNS). By corrupting a computer’s knowledge of how a site’s domain name maps to its IP address, the attacker causes the victim’s computer to communicate with the wrong server. This technique, which is also known as domain hijacking, uses a fake website posing as a legitimate site. The site typically requests the user’s personal information, allowing the attacker to “phish,” or steal the victim’s passwords, PIN, or bank account number.

    In addition to phishing and illegal hacking, online consumers can also fall victim to purchase frauds, car theft (via websites such AutoTrader), real estate fraud (via websites such as Craigslist), illegal wire transfers, online auctions, retail schemes and call tag scams. In a call tag scam, criminals use stolen credit card and tracking information to purchase goods online for shipment to the legitimate cardholder.

    Consumer Tools for Fighting Internet Fraud

    Attempts to deal with the growing number of reported phishing incidents and other Internet fraud include legislation, user training, public awareness and technical security measures. There are also several companies that specialize in monitoring and alerting users to any activity involving their personal data. If someone attempts to steal the user’s online identity, these companies assist the user with securing their online information and paying for the services needed to help them recover their information and resolve the situation.

    Another tactic users employ to avoid fraud is erasing hard drives when throwing away old computers. Computers include a wealth of personal information such as bank account numbers and tax information. Erasing the hard drive can reduce the possibility of identity theft and other forms of fraud. Consumers are repeatedly warned to be cautious when donating computers or cell phones and other digital devices to unknown organizations.

    Clearing private data such as individual browsing history can also reduce potential fraud. Internet browsers usually provide a “preferences” dialogue that allows web users to delete all history, including cookies, the Internet cache, saved form data, passwords and Internet downloads.

    Regulations Surrounding Disclosure of Paid Relationships

    Finally, it’s important to not engage in fraudulent behavior with the intent of deceiving the consumer. There are important Federal Trade Committee regulations around what constitutes adequate disclosure, something to keep in mind when using influencers or celebrities as part of your social media marketing campaign.

    Essentially, anytime product or money changes hands the person conveying the message—usually the celebrity or other individual who is doing the broadcasting—must disclose that they have been paid to post about a topic or product. That’s done so that the audience does not falsely believe the endorsement is “organic” and that the celebrity is promoting the product because he or she uses it. Doing so allows the audience to make an informed decision and not be unduly swayed.

    Digital Media and Intellectual Property Issues

    The proliferation of digital assets has created questions about how to apply traditional copyright laws to intellectual property on the web.


    Examine how digital media and computer network technologies have reshaped intellectual property issues


    Key Points

    • Copyright is a legal concept enacted by most governments to provide creators of original work exclusive rights to the creation for a limited time.
    • Intellectual property rights encompass copyrights, trademarks, patents, industrial design rights, and trade secrets depending on the jurisdiction.
    • The development of digital media and computer network technologies has prompted the reinterpretation copyright for digital creations and the proposal of Internet copyright laws such as SOPA and PIPA.
    • Critics of intellectual property laws cite concerns over monopolistic practices that can harm health, stall progress, and benefit concentrated interests to the detriment of the masses.

    Key Terms

    • copyleft: The philosophy of using copyrights to enforce freedom of information, especially software source code.
    • Trademark: A word, symbol, or phrase used to identify a particular company’s product and differentiate it from other companies’ products.
    • patent: A declaration issued by a government agency declaring someone the inventor of a new invention and having the privilege of stopping others from making, using or selling the claimed invention; a letter patent.

    Intellectual Property Issues of Digital Media

    Copyright is a legal concept enacted by most governments to provide creators of original work exclusive rights to the creation for a limited time. Generally, it is “the right to copy,” but also gives the copyright holder rights including:


    Copyright: The widespread sharing and repurposing of online content has led to concerns over copyright issues.

    • The right to be credited for the work
    • The right to determine who may adapt the work to other forms, who may perform the work, and who may financially benefit from it

    It is an intellectual property form (like the patent, the trademark, and the trade secret) applicable to any expressible form of an idea or information that is substantive and discrete. Intellectual property is a term referring to a number of distinct types of creations of the mind for which a set of exclusive rights is recognized. Under intellectual property law, owners are granted certain exclusive rights to a variety of intangible assets, such as musical, literary, and artistic works; discoveries and inventions; and words, phrases, symbols and designs.

    Intellectual property rights encompass copyrights, trademarks, patents, industrial design rights and trade secrets depending on the jurisdiction. Although copyright laws protecting intellectual property are considered territorial and restricted to the territory of their origin, most countries are parties to at least one or more international copyright agreement. Most jurisdictions recognize copyright limitations, allowing “fair” exceptions to the creator’s exclusivity of copyright, and giving users certain rights.

    Copyrights in the Digital Space

    The development of digital media and computer network technologies have prompted reinterpretation of these exceptions. Social media and other digital technologies encouraging the sharing and re-purposing of content across different communication channels have introduced new difficulties in enforcing copyright, and inspired additional challenges to the basic legal philosophy of copyright. To protect their intellectual property both offline and online, businesses that rely heavily on copyright protection laws have advocated the extension and expansion of copyrights to the digital space.

    The global entertainment industry in particular has fought diligently against the free use, copying, and distribution of electronic music, videos, and movies. Some critics label the unauthorized distribution and copying of commercial products as piracy, or digital copyright infringement. Laws during the 1990s and 2000s have been passed to update copyright law to extend to digital properties found on the Internet. For example, U.S. legislation, including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), criminalizes the production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures (commonly known as digital rights management, or DRM) that control access to copyrighted works. It also criminalizes the act of circumventing an access control, whether or not there is actual infringement of copyright itself. More recent bills introduced to Congress related to digital copyrights include the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PIPA (Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act) in 2011.

    In addition to protecting the financial incentives of intellectual property, the WIPO treaty and several related international agreements are based on the premise that protecting intellectual property rights is essential to maintaining economic growth. Not only does the protection of intellectual property give statutory expression to individuals and organizations in their creations, it also gives public rights for access to those creations. These protections are also meant to promote creativity, the dissemination and application of the creation, and encourage fair trading to promote economic and social development.

    Critics of Intellectual Property Laws

    However, critics of intellectual property laws argue that these measures attempt to simplify complex copyright laws by lumping them under a collective term. Copyleft and free software activists have criticized the implied analogy of digital property with physical property such as land or cars. They argue such an analogy fails because physical property is generally rivalrous, while intellectual works are non-rivalrous (that is, if one makes a copy of a work, the enjoyment of the copy does not prevent enjoyment of the original).

    Some critics of intellectual property, such as those in the free culture movement, point to intellectual monopoly privilege as harming health, preventing progress, and benefiting concentrated interests to the detriment of the masses. These critics also argue that the public interest is harmed by ever expansive monopolies in the form of copyright extensions, software patents, and business method patents. Some libertarian critics of intellectual property have argued that allowing property rights in ideas and information creates artificial scarcity and infringes on the right to own tangible property.

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