SUGGing and FRUGGing: Practices as ugly as they sound

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We love surveys. Though many people in direct marketing don't know it, we have a large business unit, Authentic Response, that provides a global online sample aimed at helping market researchers connect with qualified panelists via our MyView.com portal. And, like most companies, we use surveys to get a read on what our customers want from us and how we can improve their experience with us.
Market research is an industry that prides itself on accuracy and purity of data, which is why I want to use this column to let direct marketers know how painful it is when companies poison the market research well by engaging in SUGGing and FRUGGing.
For the uninitiated, SUGGing is the acronym for "selling under the guise of research." This occurs when a company sends a fake survey to sell a product or service. In some cases the survey is a sweepstakes entry that is purely aimed at lead generation (Think:  "Which do you like better - Pepsi or Coke?"). In other cases the marketer asks more in-depth questions aimed at refining a profile to do targeted selling to that prospect (Think: "10 questions that will help change your life!").
The problem with SUGGing, of course, is that it makes consumers and business people wary of legitimate surveys aimed at gathering authentic, statistically significant sample data - not targeting individual respondents. And it is, at the most basic level, deceptive to end users.
We also see a similar phenomenon on the nonprofit side: FRUGGing, or "fundraising under the guise of research." This is particularly problematic in politics, where appeals to give money to candidates can seriously muddy the waters for researchers trying to take the pulse of voters.
As a company, Return Path has committed to taking a hard line on SUGGing and FRUGGing, and we maintain a high wall between our research and direct marketing divisions to prevent data from being shared inappropriately. Our panelists know that when they take a survey from MyView it is true market research and not an attempt to get into their wallet. We urge all companies to take a similar stance to protect consumers - and our own businesses.

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