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What do you think about companies, agencies, and other entities using polls and focus groups to determine ways to manipulate others? eg Ads

Polls and focus groups are used extensively in developing advertisements and political campaign marketing. The outcome could be considered manipulative. Is it manipulation? Just smart? Effective influence? Tools of the trade? Fair?

What do you think?

After the posting of some comments below, I've added the following.

Let me add a slight twist. Let's say Company A claims diet pill X will make you lose weight while eating whatever you want in whatever quantity you want. They bring in focus groups to find the best means to "sell" it to the public? They package it just right, they say just the right things, and provide the right images. People flock to it only to discover it doesn't really work. Is it manipulation? Smart marketing?

Further, what if we later discover that Company A knew diet pill X did not lead to weight loss. Manipulation? Effective influence?

  • Jul 4 2013: Look for the motive of polls---any poll. We are not required to be a robot for someone else--to dance to their tunes. We have the ability to think.

    I once heard that something less than 10% of the world's people are true leaders. The rest of of are followers and many follow blindly. How many voters act on knowledge? We humans largely act on emotion and not honest assessment of facts and values. Few people make decisions on good morals.

    Manipulation is everywhere! Beware of your own mind and think about decisions you make. Our decisions determine who we are and therefore if we allow others to manipulate us, we are not building a good character that is strong enough to overcome pressures from others.

    Pick any political issue; who is manipulating and who is educating for the public good?

    Revealing a person's "heart" reveals a person's character. Choose well in all you do! I am not in favor of letting others choose for me.
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    Jul 6 2013: 1) Caveat Emptor. Let the buyer beware. 2) Make it unlawful to misrepresent a product or service and aggressively prosecute all violators. Those two measures will bring decency and honesty to the marketplace.
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    Jul 4 2013: Does this question really have to do with polls and focus groups? Is your question different, for example, from asking whether it is okay to use research on effective marketing strategies in designing a marketing campaign for a product? Does it matter for your question whether the firm does its own research or uses available research?

    Your second question seems different. Your second question seems to be either whether it is okay to make fraudulent claims. In many countries fraud is illegal and punishable by law
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    Jul 4 2013: to the addition:

    it has nothing to do with marketing. what if the company lies about their pills, and then they do a very humble marketing, just putting on the shelves in a gray box. it is okay for you?

    it is not okay for me. it is fraud. it is a violation of contract, and thus they have to pay all the money back to all of their customers.
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    Jul 3 2013: so for example coca cola brings in a few people, gives them a taste of a few new sodas they have developed, and ask them which one was the best. and it is somehow unfair? or they show them tv spots, and then ask them if they liked. and this is somehow unfair?

    i mean, what happened? what kind of rabbit hole we are tumbling down? in what kind of world someone can ask with a serious face whether trying a product on a group or asking for their opinion is unfair or not? how could we possibly get this much disconnected from reality? what is that trance?
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    Jul 3 2013: Companies have a perfect right to do that and persuasion isn't manipulation. What @Kate Blake pointed out about the army is a concern, but that's more brainwashing (training?) than persuasion or manipulation.

    Frankly, I wish a lot of companies would do more of it. It's the "We don't care" factor that's more harmful than "we care too much." Back when there was a single phone company their customers (victims) thought up a corporate slogan for them. "We don't care. We don't have to." I'd rather they care what I want and what I think.
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    Jul 3 2013: Such manipulation is organic to human existence. It is a very sure method of realizing profitability. It is why we need to know how to think for ourselves, to inform ourselves, and to actively participate in the workings of society. Critical Thinking is the vaccination which protects against all forms of propaganda. To be ignorant and apathetic is to be manipulated, to be "sheeple" rather than people.