Read the second edition of the column from marktforschung.de - written by moweb Managing Director Herbert Höckel.
And how fortunate that the first issue of "Herbert's World" about six weeks ago was a review and not an outlook for this year. Because whatever he would have written back then, it would probably have been a waste of time due to current world political events! The war in Ukraine shows us what kind of luxury problems we had until recently.
After the century drama Corona now appears with the war in the Ukraine the most classical of all mankind catastrophes. A war in which the roles of "good and evil" are, for once, very clearly distributed from the beginning, which, however, is of no use to anyone at the moment, since the aggressor Russia, at least so far, has not really cared about the worldwide condemnation.
The entire world order is currently so threatened, the suffering in Ukraine is already unbelievably great, and the fears and worries, especially in Europe, are so intense and tangible - so what am I supposed to write about market research at this point, please?
In view of the fact that there are now almost two million refugees, there are undoubtedly more important things than asking a market research panel whether the chocolate bar tastes better with almonds. In general, the day-to-day work of probably most industries just seems banal and trivial in the face of the suffering and the dangers that are being spread non-stop via the news tickers.
The past few days have shown us with all their intensity what kind of luxury problems we had until recently. We are painfully aware that without peace and freedom, everything is simply nothing.
With the words of peace and freedom, I could actually already end the text at this point and devote myself to trepidation and hope again. But no, I am not making it that easy for myself - and not for you either! Because I see a responsibility for each of us not to simply sit back and do nothing in the face of crises of this dimension. Everyone can do something, however small their contribution. In addition, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you of the special responsibility opinion and social researchers have.
Our professions have always been as much about valuations, facts and reality as they are about objectivity and neutrality toward the people we survey. Many of our studies and projects deal with social dynamics, developments, dependencies and interdependencies. And last but not least, with the tension between social cohesion on the one hand and polarization or even disintegration on the other.
As it is always said so bitterly: The first victim of war is truth. This applies to all past wars and to this one as well: Facts are twisted, falsified and constructed. Facts are manipulated, lied about, bent and instrumentalized.
Even now, objective facts are indistinguishable from interest-driven propaganda. When the Ukrainian side reports about crimes committed by the Russians, the other side responds only minutes later with the complete opposite. For recipients of such news, this is a simply unbearable state of affairs - it erodes and destroys all trust in the flow of information within a very short time.
Basically, the problem applies to both sides of the conflict. The government in Kiev must also think carefully about what it communicates. What messages it wants its own population and the international community to hear. But there is a difference between Putin telling lies, propaganda and a brazen falsification of history to his own citizens in order to glorify this war of aggression. Or whether the attacked use with the courage of despair a surely directed image and information direction to keep up the fighting morale and the will to persevere of their people. As well as to put pressure on the Western foreign countries with moral appeals.
But when, if not now, must one state: Here the end justifies the means! To have no sympathy with President Selenskyj at this point would be very incomprehensible to me personally. Informed citizens do not want war, they want freedom and peace!
I would like to use my column for an emotional appeal to my industry. We cannot afford to just watch the developments and hold up something blue and yellow from time to time. The next three suggestions are probably too idealistic and naïve, and yet: What can we do in such a situation?
As professionals for opinions and facts, objectivity and neutrality and as experts for the dangers of tendentious or distorted language, we certainly identify faster than others when polls are misused for propaganda purposes. So when the Russian polling institute VCIOM states that 68 percent of Russians support the "special military operation" (from ZEIT 10/22), major doubts are indicated simply because of Putin's subjugated freedom of speech and expression.
Our task: We researchers must become more courageous and open our mouths! Let us take on the propaganda from Russia, expose it and communicate this to the outside world. If we detect statements with a clear tendency to disinformation, we have to name it publicly, for example via the social media channels of our institutes. And why not on our private profiles as well?
So we should actively use our expertise in identifying distorted opinions. After all, if even a fraction of this transparency offensive reaches the Russian population, every effort is worthwhile!
marktforschung.de has already launched a great initiative: researchers4ukraine. A platform for aid projects and initiatives, in order to make attentive bundled. "Join in" is what I say!
Especially in times of crisis we have to pay even more attention to absolutely clean, serious and transparent work. Of course, it is hardly possible at the moment to ask citizens in Russia personally on the spot about their attitudes and judgments. But the Internet in Russia and Ukraine is still free, at least in parts, and we should use this narrow corridor as long as it is still possible.
Our task: Several institutes have large panels in both conflict countries by default. Let's therefore regularly try to determine the real opinion in Russia as well and use this data to enlighten society there accordingly.
So let's ask people: what and who do you believe? What do you know and, above all, what do you NOT know? What are you afraid of, how should we proceed? At moweb research, we recently conducted our own study with colleagues at pollytix strategic research - across all ages, education levels and regions in Russia.
Let's act humanely and empathically! Everybody should inform himself how to help in Ukraine, in the neighbouring refugee countries or in Germany. Whether with money, donations in kind, volunteer work, the provision of housing or whatever.
Our task: Every own activity is super! Even better is to activate your own network and call for participation. Maybe even founding an initiative yourself or releasing employees for relief work.
In order to give back a piece of dignity and normality to the affected people with personal commitment. Some research institutes currently (still) employ staff in the crisis regions. It should be a matter of course not to leave them in the lurch either.
The colleagues at Dynata are just one of many exemplary examples of their commitment: for days now, they have been organizing transports and transfers to Hungary and Romania, among other places, and have even been arranging accommodation and jobs in other EU countries. I take my hat off to that!
The whole column certainly sounds very morally imbued. But what else can I and we do? Looking away is not an option, so we should actively deal with the crisis and especially with the people. Just as the Ukrainians oppose the invaders with the courage of despair, we must not resign, but help where we can! Gladly concretely and tangibly, not only symbolically with the flag in the hand.
Your Herbert Höckel
Herbert Höckel is a managing partner here at moweb research GmbH. He has been a market researcher for more than 25 years. In 2004 he founded moweb GmbH, which he is still the owner today. moweb from Düsseldorf operates internationally and is one of the first German market research institutes specializing in digital processes.