As empirical inquiries, case studies investigate contemporary phenomena in their real-life contexts. When analyzing marketing business cases, the analyst introduces a measure of realism into management education (Cravens and Lamb 95; Ebneyamini and Moghadam 1). There are four fundamental steps in the process of a case analysis. Initially, the one analyzing a case defines the problem. Secondly, they formulate alternative courses of action to solve the problem. With the alternatives formulated, the analyst then explains these alternatives for their pros (strengths) and cons (weaknesses). Finally, the analyst accepts one of the options and recommends a course of action for a firm.
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In the definition of the problem, the analyst analyzes the current situation presented in the case. The analyst looks at the firm’s environment; then, they assess the industry situation the firm operates in; finally, they examine the firm’s internally, and the firm’s marketing strategy. The steps above lead the analyst to analyzing the problem with all its core elements. The surest way for an analyst to suppose the problem is to validate the problem through evidence together with the effects of the problem. The problems could be primary or secondary. With the problems identified, the analyst then brainstorms on possible alternative solutions keeping in mind their costs and benefits to ensure that these solutions are both realistic and attainable for the firm. Borrowing from rigorous alternatives identification, the analyst then selects and recommends the best possible solution. To justify a recommended solution, the analyst will have to rely on the sound cost-benefit analysis they conducted on their alternatives.
Depending on what step of the case analysis an analyst is in, there are various tools analysts can employ in case analysis. For instance, during the analysis of the current situation, one can use the PESTLE/PESTEL tool to analyze the political, economic, social, technological, environmental, and legal issues at hand. SWOT analysis is an excellent tool to analyze the firm internally for its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Porter’s Five-Forces Model and the 4P Marketing Mix are also tools that the analyst can employ while assessing the firm concerning the industry it operates in.
Hilary Osborne, in a report on The Guardian website on 18 March 2018, described Cambridge Analytica as a firm that “offers services to businesses and political parties who want to “change audience behavior” (par. 1). However, it is Alexander Nix – Cambridge Analytica’s CEO – through an interview by and published by Contagious website’s James Swift, who describes Cambridge Analytica for what it is as a firm. SCL Elections Ltd begot Cambridge Analytica in 2013. Talking about Cambridge Analytica and its core business, Alexander Nix said,
Specifically, it was trying to understand how you could integrate science with communication to replace creativity; not in its entirety – creativity is still often used in the execution – but certainly in research and strategy […] This was important was because the clients we were interested in servicing were not necessarily vendors of products like Mars Bars […] We work with governments, militaries, and aid agencies on things where merely taking a creative approach and hoping it resonates […] isn’t going to work. (Swift)
From the background above, Cambridge Analytica is/was a firm in the data and communications industry. According to Nix, the origin of Cambridge Analytica was the loss of Mitt Romney in 2012 general elections. What Cambridge Analytica set out to achieve was addressing the apparent vacuum in United States Republican political market. It appeared, from Romney’s loss, that the GOP was yet to catch up with the Democratic Party in data analytics and digital engagement. The business of Cambridge Analytica was to analyze huge chunks of consumer data, which the firm would combine with behavioral science (psychographics) and establish persons that its customers could target with marketing material. The firm’s data came from a variety of sources, such as Facebook and its polls.
Cambridge Analytica’s plan of action relied on the mother organization’s worldwide political reputation to enter the US political market. Cambridge Analytica then utilized the US political market to showcase its items and administrations, with the end goal that it could then turn into the non-political demographic. Cambridge Analytica’s qualities are psychographics, its capable workforce, and the information models it produces for its customers. However, in this labyrinth of information on Cambridge Analytica, two related problems are evident: the source of the data and the end-use of the data and data models the firm produces. It is intrusive to collect 5,000 data points from an individual primarily via social media platforms like Facebook. It is also a huge concern if the data models created could, in one way or another, end up altering the outcome of an election. These two raise an ethical concern about the business operations of Cambridge Analytica.
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Cambridge Analytica is not any different from data mining firms. However, its market from the onset was entirely political. In Osborne’s report, the whistleblower on Cambridge Analytica’s operations termed it a propaganda machine. Its ties with Global Science Research (GSR) and using Facebook profiles provided by GSR that it was not authorized to have is unethical practice. There is a way for a firm in a similar situation as Cambridge Analytica to circumvent the two concerns by way of creating internal professionalism and transparency. Instead of accessing Facebook profiles through GSR, Cambridge Analytica should create its App like GSR’s and obtain Facebook’s authorization to obtain data of individuals on Facebook or other social media platforms. It should clearly state what information it will collect and its end-use. If Facebook or any other social site gets satisfied that the information sought is not intrusive and its use is not malicious, then Facebook or other sites will grant permission to the firm to mine data for the intended use only. Additionally, the firm should open its servers to external data auditors – especially ones from their data source – to ensure that the firm collects only the information it had requested to mine and used the data models it produced only for the purpose stated previously.
Rahnama and Beiki posit that the fundamental aim of a firm’s marketing efforts is to nurture cordial relationships with customers for the benefit of the customers as well as the firm (151). To this end, Cambridge Analytica performed well; the firm guaranteed success to their political clients as initial steps towards pivoting into the non-political clientele. According to Rahnama and Beiki, globalization, liberalization, and technological advancement are paradoxically the biggest challenge to a modern era marketer (154). Despite leveraging on technology and digitization in modeling its business, these two elements are also Cambridge Analytica’s primary sources of concern. However, if the firm upholds transparency, ethics, and accountability in the manner of and the use of data, these concerns will vanish.
In sum, Cambridge Analytica’s main problem the source of the data and the end-use of the data and data models the firm produces. To avert this concern, the firm should uphold transparency, ethics, and accountability in the manner of and the use of data in the manner suggested earlier. As Rahnama and Beiki suggested, participation should become the fifth P of the 4Ps in the marketing mix (154). If people feel involved when their information is in use to create data models, the firm using this information is less likely to suffer punishment.
Cravens, David W., and Charles W. Lamb, Jr. Strategic Marketing: Cases and Applications. 4th ed., Richard D. Irwin, 1993.
Ebneyamini, Shiva, and Mohammad Reza Sadeghi Moghadam. “Toward Developing a Framework for Conducting Case Study Research.” International Journal of Qualitative Methods, vol 17, no. 1, 2018, pp. 1-11. SAGE Publications, Web.
Osborne, Hilary. “What Is Cambridge Analytica? The Firm at the Centre of Facebook’s Data Breach”. The Guardian. 2018, Web.
Rahnama, Ramin, and Ali Hossein Beiki. “Modern Marketing, Concepts, and Challenges.” Oman Chapter of Arabian Journal of Business and Management Review, vol. 2, no. 6, 2013, pp. 143-155. Al Manhal FZ, LLC, Web.
Swift, James. “Contagious Interviews Alexander Nix.” Contagious. 2016, Web.