NEW YORK, Oct. 3, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The relationship between truth and politics ―two words rarely if ever used in the same sentence― is becoming even more complex in today's intensive political communications environment. While over two-thirds of Americans say that politicians are less truthful than 20 years ago more than 90% say that the truthfulness of a candidate will influence their voting decision today. When asked about truth in brands, nearly 50% of global consumers observed that brands were less truthful than 20 years ago. Yet almost 90% of consumers say that the truthfulness of a brand or company plays a part in their decision to buy a product or service.
These are among the findings in a new "Truth About Politics" study released by McCann Truth Central, the global intelligence unit of the McCann Erickson advertising agency. The study was based on an online quantitative survey of 3,000 respondents in the United States, the United Kingdom, and India, supplemented by focus groups with U.S. voters identified across the political spectrum from conservative to liberal.
"In the run-up to the U.S. Presidential election, the issue of truth has become a huge part of the national discourse," said Daryl Lee, McCann's Global Chief Strategy Officer. "As the 'Truth Well Told' Agency we set out to discover the connection between truth and politics and what brands stand to learn from it today. Given the power consumers ascribe to technology to shape truth in politics, it should come as no surprise that consumers also think technology brands are showing the way forward. When we asked respondents in the U.S. to choose a brand or an institution to run the country instead of a politician, the majority chose Apple."
Lee added, "Every day is election day for brands. As we examined the role of truth in politics we uncovered important truths for brands and businesses as well."
Laura Simpson, who led the study as the Global Director of McCann Truth Central, noted, "In the past, political debates went on at dinner parties between small groups of friends who might be reticent to challenge each other's point of view. Today, political debates are taking place on Facebook, the world's biggest dinner party of sometimes more than 1,000 friends, many with dissenting views."
The Mixed Influence of the Internet and Social Media
The Internet is bringing an entirely new degree of transparency to politics, making it harder for politicians to lie, or at least making us better at uncovering those lies, according to consumers. The survey found that 59% of global consumers agreed "the internet makes it harder for politicians to lie."
Social media is also a driving force for more truth in politics. In the wake of the Arab Spring, it's no surprise that 46% of consumers globally agreed that "Social Media is making every country a democracy, whether they like it or not." Indian respondents hold the most hope for social media's impact, with 69% of the online population agreeing with this statement.
On balance, consumers felt that social media and the Internet were bringing more truth to politics, but they cautioned that it is not without risk. Thanks to the speed of the Internet and sites like Twitter, the Internet is also a ground for fast-moving misinformation at times. Said one group participant, "There's a lot of pressure to get it out first, but that's not always fully fact-checked. It's almost like 'Say first, apologize later'."
The majority (70%) of consumers found that Facebook was one of the few places to find both sides of the political debate in an increasingly polarized media landscape.
Brand Truthfulness Matters
While people say they value truthfulness from both politicians and from consumer brands, they said they were less tolerant of brands that veered from truthful marketing. The survey showed that Americans want brands and politicians to behave in a similar manner. The top three things US consumers say they want from brands and politicians are: to understand the lives of ordinary people (61%) to possess strong values (48%), and always to tell the truth (48%).
Brands "are part of our daily lives," said one focus group member. "If I don't like the guy I voted for, I can change my vote in four years. But what happens with my brands can affect me tomorrow."
The study also revealed that consumers are looking for brands to have a point of view on the world. Globally, 74% agreed with the statement that, "Brands must stand up for what they believe in." However, brands should be careful not to mistake this burden of truth and perspective to be equivalent to a political pulpit.
Technology Brands Leading the Way
Consumers ranked technology brands such as Apple and Microsoft as having the third highest influence to change the world today after "people like me" and "politicians." One respondent said, "when combined with search engines and social networks, the slate of technology and Internet brands are only outpaced in their ability to affect change by 'people like me.'"
When Americans were asked if Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft or Walmart was going to "run the country, instead of a politician, which would you vote for, the #1 choice was Apple. Microsoft came in second, followed by Google, then Amazon and Walmart.
A Hunger for Truth
Finally, on the surface, it seems that there's a hunger among consumers to bring back more truth to politics. According to the survey nearly 75% of consumers globally said they would be willing even to give up some personal pleasure (e.g. chocolate, sex, alcohol, magazines, or reality TV) for a month if it meant making politicians in their country more honest.
About McCann Truth Central
McCann Truth Central is McCann Erickson's global intelligence unit, with representation in more than 100 countries around the world. The group is dedicated to uncovering human truths to help brands make their mark in the world. For more about Truth Central or to access Truth About Moms and previous Truth Studies, visit: http://truthcentral.mccann.com/truth-studies/
About McCann Erickson
McCann Erickson (www.mccann.com) has operations in more than 120 countries and a client roster that includes preeminent global marketers and many of the world's most famous brands. The agency is a unit of McCann Worldgroup, a leading global marketing solutions network, comprised of a collaborative roster of best-in-class agencies that emphasize creativity, innovation and performance. Its list of major global clients includes American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Coca-Cola, General Motors, General Mills, GSK, Intel, Ikea, Johnson& Johnson, Kraft, L'Oreal, MasterCard, Nestle, and Unilever.
SOURCE McCann Erickson