All Consumers Are Liars
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

All Consumers Are Liars

Paul Holmes

Seth Godin has released a new edition of his book All Marketers Are Liars (which I reviewed five years ago) under the somewhat less provocative title, All Marketers Tell Stories. Someone should focus on the other side of the equation, which is that All Consumer Are Liars. If you don’t believe me, take a look at this finding from Edelman’s new “goodpurpose” study. “Despite the prolonged recession, nearly three out of four Americans (72 percent) report they are more likely to give their business to a company that has fair prices and supports good cause than to a company that provides deep discounts but does not contribute to good causes. In fact, more than half of consumers say that they are willing to pay more for a product that donates a portion of its profits to a good cause.” I understand why consumers respond the way they do to these questions. Many of the respondents may actually believe what they’re telling the pollsters. But I don’t believe their optimism about their altruistic motivations is reflected in their behavior, at least not to the extent that these surveys suggest. (A really valuable survey would discover how many consumers actually act on their stated preferences.) Obviously, I also understand why the companies that sponsor surveys ask these questions, and I understand why they are happy to pretend that they believe the responses. I share the desire to make corporate responsibility and cause marketing look as attractive as possible. But I think we all know that any company that takes these numbers seriously if going to be very, very disappointed.
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