WPP AUNZ – a group of 80 marketing and communications businesses – interviewed Australians from across the country as part of its Secrets and Lies Report, in a bid to understand how the way we project ourselves to the outside world compares with reality.
“As a nation, we often view ourselves as honest, decent, kind and generous. Not prone to hyperbole and immune to hot air. We’ve marketed ourselves to the world as straight-up, straight-talking and fair dinkum for decades,” Rose Herceg, the group’s chief strategy officer, said.
“But our research shows that Australians lie about all sorts of things and some of those lies are whoppers. We commissioned this research and partnered with a leading anthropologist because we wanted to understand the reasons behind our desires to keep secrets and tell lies. We wanted to help our clients better understand the people they’re trying to connect with.”
Aussies telling some whoppers
The biggest source of untruths relate to wriggling out of social engagements – with 63 per cent making up an excuse rather than telling the truth. Meanwhile, almost half (49 per cent) admitted that they have misrepresented themselves.
The idea of happy relationships and home life is also a myth for many, with as many as 23 per cent of people staying in a less than satisfying relationship.
More than one in four (29 per cent) of Australians confessed to having done something illegal, and a similar proportion (27 per cent) have lied to family or friends about their whereabouts.
Women more likely to lie at work
Unsurprising to most, more than half (52 per cent) of respondents admitted that they have lied at work. What is less expected, however, is how this plays out when breaking down between men and women.
According to the research, women are much more likely to be up-front and honest with family and friends. But in the workplace with colleagues, as well as in the community with neighbours and even their local coffee barista, women are much less forthcoming than their male counterparts.
Authenticity not the marketing gold first thought
When it comes to marketing, businesses are often told that to attract younger customers, they need to be real and authentic, as disloyal youngsters flit to and from brands until they find something they find a personal connection with.
Yet WPP AUNZ’s research throws this notion on its head.
It found that authenticity is actually of less relevance to Aussie youth (those aged 18 to 24 years old) than older age groups.
“There’s a greater focus on building a social media profile and achieving tangible signs of success – having the latest technology, driving an expensive car and earning a high income. This suggests authenticity is losing some of its currency in an increasingly manufactured world of news,” the report states.
We all crave encouragement
Rewards, recognition and encouragement are not solely something to be dished out to children, according to the report. They play a significant role for adults too.
In fact, 63 per cent of the respondents not only want continuous encouragement – they said it is hard for them to get on with their jobs without it.
“They need constant reassurance and affirmation,” the report said.
“They need to hear they have talent and are worthy.”
Motivation for lying or hiding the truth not always sinister
All this talk of lying and deception sounds all too grim. But the report suggests the motivations for hiding the truth are not always self-interest or malevolent.
“It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that secrets and lies are bad, that they’re unethical and should be avoided at all times. But the reality is that our intent for keeping a secret or telling a lie places these behaviours in an altogether different context,” the report said.
“Of course, not all secrets and lies are of a Machiavellian or political nature. We’ve all kept a secret to protect a birthday surprise or told a lie to save feelings from being hurt.”
Reasons for lying give power to marketers
The research identified a number of reasons why people do not tell the truth – or the whole truth. But they fundamentally boil down to three points:
The report suggested that with this in mind, businesses should throw out the old marketing manual around the “four Ps: product, price, place and promotion” and instead focus on the three above.
“Brands and organisations have an opportunity to understand the context and drivers for secrets and lies and can view positioning, product offering and service delivery through the three filters of protection, privacy and power,” it said.
“It should offer the opportunity for a powerful recalibration of narrative dialogue and value.”