Secrets and Lies study cover pageAd firm Y&R teamed up with psychologist Dr. Joel Weinberger of Adelphi University to design a study that revealed respondents’ subconscious preferences using implicit association testing. The study, tellingly named “Secrets and Lies” has been released and is available here.

Three key findings

1. What consumers say is important is often the opposite of what truly is important to them.

In the chart below “conscious preference” is what people said they held to be of value. “Unconscious preference” shows how testing determined what they actually, subconsciously, valued. These global responses came from Brazil, China, and the U.S.

secrets and lies study data

Not only were the highest ranking in each category unrelated, often they were opposite. Here are the U.S. rankings of the top five (of 16) conscious preferences. Note that the winner in the conscious category, ‘helpfulness” came in dead last when the unconscious had its say.

Secrets and Lies study data 2

Thanks to this study, I know you’re quite concerned about where “sexual fulfillment” fell on the spectrum. It was ranked 10th in conscious preferences, and second in unconscious ones.

The pattern was the same across the three countries, although the preferences were different. Brazil’s number-one unconscious value was “tradition.” while China’s was “sex.”

2. Consumers often hide their true feelings about brands.

The study looked at how people felt about 14 top brands. As with the values, there were significant differences between what people said they thought and what their subconscious revealed:

How people really feel about top brands

The study concluded that people “secretly dislike Google.”

3. There is a new consumer mainstream emerging who defy classification into traditional segments or demographics groups.

Y&R found that a majority agreed on the top give global attributes…

Generation World

…and christened them “Generation World.” Listen to this, marketers: Only 11 percent of U.S. respondents and 29 percent of global ones agreed with this statement: “I approve of the way people like me are portrayed in marketing and advertising.” To reach this group, we need to re-think how we portray our buyers in our marketing.

We’ve just hit a few of the highlights in this post. To learn about the commonalities and unifiers of Generation World, do take five minutes to review the presentation. I believe you’ll find it fascinating.

Roger Dooley covered this story on On that site, in response to a comment, Dr. Weinberger commented:

“The real question is what does this mean, if anything? What we have found is that unconscious processes tend to predict spontaneous and long term behavior whereas conscious processes tend to predict short term, more focused behavior. So to address the Exxon comment, people will buy Exxon products when not thinking about it and over the long term. They are more likely to buy Apple products when focused and thinking. And no matter what, they will buy from Amazon. So Amazon is a winner no matter how you slice it.”

What does this mean to you? If you’ve got a long sales cycle, might it change how you manage your brand? What other ways could we, as marketers, apply these findings?