LOS ANGELES: It may come as little surprise that 70% of Americans believe politicians are less truthful today than 20 years ago, but a new survey has revealed as many as 42% also say the same of brands.
That finding has significant implications for marketers, who are having to navigate a cultural landscape that is becoming increasingly divided between left and right, liberal and conservative.
And although there is evidence of shared values and common ground among the American public, The Truth About America survey identified a number of "gaps", based on political outlook, in attitudes towards brands, institutions or even foreign countries.
Produced by McCann Truth Central, the global agency's intelligence unit, the report's findings were unveiled at the American Association of Advertising Agencies' (4A's) Transformation conference in Los Angeles.
Specifically focused on exploring US trends that are currently influencing advertising, the survey involved 1,000 nationally representative US adults and revealed a sharp divide between conservatives and liberals across many categories.
For example, conservative Americans emerged as being more trusting of Walmart when asked "If a brand was going to be in charge of the US, which would get the vote?" Liberals, on the other hand, favoured Google, while the overall consensus settled on Amazon.
When asked "What's most American?", the common ground answer was burgers, fries and soda, although conservatives named bald eagles and liberals opted for jazz and blues music.
NASA emerged as the most trusted institution in the US, although conservatives favoured the US Army while liberals cited the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
And when asked "Which country besides America has the best political system?", the UK got the seal of approval from conservatives while liberals chose Sweden.
"America's increasingly pervasive polarisation is creating a new kind of challenge for brand marketers. They have to decide how much to align with values favoured or opposed by one constituency or another," said Steve Zaroff, Chief Strategy Officer of McCann North America.
"But what we found in our Truth Central study is that there are also areas of common ground with regard to positively viewed values and institutions," he added.
Nancy Hill, President and CEO of the 4A's, agreed with Zaroff, adding: "To be effective, advertising needs to be in tune culturally with the mood and trends of the country. This research shows how critical it is for advertisers to get out and speak to consumers; data is not enough on its own.
"While there is a divide – which we are all aware of – there are also shared viewpoints that can be uncovered and leveraged to reach target audiences."
Data sourced from McCann Truth Central; additional content by WARC staff