There’s no escaping the fact that Tiger Woods’ personal life has become very public in the last couple of  days.

But what, you may well ask, could his “transgressions” possibly have to do with consumer behaviour or market research?

The answer is in Tiger’s statement after his private life became monumentally public.  Here’s what he said on his website:

“I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves.”

Now none of us can say whether this is what Tiger Woods really feels, or whether this is just the best thing he can think to say in the position he has found himself.  But for the purposes of this post, let’s take Tiger at his word.

He has not been true to his values.

Market research is frequently preoccupied with asking people what they think.  What are their attitudes (something very closely linked to their values)?

And here is classic example of something we all are manifestly capable of: our behaviour not matching our values.  Our attitudes and values are what we like to tell ourselves about how we are; our behaviour is how we actually are.

When it comes to understanding consumers what would you rather know?  What people like to tell themselves or what they really do?  I promise you there is, more often than not, a world of difference between the two.

I believe it’s a very important distinction.  I suspect Tiger Woods’ wife might be struggling to reconcile the two because most people like to think that there is a strong connection between values, attitudes and behaviour.

I’m not criticising Tiger Woods’ actions because I have no idea what he did or what circumstances surrounded it (and, frankly, it’s none of my business), but if Mrs Woods wants to know what Tiger’s values are she will find out from his behaviour not his words.

Philip Graves


  1. Martin

    I suspect Tiger is just saying what he thinks people want to hear.

    This is an inherent weakness of market research which asks people what they would do or what they like or whether they would buy etc. They tend to say how they would want to behave or be seen behaving, and this can be very different to how they do behave when the situation is real.

    Martin Wright
    Impact, Poise, Presenting

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