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Study Says Brands Lack Authenticity and it’s Hurting the Bottom Line

Cohn & Wolfe study_from website

Consumers want real from their retailers and most brands are missing the mark.

Only 22 percent of 12,000 consumers surveyed in 14 global markets for Cohn & Wolfe’s latest authenticity index agreed that today’s brands are open and honest.

“And it matters because authenticity translates to the bottom line,” according to the study.

Eighty-eight percent of global consumers (in the U.S., China, Indonesia, India, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Hong Kong, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Sweden), will reward a brand for its authenticity.

Consumers define authenticity as the three R’s—reliable, respectful and real. Buyers want brands to be reliable in that they deliver on promises and offer high quality, respectful by treating customers well and protecting their privacy and data, and real, meaning they communicate honestly and act with integrity.

The real is the “R” where many brands run into problems.

A paltry 24 percent of consumers think brands take full responsibility for their actions and only 25 percent say brands can be trusted. Seventy-five percent of consumers don’t think companies are open and transparent.

“It’s clear that brands have a credibility problem,” according to the study. “To be perceived as authentic, brands can gain more by focusing on what consumers experience versus what they have to learn,” the study noted.

Privacy concerns are a major factor for consumers when deciding on a brand’s authenticity, according to Cohn & Wolfe. “Technology companies have the most to lose or gain from this perception, but given how many companies own personal data about their customers, it is likely that increased positive communication on this attribute could be an important reputation driver for non-technology companies, too.”

How a brand directly treats a consumer is more important than how it treats the planet or whether it’s clear about its beliefs.

“If companies were to be more authentic,” according to the study, “Then consumers say the turnaround would earn their recommendation, loyalty, investment and even a desire to work for the company.”

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Fifty-five percent of U.S. consumers said a company that came across as authentic would earn their referrals to friends and family and 25 percent said they’d consider investing in the company.

In ranking the world’s leading brands against the key attributes of authenticity as part of The Global Authentic 100, only two companies that sell apparel made the top 10: Amazon ranked fourth and Adidas came in ninth on the list.

Disney took first place as the world’s most authentic brand, and BMW and Microsoft followed.

Apparel companies didn’t make another appearance until Nike at 25, then Levi’s at 35 and Chanel at 39, rounding out the top 50. Calvin Klein, Gucci, Lacoste, Louis Vuitton and Converse held spots later in the list.

“The public believes there is an authenticity gap, and they have signaled their intention to reward, in various ways, the brands that bridge it,” according to the study. “No matter where in the 14 markets a business operates, there is a clear market opportunity if your consumers find you authentic.”