Despite the high value consumers around the world place on brand authenticity, most don’t view brands as "open and honest," according to a study released Wednesday morning by Cohn & Wolfe.
Three in four respondents (75%) said "brands and companies have a credibility problem," according to the Authentic 100. Fewer than one-quarter (23%) of Americans say brands are open and honest, and the numbers were even starker in other markets. In Sweden, for instance, that number was 5%.
The survey spanned 14 markets, 12,000 consumers and hundreds of global brands, measuring seven attributes of authenticity, including whether brands are "reliable, respectful and real." Disney secured the top spot with a score of 97, while HSBC was number 100 with a score of 67. The lowest brand, which did not make the top 100 list, had a score of 25.
BMW, Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple were in the top five, while Intel, Audi, Samsung, Adidas, and Lego rounded out the top 10. The bottom five brands listed, counting down from 100, were HSBC, Pirelli, British Airways, Converse, and Bacardi.
C&W conceived the report as a way to define authenticity through the perspective of consumers and to counsel clients accordingly. The study found that authenticity correlates with a brand’s reliability in delivering on its promises, the respectful manner in which it treats customers and protects their data and security, and a brand’s ability to appear "real" and communicate honestly.
"Those three drivers reflect how consumers directly and personally experience a brand," said Lynn Fisher, EVP and brand planning director at Cohn & Wolfe. "It’s really about their daily real life, their relationship and experience with brands. Things that have to do with CSR and corporate values were less important. That’s because those things are about the company and not about the personal, everyday, direct relationship consumers share with the brand."
It also found that authenticity weighs significantly on how consumers behave, with 90% of respondents saying they are willing to reward brands for being authentic, and 20% replying that they’d be willing to invest in such brands.
Results varied by market. For instance, 36% of consumers in China and 35% in Indonesia said they view brands as being open and honest, respectively.
"There’s more forgiveness and more optimism about what brands and companies can deliver in those markets," Fisher said. "They can give the benefit of doubt to brands and companies. That being said, in Western European markets, consumers are more jaded, more cynical, and less able to give the benefit of the doubt. But there are companies and brands that do well there."