Cohn & Wolfe has published its inaugural Authentic 100, an annual index of global brands ranked by consumer perception of authenticity. Among the top 10 brands are Apple (number five on the list), Disney (number one), BMW (number two), Microsoft (number three), Amazon (number four), Intel (number six), Audi (number seven), Samsung (number eight), Adidas (number nine), and Lego (number 10).
The 2016 study by the a global communications agency on authenticity defines what consumers believe are the individual attributes of authentic behavior and whether a brand displaying these attributes will affect the actions of consumers. The study identifies a large "authenticity gap" between brands and consumers, with 75 percent of nearly 12,000 consumers surveyed across 14 markets indicating that brands and companies have a credibility problem. Key findings of the study include:
- High global cynicism: Consumer cynicism is highest in Western Europe, with only 7% of those surveyed in the UK, France, Germany and Spain – and a mere 5% in Sweden – describing brands as "open and honest." In the least cynical countries – China and Indonesia – that number only climbs to 36% and 35%, respectively. Americans fall somewhere in the middle, and closer to the global average of 22%, with less than a quarter of Americans (23%) seeing brands as honest.
- Privacy matters: Given the recent public standoff between Apple FBI over encryption technologies, it is worth noting that privacy concerns are now seen as a core component of what makes a brand authentic in the eyes of consumers. Globally, "protecting customer data and privacy" ranked as the fourth most important attribute of authenticity today.
- The authenticity opportunity: Nearly nine out of 10 consumers are willing to take action to reward a brand for its authenticity, including 52% who would recommend the brand to others and 49% who would pledge loyalty to the brand. Twenty percent would be prepared to put their money on the table and invest in a brand that proves its authenticity.
- Authenticity as a personal experience: Consumers are looking for daily, real-life reminders that they can count on brands. In defining authenticity, they prioritize "high quality" (66%) and "delivering on promises" (70%) over more lofty measures like "social responsibility" (57%) and "environmental responsibility" (55%).
"The rules of communication have irrevocably changed, and we're seeing consumers reward brands that understand how to engage with them openly and honestly. In fact, consumers will forgive the occasional corporate misstep if a company is upfront, and addresses the issue head-on," says Donna Imperato, CEO, Cohn & Wolfe. "The brands topping the Authentic 100 understand this, and have demonstrated consistently that they value more than just their bottom lines by fostering a genuine dialogue with their customers.”
Cohn & Wolfe's analysis has identified three key drivers of authenticity:
- Reliable: Consumers rate brands as authentic when they "deliver on promises" and are of "high quality";
- Respectful: These brands "treat customers well" and "protect customer data and privacy" – a key concern for consumers across markets;
- Real: Brands that rate high on this driver "communicate honestly" and "act with integrity.”
- The 2016 Authentic Brands study and the Authentic 100 are the result of a combination of primary and secondary research, including surveys on more than 1,600 brands, measuring 300 global brands, administered over two months (September to October 2015) to nearly 12,000 consumers in 14 markets: Brazil, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The full list of 1,600 brands included in the survey was based on an examination of the following reports: BrandZ's 100 Most Valuable Brands; Forbes' 100 Most Valuable Brands and the Reputation Institute's Global RepTrak 100 Most Reputable Companies list. Cohn & Wolfe also consulted Y&R Group's BrandAsset Valuator (BAV) to determine which brands should be included in each country's surveys, based on regional familiarity.