Brand Integrity More Important Than Innovation In Consumer Purchasing

Global study uncovers significant rise in consumer anger over brands that don’t exhibit authentic behaviors

  • Consumer anger about companies failing to protect their data increases 22 percentage points over 2013
  • McDonald’s, Samsung and Apple rated the most authentic brands in the world
  • 87% of global consumers say it’s important for brands to ‘act with integrity at all times’, making it more essential than innovation (72%)

New York - October 29, 2014 - Nearly nine in 10 global consumers (87%) say it is important for businesses to act with integrity at all times, surpassing the number who rate striving to innovate (72%) and bringing unique products to market (71%) as factors in their buying decisions.
 
The third Authentic Brands report from global communications agency Cohn & Wolfe  canvassed the opinions of 12,000 consumers across 12 markets to examine the corporate behaviours valued in an authentic brand, as well as explore the inauthentic behaviours and corporate issues that were most likely to incite extreme anger.
 
“It’s becoming increasingly clear that being authentic is the ultimate crisis preparedness for brands,” says Donna Imperato, CEO, Cohn & Wolfe.  “No brand is immune to crisis, but we’ve seen again and again that those brands that act with honesty and integrity will recover faster and emerge stronger."
 
Global anger reaches boiling point
Following a year of high-profile data security breaches, product recalls and food contamination scares from a number of well-known brands, consumers across some of the world’s biggest markets have reported a significant rise in anger about perceived dishonesty from global businesses.
 
“We have seen a number of household brands recently caught out by supply chain issues, which has created a culture of suspicion among individuals,” says Professor Ioannis Ioannou, Assistant Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at London Business School and advisor on the Authentic Brands study.  “Some of this extreme anger can also be explained by the proximity effect.  People feel strongest about issues that touch them directly and food safety is a clear-cut example of this.”
 
The number of U.S. respondents citing extreme anger about a company failing to protect their personal information jumped from 56% in 2013 to 80% this year, as revelations of unprecedented data security lapses at several major companies came to light. The UK saw an even bigger spike of 51% to 79%, while Chinese respondents also registered a rise from 63% last year to 75% today. 
 
Food safety and hygiene was another issue that incited global anger. With the horsemeat crisis of Europe and out-of-date beef scare in Asia still fresh in many minds, over three quarters (77%) of global consumers would be extremely angry if a company was found to produce food in an unsanitary way. This concern was even higher in several European markets:  91% in Italy, 88% in France and 86% in Germany.
 
A further two thirds (63%) of global consumers cited extreme anger about companies fostering unsafe work environments for employees and treating workers unfairly.  Experts in the report have attributed this to the shockwaves felt by last year’s Bangladesh factory disaster, in which more than 1,000 workers died after the collapse of the Rana Plaza building.
 
Authenticity Anchors
In line with the findings of the Global Anger Meter, the Cohn & Wolfe study revealed a clear and universal demand for more authentic behaviours from brands. Identifying a number of ‘Authenticity Anchors’, business behaviours important to consumers, the report found that characteristics such as communicating honestly about products and services (91%) and being open about environmental impact and sustainability measures (87%) are more important to global consumers than product utility (61%), brand appeal (60%) and popularity among peers (39%).
 
The report found that individuals around the world are more likely to stay loyal and buy from brands that displayed these Authenticity Anchors: 63% of global consumers would buy from an authentic brand over and above competitors – rising to 74% in Sweden, 72% in Germany and 68% in the U.S.
 
Authenticity could also affect share price, with almost a quarter (23%) of global consumers saying they would invest in a brand that displayed authentic behaviours, rising to 43% among Indian respondents, 37% in Indonesia and 33% in the UAE.
 
World’s Most Authentic Brands
Authentic Brands 2014 asked the 12,000 people surveyed to name – unprompted – the world’s most authentic companies. McDonald’s, Samsung and Apple topped the Global Top 20 list of brands chosen, but local brands scored very well in each country surveyed. 

About the report
This is the third report in the Cohn & Wolfe Authentic Brands series, which examines the role of authenticity in business, the attributes associated with an authentic brand, and the impact of authenticity on consumer, investor and employee attitudes and behaviours. To hear more about these findings and request a completed copy of the study, visit our Authentic Brands website at http://cohnwolfe.com/authenticbrands
 
Methodology
The report is based on quantitative and qualitative research of 12,000 respondents across 12 markets: China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Spain, Sweden, UAE, UK and U.S.  The study was conducted online by leading research company Toluna in July 2014.
 
The results were then interrogated by a number of business, branding and market experts:

  • Adam Elman, Head of Global Delivery for Plan A, Marks & Spencer
  • Ioannis Ioannou, Assistant Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, London Business School
  • Jim Prior, CEO of WPP-owned brand consultancies The Partners and Lambie Nairn
  • Sue Unerman, Chief Strategy Officer, MediaCom, and author of Tell The Truth